Dance UK’s industry wide conference: A health perspective

Trinity Laban recently hosted the second day of Dance UK’s industry wide conference, ‘The Future: new ideas, new inspirations’.

This exciting event, provided an opportunity for a diverse range of people from the dance industry to come together and share ideas as never before. As members of the Trinity Laban Health Team, Rachel Emms and Giovanna Piccolo and talk about their experience of the conference and discuss some of their personal highlights.


Rachel’s perspective:

I was fortunate enough to attend the opening celebration at The Place. This was jam-packed with speakers discussing their aspirations for the dance industry, complemented by an array of performances which really showcased a wide variety of dance styles. Dame Gillian Lynne’s, speech was one of the highlights of the night for me. She shared her life story with the conference, which I found highly inspirational, and it can still be watched on Dance UK TV. Her key message was “never say no, and leap off the diving board. Try whatever is asked of you because even if you are bad you’ll learn something, if you are good you will make a massive and happy discovery.”

I then spent t11072768_10153302327194789_1853543574821914258_nhe day at Trinity Laban listening to a range of professionals who shared their ideas and talked with delegates about the future of dancers’ health and wellbeing. I attended an anatomy and biomechanics session led by Dr Lianne Simmel, looking at the alignment of the leg and its implications for the dancer’s knee. Bone health was considered by Dr Roger Wolman in another highly stimulating session that addressed the range of factors which can be of influence for a dancer. This considered the importance of bone health for the dancer, and how bone-stress injuries can occur. This session also shared the research developments from testing dancers, which has given practitioners a greater understanding of the interventions they can apply to help the overall health of the dancer and have a positive impact on their performance.

It wasn’t all sitting down and listening to lectures: I also attended two very active workshops. Firstly, ‘The Hypermobile student in dance class’ with Nicky Ellis was an exploratory session that placed importance on the role language plays within a dance environment, enabling participants to share ideas on the types of imagery which could enable the hypermobile dancer to correct any malalignment issues. Secondly, ‘Psychology bitesized’ with Dr Peter Lovatt, was a session sharing some recent developments within dance psychology and also discussing the impact of other research on our understanding of dance. Peter taught us a short structured routine with time for improvisation, in which we all took part in the lecture theatre. This gave an insight into the benefits of dancing from a psychological perspective and looked at structured movement in contrast to improvised movement and the differing effects this has on the mind.

One of the key sessions I attended was the one on the Physiological Preparation for the Demands of Choreography with Edel Quin, Dr Emma Redding, Sarah Beck and Jessica Wright. It described some of the recent research which carried out by the Dance Science team which looked at the demands that different choreography places on the dancer and how this type of research can inform the dancer’s training and better prepare them to meet the demands of the chorographic piece.
Dance Science lecturer, PhD student and Healthier Dancer Programme Manager, Sarah Beck explained several graphs from her research showing data collected from two different pieces of repertoire from Transitions Dance Company and the differing physiological effects these had on the dancers from this company. This initiated the ‘fitness debate’. It has been found in previous research that dancers’ fitness can improve as a result of performing rather than training. However Sarah’s research has highlighted something different in that the dancers from Transitions became gradually fitter throughout their training and rehearsal period.

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The Dance Science team presented a live demonstration with professional dancer Jessica Wright wearing a metamax portable gas analyser, while performing an excerpts of Wayne McGregor Random Dance choreography. The live data captured was shown on screen for the audience to see while the dance was happening. This demonstrated the physiological response to this short three-minute piece and at times Jess’s heart rate was very close to maximum. She was able to dance at a high intensity throughout the three minutes which reflected her high fitness level.
This was a fascinating insight into how a test can be carried out in the field of dance specific research which can directly influence the way we prepare dancers for a choreographic piece. The Dance Science team hope to test a number of dancers engaged in different types of repertoire within the contemporary genre to better understand the demands of contemporary dance choreography and better prepare dancers for such demands.

Giovanna’s perspective:
My experience was different from Rachel’s, as I was kind of behind the scenes: I was based at the Market Place, supporting those who came to visit the TL stand. As the focus of the conference was the future of dancer’s health and wellbeing there was considerable interest in Trinity Laban’s Dance Science courses and the TL Health clinic. It was good to hear that so many people are interested and concerned about dancers’ health and wellbeing. Several individuals shared with me some original and innovative research ideas that I had looked forward to hearing about. I enjoyed answering the questions about what we do at TL Health and Dance Science, as I could see passionate people wanting to expand their knowledge: it was great to see people getting inspired by the Dance UK conference, and also the number of people interested in MSc Dance Science. The course explores interdisciplinary elements of the field, such as physiology, biomechanics, psychology, motor learning and somatics. The MSc Dance Science investigates the scientific issues underlying dance performance, technical training, dancer health and injury prevention, looking at ways to optimise the body’s performance, improve training techniques and enhance performer potential.

Rachel Emms, Clinic Administrator

Giovanna Piccolo, Administrative Intern for Health

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