by Lauren Warnecke
Some say, “If you’ve been to one conference, you’ve been to them all,” but having attended four conferences this year I’m not so sure I agree. 2014 was “the year of the conference” for me, mostly because I’ve been excited to share some of my survey research on dance injuries and cross-training. Plus, as a first year PhD student (you knew that, right?), it seemed like a great way to insert myself into the academic community. My work was presented three times: in Bowling Green, Ohio last February at the Midwest Sport and Exercise Psychology Symposium (MSEPS), in October at the Annual Meeting for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) held in Basel, Switzerland, and again last month at the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)’s annual conference in Chicago. I also attended Dance/USA’s conference in June, sans my science-y hat. I presented twice with my research assistant Molly, and each was slightly different in length, but on the whole each presentation was roughly the same.
Why give the same information at three conferences? Three reasons: practice, pointers, and pageantry.
Let me explain.
When you’re involved in research, it’s really easy to get lost in your work. It’s big. It’s overwhelming. Sometimes, you forget the point. Continually putting myself into situations that force me to articulate and defend my work is a really important part of the process. Otherwise, I might get in front of my committee, years from now, when it really counts, and totally bomb it. So, in my view, the more times I can talk about what I’m doing, the better (practice).
Practicing in front of audiences full of draconian observers from all different fields is better still. In the three conferences at which I presented, I yielded opinions and observations from exercise psychologists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, body conditioning specialists, medical doctors, and dance educators. I can say quite confidently that the dance educators were the toughest crowd. It is vital to the success and longevity of researcher that we communicate with individuals working in the field – those putting our ideas into practice. I consider the feedback I received from guests at my NDEO presentation to be critical information that can inform the future directions of my research (pointers).
Finally, conferences are awesome. Though often overwhelming and exhausting, there’s quite a pomp and circumstance surrounding the coming together of like-minded individuals. I mean, I went to Switzerland (Switzerland!) for a 10-minute presentation. Plus, the schmoozing, the fancy parties and catering (pageantry)….
Though the format, the networking, the light appetizers and harsh scrutiny are par for the course at any conference, I found each conference I attended this year to be a unique experience. The exercise psychologists we spoke to in February had no idea about dancers, and helped me draw connections between dance companies and athletic teams. IADMS opened me eyes to a rich pool of dance researchers that I hardly knew existed. As the sole dance researcher at a university with no dance program, I often feel like I’m on an island. IADMS assured me that there are many dedicated individuals in the world who have similar passions and goals. NDEO allowed me to interact with the educators who may actually benefit from this research. And without application, research is pretty much pointless.
One thing is clear: dancers, researchers and educators are passionately committed to dance. We have different skills, experiences, and approaches, but ultimately we all want the same things: inspired performances, health and wellbeing among dancers, longevity of the dancer’s career, and intelligent training practices. By working my way through the conference circuit this year I have never been more certain of that.
Contributor Lauren Warnecke is a Chicago-based dance writer/researcher and educator. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09), and is currently a full-time faculty member and doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Lauren researches trends in dance injuries, cross-training, and performance, and created the dance blog Art Intercepts in 2009. She is a dance critic for SeeChicagoDance, columnist at Windy City Times, a Huffington Post blogger, and a contributor to the websites Dance Advantage and 4dancers. Lauren has freelanced as a production/stage manager, curator, choreographer, and grant writer, doing nearly every job in the dance world at some point. She is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM) and Functional Training Specialist (ACE), enjoys coffee and vintage apparel, and believes in the Oxford comma. Follow Lauren on Twitter @artintercepts.