Musicians, don’t cramp your style!

In the last 20 years musicians’ medicine has become increasingly popular. But are musicians aware of the prevalence of injury and how best to treat them?

An article published under The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) couldn’t have said it better…

‘Musicians should think of themselves as athletes.’


The physical and psychological demands that come hand in hand with being a musician, are no different to that of a dancer or perhaps even a rugby player?! It is essential that Musicians are attentive to their physical needs, limitations, and work, to condition their bodies accordingly.

The repetitive nature of a musicians’ repertoire, lengthy rehearsals and performances, tests posture and muscle strength, so it probably comes as no surprise that the vast majority of injuries sustained include repetitive strain, lower back pain and Tendonitis, to name but a few. However a study of 1046 musicians conducted by BAPAM in 2004, suggested 52% of injuries recorded were due to performance-related issues, such as overwork and incorrect practice or technique when playing their instruments.

Having said this an injury or trauma can be sustained by simply completing a harmless day to day activity, therefore it is essential that the treatment process is managed with the musician’s instrument and the demands of the lifestyle at the focal point. When assessing and treating a musician, a holistic ‘whole body’ approach is paramount- regardless of the type of treatment, the plan should be tailored to the individual artist!

All musicians face limitations, the physical dimensions of an instrument requires the musician to make adjustments to the body, muscles and tendons can be put under strain or ‘unusual’ positions during this modification. To maintain a high performance level, musicians may need to take preventive action or seek treatment that can help strengthen essential core muscles or correct muscle imbalances, thus keeping those dreaded repetitive strain injuries at bay!

Reduce the risk of time away from your passion…

PHYSIOTHERAPHY works towards improving your physical performance and reducing the risk of further injury by developing a biomechanical understanding of how you play. Forms of treatment can range from exercise referral, postural analysis (taking your instrument into consideration), manual mobilisations, dry needling and taping where necessary. These techniques collaborate to address the factors mentioned above, focusing on building strength to support and stabilise muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

ACUPUNCTURE is the balance of energetics of the mind and body. Chinese medicine techniques boost the uptake of oxygen and dissemination to our muscles, thus minimising those pesky cramps. Working to relieve tension, throughout the body it is a saving grace for shoulder and back pain. Did I mention its holistic approach to the body, treating headaches, anxiety and insomnia?

PILATES is a great tool for musicians. A typical Pilates class includes exercises to build or ‘restore’ endurance, flexibility, trunk and pelvic stability, muscle balance, strength, and efficient breathing patterns. Every one of these can help a musician to play a longer repertoire with less fatigue.

SPORTS MASSAGE works to relieve muscle tension as well as improve circulation, flexibility and posture. Whether it be through soft tissue release, trigger point, muscle energy or general massage techniques, this form of treatment can help bring more awareness to the body and decrease pain. Sound good? It can also tackle anxiety and restlessness pre or post performance, reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing.

Prevention is better than cure!

It is handy to know what treatments are appropriate for musicians and their specific needs but as always remember the aforementioned!! The key to any injury is prevention – intense practice (although sometimes unavoidable) should be limited and performed in moderation.

Try taking regular breaks and work towards conditioning and maintaining a strong body by introducing warm ups and cool downs to your practice. If possible gradually increase the intensity and duration of your practice and restrict yourself to reasonable playing times- we know this may be a tricky one!

For any other information regarding the best treatment for YOU and what we offer at TL Health please contact us on or 0208 3059479/0208 3059482.

Remember a clear and open communication between health care professionals, teachers and most importantly Performers will aid in effective Injury Treatment and in the long haul- PREVENTION!


Jessica Coleman

Graduate Intern for Health & Dance Science.

BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice, MSc Dance Science.


Vibrancy and Transparency: Fascinations of a Fulbright Scholar

Headshot_Madison McGrew

Image by Megan Moore

Madison McGrew, a student from the University of South Florida, has received a US Student Fulbright Award to enable her to study MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban. Here she talks of her journey as a dancer and her dreams in osteopathy.

What attracted you to study at Trinity Laban?

It is hard to say what first attracted me to study at Trinity Laban, but I think dance injuries had a lot to do with it. I accrued nine musculoskeletal injuries throughout my time training at a dance studio in small-town Florida. Side-lined, I often read articles from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), and I noted that most of the research informing those articles came out of Trinity Laban.

Later in undergraduate school, I visited the Harkness Center in New York City where I met Leigh Heflin, alumnus of the MSc Dance Science programme; I was in awe of her vast knowledge-base and ability to cohesively communicate dance and science.

Not long after, I attended Performing Arts Medicine Association conferences where I met other notable scholars in the field of dance science who spoke very highly of the opportunities at Trinity Laban—and with it being the first institution in the world to offer a degree in dance science and subsequently contribute the most to dance science research, publications, and conference presentations—I could not dispute them!

I remember when I first visited the Laban Building in 2015, there were two themes quite literally built into its architecture: vibrancy and transparency—which not ironically, I find are values that streamline the conversation between dance and science and have been pivotal in my learning journey thus far. Moreover, with Trinity Laban situated in London, a pulsating, centralized hub of culture and innovation, there is no room for lag in applying scientific theory to community dance practice, and that is equally exciting!

What was your reaction to finding out you would receive the Fulbright Scholarship?

I was speechless. I held off telling anyone for a couple days for fear it was all a dream. Even today, it remains unfathomable. Sylvia Plath, Linus Pauling, James D. Watson…they were all Fulbrighters. And now I am one too? I cannot believe it.

How do you feel the Scholarship will change your life?

I feel it already has. I have always felt a sense of civic and global responsibility, but now with a Fulbright Scholarship and the support of two nations, the responsibility has only grown. In short, I feel empowered because someone out there believes I can make a difference.

The almost year-long application process alone changed my life. I was challenged to reflect on my experiences and examine how I can use those experiences to benefit others; it made succinct my views of the world and my purpose within it.

The Scholarship will allow me to uniquely explore, side by side, two research areas that are important to me but have long been remarked as being at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Dance science as a field is largely unfledged in the US. While there are certainly pioneers and providers dedicated to dancer health and performance, nothing quite like Trinity Laban exists in the States.

But perhaps the most life-changing will be the people I meet. With this opportunity, there is a strong promise of friendship. At Trinity Laban, I will be surrounded by a diverse group of individuals all working toward the common goals of enhancing dancer potential and investigating the means in which dance impacts populations. And through the Fulbright Commission, I will join like-minded students called and inspired to increase mutual understanding between countries, cultures, and peoples in their own creative, thought-provoking ways. I cannot wait to exchange ideas and shape these relationships.

Kyle Scharf_Madison McGrew

Image by Kyle Scharf

What do you wish to achieve while studying here?

Beyond the curriculum of the Dance Science programme, I hope to use my independent time to get involved in other research and community initiatives. Recently, I worked with a ballet professor on a film using movement themes to raise awareness for human sex trafficking. The project helped me realize that as many times as I have relied on healthcare for my dance injuries, I have conceivably relied on dance as a form of healing far more.

How might you use your degree to further your career?

Witnessing my own relationship with dance, a healthcare system, and healing, I became interested in pain tolerance. Just as dance is a crucial line of communication, so too is pain. It has been said that dance artists experience the world differently, but perchance they perceive pain differently. I think dancers, and myself included, use pain as a behavioural motivator. Dance is so intimately linked to our self-identity that pain becomes an identifier by proxy. A constant subjugation to pain, however, alters our internal points for pain evaluation. Therefore, when medical intervention becomes necessary, the line of communication between dancer and practitioner can get altered as well.

I recently read an article online in which Marijn Rademaker of the Dutch National Ballet recounted being asked by a nurse: “Don’t you think it’s time to find another job? I don’t think your knees are going to be okay for this line of work.” I do not believe this sort of exchange should be encouraged between any individuals, much less between practitioner and dancer; but it’s this sort of dialogue that perpetuates miscommunication. While at Trinity Laban, I want to look at the psychological and physiological bases for pain tolerance in dancers, and evaluate the role these factors play in communicating pain. It is my greatest hope that upon completion of my degree, I will be able to contribute to the conversation on effective pain communication and treatment straight away.

In undergraduate school, I took all of the prerequisites (apart from taking the MCAT examination) to progress to medical school in the United States. I shadowed a great deal of osteopaths during that time and I believe their holistic approach to medicine echoes a dance science view of the integrated self—the mind, body, and spirit. The MSc Dance Science will provide me the keys to unlock a career as a judicious doctor of osteopathic medicine specializing in dancer care. I hope to continue to help build the dance science community in the States, and I hope that by being a physician housed under the Western model of healthcare, I can encourage others outside the field of dance science to embrace dance as a powerful tool of expressing and assessing sensation that bridges demographic divides.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Breaking Boundaries: Interview with Trinity Laban student Nefeli Tsiouti

Nefeli 1

MSc Dance Science student Nefeli Tsiouti is a dancer and researcher totally dedicated to her passions. After facing an injury in dance, she has worked hard to manage her own project to prevent dancers’ injuries. Walking into our interview on crutches, she tells me about the challenges she’s overcome, and the adventures she has yet to face.

Tell us about your life in the dance world before embarking upon your MSc in Dance Science.

I’ve been dancing for 21 years now, and professionally for the last 8-9 years.

I was a ballerina all my life, but I started breaking because I was inspired by watching breakers dancing. I would dance on marble outside in the streets with them all the time. There was no guidance really – I was just seeing and doing. Because of this lack of awareness, I got seriously injured – I had to have major surgery on my shoulder. I was told I wouldn’t be able to dance again, so I just felt I had to back out of my passions. I experienced depression… my life just switched all the way around. But I had to stay true to dance. I decided I could maybe take a theoretical route in dance, and that’s when I decided to move to the UK, studying MA Choreography at Middlesex University.

It took me 2-3 years but I got into breaking again, because I found a coach – maybe the only coach worldwide – DJ Renegade. He took me under his wing and he’s been training me ever since 2011. Frustratingly, I kept getting injured, and I noticed that the surgery actually had a knock-on effect on the rest of my body. I learned that the body is a kinetic chain; everything is connected. This realisation taught me that it’s better to prevent injuries than cure them. I have too many injuries to fix them now, so all I can do is just make sure I condition myself and keep progressing. I am very passionate about preventing other people’s injuries, so they don’t have to go through what I am going through. That’s when I created Project Breakalign in 2013.



I had been thinking about the idea since 2011, but I was too scared to say it. It was still nurturing in my head! When I finally decided to speak about it, One Dance UK came on board straight away. From the first day I spoke to them, I had amazing people join me in helping the community.

What made you decide to study at Trinity Laban?

I chose the MSc because I was looking to do a PhD afterwards, and to do that the MSc is a prerequisite. I was also acting upon advice I received from One Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme. I was partially funded by a Trinity Laban Scholarship, which gave me a boost. It was a great decision to come here.

Nefeli 2

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What are the biggest challenges of studying the MSc Dance Science?

Continuing all the work that I’m doing and studying at the same time is the biggest challenge. It’s hard to be on top of my game in everything that I do. Project Breakalign is international now, so I have a lot of responsibilities. I’m trying to still help people, still continue the research, start slowly writing up papers and publish at the same time. But it has been very difficult to balance the two or the five… I don’t know how many things!

Tell me about the Healthier Dancer Programme 2016 Conference.

The Healthier Dance Programme 2016 Conference I have been invited to be involved with is the first conference ever in the UK – as far as I’m aware – that focuses on health for hip hop and circus artists. It’s something we’ve been working on since September 2015, and will be happening in London in November this year. The speakers are going to be really high level, established people. It will cover a lot of different areas that artists need to know about, and maybe they’re not aware of yet – but we are trying to make it as financially accessible as possible.

What does your role on the steering committee involve?

The steering committee is compiled of people that come from all different backgrounds, so obviously Project Breakalign had to be on board – there aren’t many people doing something like this. Being on the committee means that I suggest speakers for the areas covered for breaking or hip hop dance, so I’ve given my suggestions for that. I’m helping with organising the day too. One Dance UK is leading this, but we are just helping out.

Nefeli 4

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What’s next for you?

After I complete my Masters in August or September, I plan to move to the USA. I’m applying for lecturing jobs over there. I might apply for an internship – maybe at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York, so I can continue exploring Dance Science.

I also got a great funding opportunity last year from the Centre Nationale de la Danse in Paris. It has offered to fund me to formalise the Breakalign Method – a methodology like Yoga or Pilates, like a supplementary programme for breakers specifically. It’s a very long journey myself and my team have already begun; and we are going to spend two months testing the methodology on different age and experience groups in the summer. I actually just applied for more funding and I hope I get it. We hope to prove it actually prevents injuries and aligns people’s bodies – hence the name!

Then in January 2017, I’m going to present the methodology in France to the funders and hopefully the Breakalign Method will be successful enough to travel the world. Eventually I want to get it to deprived communities such as the Phillippines for example, where there is nothing like this. Prevention of injuries doesn’t even exist as an expression there.

Nefeli 3

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What’s your long-term plan?

The dream is to get the Breakalign Method universal. On top of that, I’d like to do a PhD, or even just find a good lecturing position that makes me happy. I might not be the most experienced researcher, and I’m pretty young, but I think the experience that I have as a dancer and as a breaker is so essential in the type of research that I’m doing.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR


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.


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.



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.


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.


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

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

Useful web resources:


Trinity Laban Health Induction Activities 2015

On Monday the 7th September, we embarked on what tend to be the busiest few weeks of the academic calendar, induction. The Trinity Laban Health department forms part of the student services team and as such, we look forward to welcoming new students from across the globe as they begin their training at Trinity Laban. We know that dance related injury incidence is high the UK and therefore it is likely that at some point throughout training, dance, and or musical theatre students may need to seek advice or support from a member of the TL Health team. Whether this be in the form of treatment, a rehabilitation programme guided by one of our physiotherapists or to simply pop down for a quick chat our door is always open. The department does not only seek to support dance students however; musicians can experience physical problems too. Instrumentalists and vocalists like all performing artists often have to perform to the limit, with intense practice schedules and late night performances. As a result, the risk of acquiring injuries that can lead to difficulties or an inability to play or sing can increase. At Trinity Laban Health we seek to help prevent injuries through educating and empowering students and to support students in the management and rehabilitation of existing injuries. This year we put on a number of events in order to personally meet as many new students as possible and to highlight the support services, treatments and workshops on offer. Here’s a quick look at what we go up to.

Physiotherapist Tania Amorim discusses some safe stretching techniques to a busy studio of new BA Contemporary Dance Students.

Physiotherapist Tania Amorim discusses some safe stretching techniques with a busy studio of new BA Contemporary Dance Students.

Our first ‘Healthy Performing Artist’ session for new BA Contemporary Dance students attracted nearly a hundred students. In the session we provided an overview of the Dance Science and Health Musculoskeletal and Fitness Screen. This service allows students access to information about their own physical capabilities and can help to identify potential injury risk. It can help inform and empower to students to know more about their own bodies as they embark on their training. In line with this idea, Trinity Laban Health Physiotherapist Tania Amorim provided some safe and effective warm-up, cool down tips along with some practical ideas for safe stretching techniques.

Physiotherapist Isabel Artigues Cano discusses the theory behind important warm-up principles for musicians.

Physiotherapist Isabel Artigues Cano discusses the theory behind important warm-up principles for musicians.

The second in our series of Healthy Performing Artist talks was delivered by Physiotherapist Isabel Artigues Cano to new Music students. Musicians’ attendance rates were the highest we have seen in recent years and it was great to meet so many of the new cohorts personally at this session. Isabel discussed the signs and symptoms of common injuries for both instrumentalists and vocalists and provided invaluable warm-up, cool down and injury prevention tips.

Aside from our presentations, our stall remained on the ramp in the Laban building for the duration of the two week long induction. This was another opportunity for us  to meet as many new students as possible as well as greet some familiar returning faces. Our brand new survival kits for both musicians and dancers were also available for purchase here and included spiky balls, resistance bands, foot rollers among other items.

Physiotherapist Katy Chambers demonstrating a calf muscle release exercise with spikey balls that were available in our survival kits.

Physiotherapist Katy Chambers demonstrating a calf muscle release exercise with spiky balls available in our survival kits.

We also had the chance to get to know a number of new graduate school and BA Musical Theatre Performance (BAMTP) students. Physiotherapist Katy Chambers, provided some alternative warm-up ideas, using Yoga techniques for BAMTP students. This was followed by a muscular release based session with the aim of using these techniques to help prevent injuries. Our postgraduates engaged in a discussion around safe dance practice from the perspective of both dancer and choreographer with Edel Quin Programme Leader of the MSc Dance Science.

IMG_2280 - RE

Finally to round off a very busy two weeks, a few members of the team attended the international student event. The British style picnic with outdoor games and entertainment was the perfect way to end the induction period. This was another fantastic opportunity to get to know new students and we hope this continues over the coming weeks.

The Trinity Laban Health Team


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.


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.


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.