Investigating Injury Prevention and Excellence in Dance

I worked for 14 years as a professional contemporary dancer before I trained to become a physiotherapist. As I’ve transitioned into physiotherapy, I’ve stayed connected to dance through continuing my physical practice of dance, teaching injury prevention workshops for dancers and instructing  “physiodance” – a class combining the science of human movement optimization and the art of dance.

In a research project I’m currently conducting, I’m bringing my intense interest in physiotherapy and my passion for dance together by investigating the essential components of developing extraordinary dancers. My aim is to develop my expertise in working to optimize human movement, prevent injury and optimize recovery from injury specifically in connection with the demands of the professional dance world.

This study, which is funded by The Canada Council for the Arts, uses an integrated systems model where personal history, emotional disposition, physicality, mental attitude and spirituality are all considered to contribute to the development of the artist as a whole.

The data collection is in the form of interviews with 30 dance masters from across Canada. The questions used in the interviews are designed to probe into the multiple systems involved in the development of each dance artist. Some questions cover physical aspects of dance, such as what technical corrections have enabled the dancer to excel, whereas others cover emotional, intellectual and environmental aspects, such as who has influenced the dancer’s work.

The data, in the form of transcribed interviews, will then be coded for ideas that are presented repeatedly. These codes become the themes of the research and from the themes an overarching hypothesis is formed.

Preliminary findings from the research indicate that acute sensory awareness is key to developing the ability to perform extraordinary movement and prevent injury. Mental attributes like trust, curiosity, determination and the ability to thrive despite repeated failures and disappointments seem essential to being successful in the world of dance.  These findings can likely be applied to any extreme physical endeavor and even to navigating ones’ way through the varying terrains of life in general.

The final written report of the study will be completed by June 2015. A link to the findings will be made available through this website.