STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

Push!  Pull! Get down! … you may be familiar with these three terms  if you’ve ever attended one of our Strength & Conditioning or HIIT classes in the Conditioning Studio here at Trinity Laban. These free classes are beneficial and open to ALL Trinity Laban students which can support your practice as a dancer, musician, or musical theatre student.

Are you thinking strength and conditioning doesn’t apply to you and your practice? Never trained for strength or conditioning and don’t know how to start?

Read on to learn more about supporting your individual practice and how Trinity Laban is here to support you.

#KickStartSC IS for You!

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Image: Chris Nash Photography and Random Dance

What the science says:

Whether you’re a music student, dance student, or musical theatre student, maintaining physical fitness is important for performance enhancement and injury prevention. Numerous studies on the physical demands of dance have shown that the cardiorespiratory requirements of dance classes are significantly lower than dance performance. This gap between the demands of class and performance leave dancers unprepared for the rigor of performance, resulting in fatigue and in some cases, injury. Further, a high frequency of injury in dancers has been linked to insufficient levels of strength and endurance. It has been recommended that dancers train strength, especially for areas of the body that receive extra load during training, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which most closely simulates a dance performance setting.

Training in music presents a different set of physical demands on the body. A study examining the physiological demands of music found that music is an intermittent activity with fluctuating cardiorespiratory demands. It was suggested that interval training, such as HIIT, would be a beneficial form of supplementary training to support a musician’s training.  Other studies highlight the high occurrence of overuse injuries in musicians, as well as injuries caused by bad technique habits, and postural misalignments. Strength—especially in areas such as the core or the limbs required to hold or play the musician’s instrument—is needed to support a musicians’ performance without injury.

According to a study from Medical Problems of Performing Artists, musical theatre performers are the “triathletes” of the performing arts. This field of the performing arts involves elements of both dance and music and therefore requires the physical demands of both fields. Additionally, singing while dancing proposes unique demands on the performers’ breathing patterns. Like in dance, it was found that in-class training does not meet the demands of performance in musical theatre. One study found that 46% of their participants reported receiving two injuries per year and 30% receiving three or four per year, with the most common being injuries of the lower extremities.  Based on these findings, it is important for musical theatre performers to engage in supplementary fitness training to prepare for performance conditions.

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Image: Conditioning Studio at TL, JK Photography.

#KickStartSC:

For the first time, the Trinity Laban Conditioning Studio will be putting on a Kick-Start series of strength and conditioning classes taught by Trinity Laban alumni Khyle Eccles, MSc Dance Science, specializing in strength and conditioning for performing artists. This series, which will take place during the first week of Term One, will focus on introducing students to using the Conditioning Studio for supplementary strength and conditioning training.

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Image: Khyle Eccles

Over the previous year, the Strength & Conditioning and HIIT classes taught by Khyle have helped students from all programs to increase their fitness levels and aid them in training and performance. These classes are also great resources for learning principles of strength and conditioning that can be applied to one’s own practice. In the past, students have learned the importance of warm-up and ways to incorporate a sufficient warm up into their practice, how to use all of the various pieces of equipment that exist in the conditioning studio, and that strength and conditioning can be fun and exciting! If Khyle’s enthusiasm and great dance moves don’t get you hooked on these classes, then the benefits on your training will. Each class targets different aspects of training, so attendance at these classes will always apply to you and could result in increased jump height for all the dancing needs, increased endurance for long performances, or increased upper body strength for holding up those instruments day after day.

Come join us this coming week for #KickStartSC and see what this is all about!

Written by Elizabeth Yutzey

Dance Science Graduate Intern

Reflection on placement with Trinity Laban Dance Science

Recently I completed a 40 hour placement with Trinity Laban in the Dance Science and Health departments. I gained an insight into the research that takes place at Trinity Laban, the MSc Dance Science programme, and the busy lives of everyone involved in making it such a wonderful and inspiring place to be.

I’m currently a third year student on the undergraduate Dance course at Kingston University and planned to do this placement in the hope of finding out more about the Dance Science world and what career paths I could take in this area. Let’s not forget that Trinity Laban offered the first Dance Science Master’s degree in the world, so it really felt like I was at the heart of all the action, at the number one place to be! It was really interesting to talk to the likes of Dr Emma Redding (Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban) and Edel Quin (Programme Leader MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban), who both have a lot of experience in Dance Science and have developed the Dance Science course at Trinity Laban. But it was equally fascinating to talk to the Graduate Interns (who had completed the MSc at Trinity Laban), and everyone in between, to discover everyone’s plans for the future.

I was also lucky enough to undertake my placement the same week that the Dance Science department had their Health Interdisciplinary Day, and so I learnt the difficulties of ‘measuring’ results in research studies. I also learnt the difference dance can make in community settings, and the wide range of participants the department work with, whether school children or hospital patients. What I found most valuable, not only on this day but throughout the whole week, was the impact that qualitative data has. Before I started my placement I had only thought about the importance and relevance of quantitative data. Over the week, I learnt that deciding what to measure and recording qualitative changes is really hard, as in the dance field researchers are dealing with the complexity of the human body and not just a ‘lab rat’. The problem the Dance Science world then face is that, given how new and evolving the field is, it is a challenge to guess what kind of research will be awarded funding.

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It was also exciting working with Lucie Clements (PhD Candidate and Guest Lecturer), getting a sneak peek into the psychological work the department are currently doing with international colleagues on the motivational environments dancers work in and the type of environment dancers would prefer. This allowed me to learn more about the psychological side of Dance Science.  When I arrived at Trinity Laban I only really had basic knowledge on the physiological side of the field and this is what attracted me towards the area. I left Trinity Laban having more knowledge on both physical and mental aspects, and if anything being more interested into how psychological research in Dance Science can help not only dancers but also other communities.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed my week long placement in the Dance Science and Health departments at Trinity Laban. All the staff and students were really welcoming, which made every activity enjoyable whether interviewing staff, learning about the equipment in the science lab and conditioning studio, or even formatting documents! Now I have completed my placement I can say I’m even more eager to have a career within Dance Science and so I would like to thank everyone who helped or talked to me during the week.

 

I hope to see you all soon!

 

Rhiannon Bromley, BA Dance student, Kingston University.

Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

Cooldown

The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.

So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.

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Here’s the science bit:

Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.

Some extra information:

During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.

If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.

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You could instead try the following:

  • 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
  • If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
  • Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)

Here’s an example:

If you are 18 years old

  • Subtract 18 from 220

220-18= 202

  • 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance

 

To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)

  • 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
  • 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm

 

So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.

Your benefits:

  • Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
  • It will optimise your next performance level
  • Make your body feel more energised and less achy
  • Make you feel less tired and feint after classes

 

Common issues:

“I don’t have time between classes”

If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.

“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”

Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:

  1. Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Static stretching

In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.

 

Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc

Dance Science Graduate Intern

 

Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness

Feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson for a day or two after you’ve done a serious workout?

We all know the feeling- stairs? Not a chance.

But why do our muscles hurt so much when we’ve been working so hard?

Post-Exercise Soreness explained.

The DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: refers to the potential reaction our bodies have when we take up a new exercise plan, adapt an existing exercise plan or alter the intensity or duration of regular physical exertion. This may happen regardless of our fitness levels and although often unwelcomed, it can be the sign of a Physiologically Positive Reaction.

DOMS usually develops between 12-24 hours after the activity itself. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘that’ll hurt tomorrow’ but the truth is the greatest discomfort is often experienced between 24-72 hours post-exercise. Although DOMS can be associated with a positive reaction, is often a sign that you need to take a rest, this is useful feedback from your body.  If you are experiencing symptoms associated with DOMS, to include muscles soreness ‘tender to touch’ and reduced joint mobility, this may lead to instability if not well rested. Instability and weakness combined with muscle soreness and fatigue can lead to injury.

What’s happening?

There is some controversy surrounding the cause of DOMS, however most believe that DOMS is the repair process that develops as a response to the microscopic damage of our muscle fibres likely stemming from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.

A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid build up however it is generally believed that lactic acid is not involved in the DOMS process.

Activities which are thought to result in DOMS are ones which cause muscles to lengthen whilst a force is being applied, also known as an eccentric muscle action. There are three main actions; Concentric, Isometric and Eccentric- The notion of a concentric chest press evokes a much more stressful loading onto the muscles than let’s say a handstand where an Isometric action is seen. However eccentric movements such as the lowering phase in a bicep curl are considered structurally, to cause a higher stress level on muscle fibres than the aforementioned. Try and work your way gradually into a new exercise program to help reduce the severity of DOMS!

 There is a fine line between positive, and injury provoking muscular ‘pain’.

Every body is different and you must remember to listen to yours.

As performing artists we should not be working towards ‘pain’. We should only push our bodies to a certain level, and DOMS is a welcomed indication that we have pushed our bodies a little beyond their normal comfort zone. If you do experience pain during an exercise this could be an underlying factor of over intensified exercise or incorrect form, you should consult a medical practitioner if pain persists and exceeds regular DOMS symptoms.

It is important to remember eccentric movements are to be treated as one ingredient within a well-tailored exercise plan, combining concentric and isometric movement will make for a well-rounded workout. Mastering technique, control and stability within movements will lower the risk of injury and in turn DOMS.

Does Massage Help?

Massage is an extensive physiological tool that eases muscle and joint stiffness. The hands on approach of massage works towards reducing tension within the body, combined with passive movements that not only stretch the connective tissues around our joints, but lengthens muscles and tendons too.  Sports Massage may help prevent the onset of injury, work as a tool to rehabilitate and in turn may improve performance. With classes, rehearsals, shows and tours on the horizon pushing bodies to outside of their regular comfort zone, Dancers, Musicians and Musical Theatre performers may consider seeking treatment in order to gain immediate relief for muscle soreness. It can also be applied post-event to remove waste products/toxins, speed up recovery time and de-stress after a performance.

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Don’t forget TL Health offers Sports Massage where TL Students receive a brilliant discount!

http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/trinity-laban-health/health-treatments/sports-massage

Jess Coleman: Graduate Intern, Health.

Happy New Year, Healthful Hints for 2017!

Here we are again, the start of another brand new year, time for turning over a new leaf, resolutions and planning the year ahead, bring on 2017!

At Trinity Laban Health we want to make sure performing artists are supported in their training and professional careers, and what better time for us to give you a few hints and tips to help you get off to good start this new year.

Supplementary Training, make it more than a resolution…

Supplementary training can benefit you as a performing artist and help to enhance your performance in a variety of ways. Whether you are new to training outside of your performance art, or whether you are getting back into training after a well-earned Christmas break, you should consider asking yourself which areas of your performance you would like to improve or support, for example do you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness to support playing a wind instrument? Or perhaps you want to work on lower limb endurance ahead of an upcoming dance performance. Whatever your new year goals may be, we have facilities which could help you towards achieving them.

As a student of Trinity Laban you would have access to our Conditioning Studio and FREE classes such as Yoga, Pilates and Strength & Conditioning, which could help support your training and help you stick to those supplementary training resolutions.

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Look after your performing body…

Being a performing artist can mean that there are certain demands placed upon your body which may increase risk of injury. At Trinity Laban Health we have a variety of treatments which can not only help you if you do become injured, but can also aid in the prevention of injury. Tell me more I hear you say! So what treatments do we have to offer? Well firstly, all of our therapists/practitioners share a particular interest in performing artists’ health. They are highly skilled and experienced when it comes to working with those in the field of dance, music and musical theatre. Our treatments include Physiotherapy, Sports massage, Acupuncture, Acupressure massage, Craniosacral, Feldenkrais, Reflexology (look out for future blog posts for a more in depth discussion of the therapies and practitioners). There is a treatment to suit all aches, niggles and pains and treatments for example, Sports massage can be a good way to help prevent injury.

Along with all of your other 2017 resolutions we also hope you plan to look after your overall well-being by ensuring you get enough rest and sleep – giving your body time to unwind and relax can really go a long way to help make sure you are optimising your performance. Nutrition, including hydration is also incredibly important, once a term here at Trinity Laban Health we have Nutritionist Jasmine Challis, who runs a clinic and specialises in performing artists’ diets. Ensuring your food and fluid intake is supporting your activity level is essential to maintain a healthy you!

If you would like to know any more about our Conditioning studio, treatments or for any other queries please contact the health department via the Trinity Laban website www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/health or email us health@trinitylaban.ac.uk . We look forward to hearing from you and wish you a very happy and healthy 2017!

Felicity Beach

Graduate Intern Health

Kathak Dance Science Research at IADMS 26th Annual Conference

Upon embarking on the months of thesis writing on the MSc Dance Science programme I made a firm promise to my project supervisor that I would aim to present my work at the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference 2016 in Hong Kong. seema-iadms
After graduating I submitted abstracts to the IADMS committee and after a long and nail-biting wait, it was announced in April 2016 that my abstracts had been accepted for, not just one, but two presentations! We were absolutely delighted and eager to disseminate my research based on the Indian classical dance form Kathak. Being the first research of its kind, we had to ensure that it would be informative and relevant to the conference, which aims to enhance the knowledge of its delegates, who are mainly dancers, teachers, researchers and medics.

The title of my research was ‘The effects of active and passive conditions on recovery after intense Kathak dance activity’, which in layman’s terms translates to, what happens to the dancer’s body after an intense dance performance/rehearsal without cool-down? The aim of sharing this research was to inform the delegates about the benefits of cool-down. (Look out for my article in forthcoming health posts for more information). The first presentation featured as part of the poster presentation series, where I reduced my thesis down to an informative A0 poster, conveying the key points and findings from the research. The second was a movement session, an opportunity to demonstrate Kathak dance in both its slow and intense forms. The session’s aim was to discuss Kathak’s physiological, biomechanical and physical components and to allow the delegates to experience Kathak. Finally it would allow them to experience cool-down, in a structured form, appropriate for the level of activity that they had just undertaken.

The experience was daunting at first as I opened my research to a new audience, however, I felt that the master’s programme in Dance Science had prepared me for this and I was able to present in a professional manner. The captive and inquisitive audience made me feel at ease within the environment that I had trained to be in.

Presenting at IADMS gave me added confidence in my work, allowing me to talk in depth about the subject and to accept suggestions for improvement. It provided me with the opportunity to meet other researchers who had a common interest in the subject of recovery, and exposed potential crossovers with current research.

IADMS always provides me with a powerful insight into ballet and contemporary dance, which deepens my knowledge as a Dance Scientist and adds an invaluable medical perspective. Now I have been able to contribute research to IADMS on an alternative dance genre, Kathak, that had not yet been investigated. This widens the pool of Dance Science research and offers knowledge to Kathak performers and teachers alike.

A very positive outcome of the conference was connecting with other Indian classical dance researchers, Physiotherapists, Dance Scientists and Practitioners. I am now working on setting up an international organisation to disseminate our research on a shared platform.

With the support of my research supervisor Sarah Needham-Beck and Jatin Ambegaeonkar, an Athletic Trainer and professor at George Mason University in Virginia, USA,  I will be submitting my work to various journals to be published.

Exciting times ahead.

Seema De Jorge-Chopra

Dance Science Graduate Intern