Dance science and dance medicine, both, apply scientific principles to dance, to reduce dancer’s injuries, enhance their performance and improve their well-being and health. As disciplines, both investigate the causes of dance injuries, promotes their care, prevention and safe post-rehabilitation return to dance, and explores the ‘how’ of dance movement. Specifically, dance science and dance medicine focus on the biomechanical, physiological, and neuromotor aspects of dance, nutrition, psychological issues, and the body therapies and somatics areas.
To become a dancer, intense training and self-discipline are required of an individual and are potential sources of physical and emotional strain that can cause injuries. Acute and chronic injuries due to overuse are typical in the performance of dance. An educator or health care practitioner involved in dance medicine and science analyzes a dancer’s technique to determine how to rehabilitate an injury and correct bodily misalignments so the dancer can make a safe return to their profession.
Dance science as an academic discipline is a recent phenomenon and is more active in the UK. Some dance companies now employ dance scientists to provide support services, such as physiological testing or psychological support. Undergraduate courses in dance sometimes incorporate one or several modules in dance science, with the aim of promoting healthy dance practices.
Typically, the subject areas within dance science and medicine are similar to those studied in “sports science”, though naturally with a focus on dance and the special considerations that this involves. They include: physiology, anatomy, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, and similar. Contrary to sports science, however, dance science sometimes also studies somatic techniques, including the practices of Pilates, yoga, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais method, etc.
The largest organization promoting dance science internationally is the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, (IADMS). As well as producing a scientific peer-reviewed journal, it also holds annual conferences. In the UK, DanceUK is perhaps the foremost proponent of dance science and healthy dance practice more generally.
P.S. Look for future posts on the IADMS, as I am a member, and it is a wonderful organization to make other dance science contacts and learn more about the field of dance medicine!