Join me in welcoming Jan Dunn who is going to be with us this year writing about Dance Wellness. Ms. Dunn has an extremely impressive background in the field and I’m really excited that she will be sharing her insights with us here at 4dancers…
by Jan Dunn, MS
Welcome to the world of Dance Wellness! (also sometimes called “Dance Medicine and Science”). Dance Wellness is a fairly recent branch on the dance family tree; thirty-five years ago, the field did not exist at all. But the last three decades have witnessed tremendous growth in our knowledge of how to keep dancers dancing, longer and stronger than ever before. This is the first in a series of on-going articles about dance wellness, integrating recently learned information to help teachers, dancers, choreographers, and directors.
What IS “dance wellness”, or “dance medicine and science”? The “dance medicine” part is comparable to sports medicine – the care and prevention of dance injuries – just as sports medicine serves the same function for its participants. “Dance science” draws on research in the last thirty years (most of it in dance itself, as opposed to sports or other fields) from such areas as:
- kinesiology and anatomy
- exercise physiology
- motor learning
Both areas are concerned primarily with how dance injuries can be prevented / minimized, and how to integrate these findings into dance training. “Dance wellness” incorporates all of these concepts — i.e., keeping dancers healthy, to be able to have long, viable careers with decreased risk of injury.
Dance wellness began in the late 1970‘s / early 1980‘s, when professionals from both medicine and dance education, came together to learn, share, research, and formulate new guidelines for the health and well-being of the dancer. On the medical side, there were a few dance-familiar physicians working mostly with professional dancers, in widely scattered cities worldwide. Medical professionals involved in the beginnings of dance medicine include: -Dr. Allan Ryan, MD (Minneapolis), Dr. James Garrick, MD (San Francisco), Dr. William Hamilton, MD (New York City), Dr. Justin Howse, FRCC (London), Dr. James Sammarco, MD (Cleveland Clinic), Dr. Eivind Thomasen, MD (Denmark), Marika Molnar, PT (New York City).
On the dance education side, there were a handful of American and European dance teachers who were interested in the medical problems of dancers. Dance Education professionals involved include: Dr. Janice Plastino, PhD (University of CA – Irvine), Ruth Solomon (University of CA – Santa Cruz), Martha Myers, MS (Connecticut College and Dean of American Dance Festival), Dr. Sally Fitt, PhD. (University of Utah), Rachel Rist, MA (Tring Arts Educational School – England).
The American Dance Festival (ADF), in Durham, NC, under Martha Myers, Dean of the Festival’s education component, was pivotal in this early development. ADF is housed at Duke University; Duke University Hospital (DUH) is one of the nation’s most prestigious medical institutions.
In the late 1970‘s, Myers, who had long been interested in the health and career longevity of dancers, began encouraging physicians at DUH to become interested in the medical problems of the ADF dancers. In 1981, ADF began offering yearly Dance Medicine Seminars, gathering together professionals across the country who worked with / or were interested in working with, dancers and their very specific injury and health concerns. Other organizations and facilities also began offering similar conferences and seminars:
- Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York City was formed, and began treating dancers / offering courses for medical and dance professionals.
- National Dance Association (NDA) formed the Committee on Dance Medicine and Science, and produced several “Science and Somatics of Dance” conferences during the late 1980’s / early ‘90’s.
- The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) was chartered in 1990, spearheaded by a US physician, Dr. Allan Ryan, MD. Created to bridge the gap between medicine and dance, and bring together all the people who were interested in this specific aspect of dance, IADMS held its first conference in 1991, with 43 participants – drawn equally from the medical and dance education fields. There are currently close to 1000 members, representing 33 different countries. Conferences are held internationally each year, in Europe, the United States, Australia, and in 2012 Asia (Singapore). IADMS is the only international association devoted solely to dance medicine and science (there are several national organizations in Europe), and continues to serve the dance community worldwide, with numerous resources available through its website, www.iadms.org.
- PAMA, the Performing Arts Medicine Association, formed in 1982, also addresses dance medicine, along with its primary focus of music medicine. PAMA holds an annual summer conference, “The Annual Symposium on the Medical Problems of Musicians and Dancers”, in Aspen, CO.
- Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, Ohio) organized several one and two day dance medicine clinics during that time period.
Dance wellness services are currently included in the structure of many professional schools and companies. These services include the preventative aspect of wellness, incorporating outside conditioning programs such as Pilates / Franklin Method / Gyrotonics. Just a few examples include:
-New York City Ballet
-Royal Danish Ballet
-San Francisco Ballet
-The Julliard School (NYC)
-Laban / Trinity Contemporary Dance
-Pacific Northwest Dance
-DisneyLand and Walt Disney World
-Cirque de Soliel
Academic dance (university and college level) has embraced dance wellness, especially in the U.S. and U.K. Schools which offer courses / services include:
-Florida State University Dept. of Dance
-University of Utah Dept. of Dance
-University of Colorado Dept. of Theatre and Dance
and many others
Screening programs, which identify potential future injury problems in dancers, are becoming increasingly common in both the professional and academic dance communities. Screenings are conducted with a dance familiar physical therapist, and a dance educator or trainer. The physical therapist evaluates the dancer in terms of strength, flexibility, range of motion (ROM), etc. The dance trainer will evaluate the dancer’s technique, to see if poor alignment / form are areas of potential future problems.
In conclusion, dance wellness is a crucial component in the education of dancers who hope to have long and healthy careers. Dance is inherently a high risk profession, and there is no way to completely eliminate those risks. But through the knowledge now available in this specialized area of dance, educators, parents and dancers now have the resources and tools to help significantly reduce those risk factors.
Future articles in this series will discuss topics such as:
-Resources for dancers and teachers
-Causes and prevention of dance injuries
-Applying dance science research findings to dance training
-How to find a dance-knowledgeable medical provider
-Importance of outside conditioning for dancers
and many others!
Readers are encouraged to contact the author, Jan Dunn,MS, with questions or suggestions for article topics @ jddanmed (at) aol.com
BIO: Jan Dunn is a dance medicine / Pilates / Franklin Method specialist based in Denver / Boulder, CO, and Los Angeles, CA. She is Co-Director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and Adjunct Professor, University of Colorado – Boulder, Dept. of Theatre and Dance. She has been active in Dance Medicine since 1984. Previously she was Coordinator of The Dance Wellness Lab, Dept. of Theater & Dance, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA , and has held dance faculty positions at Connecticut College, Florida State University, Hartford Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Colorado Ballet. She has been active with the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) for 22 years, serving as Board member, President, and Executive Director. Jan was Associate Dean / Workshop Coordinator at the American Dance Festival 1983 – 1991, originated The Dance Medicine/Science Resource Guide; and was co-founder of the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. She has taught dance medicine, Pilates, and Franklin workshops worldwide, has published numerous articles, and presented at many US / international conferences.