Dance Science

Educating students on the science behind dance creates strong, healthy and smart dancers.

GinnyAnn studied Dance Science under the direction of Christine Bergeron at Texas A&M University. The article she wrote below defines Dance Science and why it is so important.

Defining Dance Science

By Christine S. Bergeron, MFA, PHD (Dance Science) candidate

What is Dance Science? As the Director of Dance at TAMU, I get this question a lot. The simplest definition is that dance science focuses on the health and well-being of the dancer. Dance scientists are dance educators, performers, medical practitioners (such as medical doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers), nutritionists, researchers and psychologists. The goal of dance science is to find ways for dancers to elongate their careers and dance in an overall healthier way.

Teachers who support dance science in their instruction take an anatomical and biomechanical approach to their teaching. They don’t only teach the aesthetics of dance technique but they teach the scientific “why” behind each movement. An example of this is when a teacher talks to their students about keeping their shoulders down. One approach to explaining this would be to tell the student to stabilize (which some dancers then think, “don’t move) the shoulder blades (scapulae). In reality the scapulae must move once the arms goes above shoulder height. A teacher with dance science knowledge will explain the action of the shoulder blade and how to engage specific muscles to get the look they are asking for. They might also provide massage technique to release tightness in the shoulder. Teachers also talk to their students about injury prevention, conditioning and eating healthy and enough calories to support their dance activities.

Medical doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers who work with dancers also use dance science. They learn about the aesthetics of the art form, the regimen of a dancer’s life and can speak in dance “lingo.” Many of the dancers I have come across in my life hate going to doctors when they are injured. If you ask them why they will most likely say, “they will tell me to stop dancing.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the story of a doctor or physical therapist telling a dancer that they are recovered when in fact the dancer has lost a great deal of range of motion in a joint. They are often told “that range is good enough.” Perhaps it is good enough if the patient was a normal person but THEY ARE A DANCER. Many doctors or physical therapists don’t specialize in dancers and often don’t truly understand what we do as dancers. Medical practitioners who have an understanding of dance science use their knowledge in science to help the dancer return to THEIR “normal.” They don’t give up and are willing to work with the dancer to find creative ways to help the dancer in their recovery.

Students who want to perform professionally also use dance science. They use the information about biomechanics and anatomy to work their technique in a smart way. They know about nutrition and how they should eat when they are on a regular class/rehearsal schedule vs. performance week vs. recovering from injuries. They use information about basic injuries to care for their injuries. They use the information that dance science provides to elongate their careers. Dancers today don’t stop dancing in their early 20’s. They are making professional performance careers out of it well into their 40’s and early 50’s. If they have the knowledge, they can dance for a very long time.

Researchers conduct research studies on dancers. They look at specific training methods, injury recovery rates, supplemental intakes, etc. Then they publish their research and present it at conferences. The goal is that the teachers, dancers and medical practitioners use the information to change how they are working in the classroom, in the theatre and in their clinics.

Dance Science is a growing field in the dance community. As dance becomes more athletic we need to change our training methods and learn ways to dance in a healthier way. Dance Science is the field to help us do just that. If you would like more information about the field of dance science do not hesitate to contact me – Christine Bergeron, Director of Dance at cbergeron@tamu.edu.