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

 

 

The Benefits of Supplementary Training for Dancers

The dance class has been shown to be fairly ‘stop start’ or intermittent in nature and as a result dancers’ cardiovascular training needs may not be simply met by participating in class or rehearsal. Furthermore, dancers face increasing demands from choreographers, pushing their bodies to the limits in terms of technique, skill and versatility. For this reason it is important  for dancers to consider taking up additional fitness training, and to ask important questions regarding the type of extra training their individual body needs. A good place to start might be to identify areas that require improvement or strengthening. Screening for example is one way you can identify areas that require focus; whether this be in relation to cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, muscular endurance, strength or power. Although the dance class may innately contribute to improvements in certain aspects of fitness (i.e. flexibility, agility, muscular endurance), depending on the individual dancer’s body some of these aspects may need to be addressed outside of the classroom in their own time.  Importantly, a typical dance class does not share the same focus on cardiovascular intensity, nor does it necessarily incorporate training principles such as overload. Overload is needed in order for physiological adaptions to occur and therefore the dance class alone may not facilitate such changes. Additional training has other benefits too. We know that fatigue increases the risk of sustaining an injury in dance, and as increased fitness may help to delay the onset of fatigue it could in turn help to reduce this risk.

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Photo: jk_photography

So what form of extra training should you do? The most important answer to this question is it should be tailored to your own specific needs; there is no magic formula or generic plan and previous injury, illness and current workload should be considered. To get you thinking about additional training methods and to also dispel some common myths, we have put the spotlight on just a few types of supplementary training.

Pilates

Pilates

Photo: jk_photography

Since the 1920’s dancers have subjectively reported the benefits of engaging in the Pilates method alongside their dance training. In recent years scientific research has also started to evidence these benefits. Studies have shown that Pilates can help to improve alignment, flexibility and muscular strength in dancers, and due to its focus on fluid and controlled movements it is often a natural choice for dancers. More hypermobile or flexible dancers might wish to choose Pilates-based exercise in order to encourage greater strength and control.

Yoga

There is little scientific research to support the benefits of yoga in dance specifically, however dancers do tend to naturally choose yoga as a form of supplementary training. An unpublished study reported improvements in hip flexion range of motion after a four week intervention and suggested that yoga can offer additional educational benefits. Dancers who are naturally less flexible may benefit from practicing yoga due to its focus on dynamic stretching. Previous or existing injuries should be considered before attending class.

Aerobic and endurance training

It is important for dancers to have good aerobic power to enable them to dance for longer and at lower heart rates before becoming fatigued. Although the dance class can contribute to improvements in aerobic power, due to the intermittent nature of class, additional cardiovascular training such as running or swimming can be useful. Running is a cheap and effective way of training aerobically but if you are recovering from an injury and want to avoid loaded weight bearing activities, swimming is a great alternative.

Plyometric training

It is important for dancers to have power in their legs for both jumping and travelling sequences. Plyometric or jump training aims to increase power (speed and strength) by incorporating exercises in which the muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. One study found that such training did improve subjective measures of dancer’s jumping including height, ability to point feet and overall jump ability as assessed by experienced dance faculty members. Again, it is important to consider injury history and workload before engaging in plyometric training. Some dancers are concerned that working on strength in this way may lead to developing ‘bulky muscles’ and compromising aesthetic quality. There is little evidence to support this idea, and the pros of plyometric training seem to outweigh the potential cons.

feldenkrais

Photo: jk_photography

A more somatic approach

Although somatic techniques do not immediately spring to mind when considering supplementary training, practices such as the Feldenkrais Method which aim to increase kinaesthetic self- awareness through movement (without placing extreme stress on the body) can be helpful during busy work periods. Practices such as the Feldenkrais Method can also be of benefit to individuals troubled with stress and anxiety.

*The extra stress placed on the body through supplementary training can cause temporary fatigue. You should aim to leave at least two weeks between end of training and any scheduled performance periods.

Amelia Wilkinson, Dance Science Graduate Intern & Administrative Intern for Health

For more information take a look at these resources.

Beck, S., Redding, E., & Wyon, M. A. (2015). Methodological considerations for documenting the energy demand of dance activity: a review. Frontiers in psychology, 6.

Kefallonitou, M, M., (2014). The effects of Yin Yoga practice on dancers’ range of joint motion : a biomechanical and perceptual investigation (Unpublished thesis). Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.

McKinnon, M., & Etlin-Stein, H. (2015, November 09) Pilates: A natural choice for dancers [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.iadms.org/blogpost/1177934/231658/Pilates-A-natural-choice-for-dancers.

Rafferty, S. (2010). Considerations for integrating fitness into dance training.Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 14(2), 45-49.

Useful web resources:

https://www.danceuk.org/healthier-dancer-programme/health-faqs/fitness-and-strength/

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iadms.org/resource/resmgr/Public/Bull_4-1_pp15-17_Kozai.pdf

 

Healthy Holidays for Dancers

How to stay fit and healthy over the summer break

1st Picture with Title

The academic year is over and it is finally time for a well-deserved break for dancer’s bodies and minds. An intensive dance training demands an extraordinary degree of strain, discipline and physical/emotional stress. Classes, assessments and performances highly motivate dancers to push their own boundaries and even step beyond them. Summer is great time to relax, take care of your body and recover from an injury, although it is very important to keep maintaining your fitness level, balancing between training and relaxation. At Trinity Laban Health, we have put together some top tips that may help to keep fit and healthy over the summer break.

1. Do not stop completely!

Once the lessons are over do not stop straight away! Slowly decrease intensity and hours of training, keeping your body active: continue to take dance classes, where possible 3 times a week. If you cannot take dance classes, keep a daily routine of exercises (at least 30 minutes a day) or Cross-train your body in a way that complements your dance training. There is a good number of activities you can do over the summer taking advantage of the nice weather: swimming, cycling, running, Yoga classes and outdoor activities can be an option to replace dance classes.

2. Have a plan for the summer

A structured plan throughout the summer will help to keep you active and ready to start again in September. Creating a timeline can to help to manage this plan. For an eight week  holiday, slowly decrease the hours and the intensity of training, rest for about 10 days and then gently and progressively start to exercise in order to stay fit and start the new academic year in the best possible way.

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3. Eat well and Sleep well

Choose a healthy, balanced diet and keep hydrated: always keep a water bottle with you! Try to find some time to rest and sleep, this would give your body the energy to fight off accumulated stress and stay strong. A balanced diet and enough rest would give your body time to revitalize and have an appropriate amount of energy for the next day.

4. Warm-up, Cool-down and stretching exercises

It is very important to keep warming up and cooling down before/after any physical activity:     warm-up protects you against injuries and cool-down speeds up regeneration. Summer break is a good time to work on your flexibility but remember that you should not stretch unless you are warm! Here there is a list of Dos and Don’ts for stretching:

  • Do add a stretch routine to your training regimen.
  • Don’t be sloppy when you stretch and use extra caution when a partner is helping you. Partners do not necessarily know your limits and may not be able to feel your level of resistance.
  • Do remain focused: pushing your body and manoeuvring yourself into unstable positions can be unsafe.
  • Don’t forget your dance technique when you are stretching. Alignment and placement are just as important when stretching as in a dance class.

5. Intensives/ Summer Schools

Intensive workshops and Summer schools can be highly demanding for your body as full of classes and activities to try. In order to avoid injuries, prepare your body! If you are trying a new dance technique, try to find out as much as you can about it and work on specific areas of the body that specific class will explore. For example, if you are going to a Cunningham technique intensive, you would have to work on your core, alignment and start mobilizing your upper back. This would help you to avoid injuries and be ready for the class demand.

6. Time to rehab if injured

If you had an injury over the past few months this is the best time for the injured area to rest and build up strength. It is the right time to have your injury assessed by a professional physiotherapist and together you can develop a rehab plan that would help you speed up the recovering process. Although you need to rest, keep your overall fitness up: you can use gentle techniques such as Pilates to progressively come back to training.

3rd Picture 6. Time to rehab

TL Health wishes you all a great summer: have fun, relax and stay healthy!

Giovanna Piccolo, Administrative Intern for Health

Sonia Rafferty, Senior Lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Simmel, L. (2014). Dance Medicine in Practice. London, UK: Routledge. 179-181, 225-228.

 

Top Tips for the Auditioning Dancer

Dancers tend to feel under a lot of pressure when they enter the audition room. For a graduate, performing to panellists who have the power to decide how they will spend the first few years of their performing lives can be a very daunting experience. Like competitions in sport, dance auditions are anxiety provoking situations and as a result can negatively affect dance performance. Possible factors that can contribute to audition anxiety include, uncertainty about how your performance matches up to others around you, your own evaluation of technique, creativity and potential career employment opportunities. Thoughts involving these factors can relate to a number of physical responses, interfering with attention, memory of sequences, creativity, expression and mechanics. At Trinity Laban Health, we have put together some top tips that may help to control anxiety and optimise performance at auditions.

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1. Appropriate warm up

Often at the start of an audition class, the teacher will provide a generic warm-up for all candidates. It is important to remember this will be a general warm-up that aims to adequately prepare a large group of dancers for the class. A generic warm-up such as this will not target your own specific needs, you know your own body, it is vital that you carry out your own personal warm-up to avoid injury and to ensure you are prepared to perform at your best.

2. Focus on your own performance

  • In an audition, dancers often ‘eye up the competition’, judging others strengths and weaknesses against their own. Although observing others in the audition class can drive your performance it can also have a negative effect. Trying to compete with others can increase the risk of injury and cause additional psychological stress and anxiety. Attempting to block out what others are doing can be quite a challenge, but remember you are auditioning for yourself, not for anyone else.
  • Don’t worry about the things you can’t change such as the panelists’ preconceptions and attitudes in relation to the piece of choreography or style of the company. Focus on the factors you can control such as your own technique, performance quality.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the audition class. It is better to ask for clarification, than feel unsure about an exercise or sequence.

3. Hydration & Nutrition

Make sure you start the class properly hydrated. Keep your fluid intake up by carrying a water bottle with you at all times. Take water in to the audition class, you will need to drink little and often throughout the audition to stay hydrated. Have a meal rich in slow energy releasing ‘complex carbohydrates’ a few hours before the audition. For a quick release snack (15 to 20 minutes before the class starts), try a banana or cereal bar.

4. Relaxation and controlled breathing

Excess anxiety when in an audition may affect performance through increased muscle tension. There are a number of techniques which aim to reduce physiological arousal associated with increased somatic anxiety. Progressive relaxation involves tensing and relaxing specific muscles and progresses from one major muscle group to the next until all muscles are relaxed. Practicing this technique in the weeks leading up to the audition may help reduce tension anJK__0630d anxiety during the class.

Learning good breath control can help dancers maintain control during high anxiety situations such as auditions. Research suggests that breathing in and holding your breath increases muscle tension, whereas breathing out decreases muscle tension. To practice breath control take a deep breath and imagine that the lungs are divided into three levels. Focus on filling the lower level of the lungs with air, first by pushing the diaphragm down and the abdomen out. Then fill the middle level by expanding the chest cavity. Finally, fill the upper level by raising the chest and shoulders slightly. Hold this breath for a few seconds and then exhale.

5. Imagery

Research encourages dancers to focus on mastery images for increasing confidence and decreasing anxiety. In a study that examined the role of imagery in the anxiety-performance relationship among auditioning ballet dancers, successful dancers with prior audition success were said to experience less cognitive anxiety and be more confident. Confident dancers had higher kinaesthetic imagery ability and used more mastery imagery than less confident dancers.

Finally, it is important to remember that at auditions, directors or faculty members’ value potential over perfection Julliard School dance division director Lawrence Rhodes commented “Mistakes are welcome…They can be interesting and informative”. There isn’t a magic formula for a successful audition, no dancer can know exactly what the panellists are thinking or what they are looking for. Don’t forget to show your enjoyment for what you are doing. Aside from technical competence, panelists are always looking to see your passion and love for your craft. Think of an audition as an opportunity to learn and a chance to perform, there are always other auditions even if it doesn’t feel that way when your name is not called.

Amelia Wilkinson, Administrative Intern for Health and Graduate Intern Dance Science

Katy Chambers,  Physiotherapist at Trinity Laban Health

Monsma, E. V., & Overby, L. Y. (2004). The relationship between imagery and competitive anxiety in ballet auditions. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science,8(1), 11-18.

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D (2011). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 5th ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 272-289.

Top tips for teaching dance safely and effectively

Dance Scientist Edel Quin teaching
Working as part of Trinity Laban’s Learning & Participation (Dance) team means that I get to see a variety of teaching practices. We work in all sorts of settings and each of our wonderful teachers brings their own personality and teaching style to their classes.

While on the surface every teacher’s practice may appear very different from the next, core underlying principles and knowledge can be found embedded throughout their work. One such example is their ability to teach safely and effectively which helps to safeguard their participants from injury in the present and future, while also promoting enhanced potential.

So, what are the key elements of safe practice that we need to be aware of when teaching dance?

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