Book: Dance Science: Anatomy, Movement Analysis, Conditioning

Aloha! I would like to share with you a new book in the Dance Wellness field,  “Dance Science: Anatomy, Movement Analysis, Conditioning” by Gayanne Grossman, PT. Specific Information on the book is below.

Gayanne has a long background in dance medicine and science, working with injured dancers and teaching anatomy / kinesiology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, as well as heading up the Performing Arts Wellness Program for Lehigh Valley Health Network. The book is aimed at high school / college-level dancers, and is  a terrific resource for those looking to dig deep into the scientific arena, and to stretch their knowledge about the body and safe dance training / technique. It can also serve as an excellent scientific reference manual to keep on hand. Please pass it on!  Take care – Jan Dunn, MS, Dance Wellness Editor


For students of human movement, kinesiology, dance science, and dancers, Dance Science takes a positive approach to what a dancer can do to dance better through an understanding of anatomy and an analysis of movement which, in turn, will decrease injury rates. It presents anatomy and motion in a dance-specific way that teaches readers to appreciate and take ownership of their bodies through hands-on experiential activities.The book concludes with an approach to exercise design for enhanced performance integrating the principles of dance science. Accompanied by 90 anatomical illustrations, 30 photographs, and 3 graphs.

320 pages, 7″ x 10″, Paperbound, ISBN 978-087127-388-8  $49.95
Hardbound   ISBN 978–087127-387-1  $39.95

Order from:  Princeton Book Company, Publishers

Here is an excerpt from the text:

Training Efficiently and Safely for Needed Stability

Start strength training using isometrics. Use varied positions and joint angles. They will facilitate motor learning in many positions.

For example, your hip joint hyperextends; the femoral head abuts the Y ligament well past normal hip extension. You do not gain stability from it soon enough. Your pelvis may be in posterior tilt before your femoral head stops moving forward. Compare with a dancer whose femoral head stops at the Y ligament with minimal hip hyperextension: this dancer feels stable because the lumbopelvic and hip alignment are closer to neutral at end range hip extension. The hypermobile dancer needs extra training to know how to feel where that position is located. Begin with isometric holds, focusing on femoral head placement. (See Stork Stand and Weight Shift exercises later in this chapter.)

Strength train hypermobile dancers with isotonics, too. Use in the inner ranges (smaller movements) at first then increase the range of motion. Here is an example:

Begin standing at the barre and resist the first few inches of hip flex–ion, then repeat for hip abduction, adduction, and extension. When improvement is noted, increase the range of motion another inch or two. Tie one end of a light-weight exercise band to the barre and the other end to your ankle. Because hypermobile people may gain strength at a slower rate, increase the resistance when you are able to.

Include proprioception training in standing, sitting, or pushing up on stable, then unstable, surfaces to increase the awareness of joint position. Include slower combinations to facilitate correct postural control. Should hypermobile dancers stretch? Not too much. Dancers love to stretch so this behavioral change can be a challenge. Hypermobile people have a lot of stretch and they have decreased proprioception. They have to stretch quite far to feel end-range motion, sometimes into an extreme range of motion that may not be safe. These dancers are looking for feedback from the joint receptors and an enormous ROM may be necessary to stimulate these receptors in a hypermobile person.


The Phantoms Of The Ballet: The Wilis

“Giselle in the Forest” — Short Dance Film by The Australian Ballet with Modern Music

by Rachel Hellwig

You know the story— Boys meets girl. Boy courts girl. Girl falls in love. Girl discovers she’s been two-timed. Girl goes mad. Girl dies. Girl becomes ghost. Boy visits girl’s grave. Boy is captured by vengeful ghosts. Girl’s ghost saves boy.

The story is, of course, Giselle and the ghosts are the Wilis. In fact, Giselle‘s original title was Giselle ou les Wilis, “Giselle, or The Wilis”. Though a product of the Romantic Era and its fascination with the supernatural, this ballet from 1841 has nonetheless endured and attained classic status. Interestingly, pop culture’s current interest in vampires, zombies etc. echos the tastes of the period in which Giselle was created.

So, let’s take a look at the Wilis, a most elegant member of the undead…

Folkloric Inspiration

The Wilis have their roots in European legend. Théophile Gautier, author of Giselle’s libretto, took his source material for the Wilis from a passage in Heinrich Heine’s On Germany:

“There is a tradition of nocturnal dancing known in Slav countries under the name of Wili. The Wilis are affianced maidens who have died before their wedding-day; those poor young creatures cannot rest peacefully in their graves. In their hearts which have ceased to throb, in their dead feet, there still remains that passion for dancing which they could not satisfy during life; and at midnight they rise up and gather in bands on the highway and woe betide the young man who meets them, for he must dance until he drops dead.

Attired in their bridal dresses, with garlands of flowers on their heads, and shining rings on their fingers, the Wilis dance in the moonlight like the Elves.”

Theatrical Development

Ballet of the Nuns at the Paris Opéra (1832). Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image.

Ballet of the Nuns at the Paris Opéra. Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image.

The Wilis’ theatrical ancestors are found in the Ballet of Nuns from the opera Robert le Diable (1831) by Giacomo Meyerbeer and in the full-length ballet La Sylphide (1832). In the Ballet of the Nuns, ghosts of nuns rise from their abbey graves and dance in the moonlight. In La Sylphide, spirit-like beings known as sylphs dance in the forest at night. The visuals of these ballets with their white-clad women dancing in eerily-lit scenes set the stage for arrival of the Wilis nearly a decade later. Both the Ballet of the Nuns and La Sylphide originally starred Marie Taglioni, the ballet star credited with helping create the “tutu and toe-shoes” vision of the Romantic Era dancer. Anna Kisselgoff relates:

“’Robert le Diable’ raised the curtain on Romantic ballet. Naturally, there were many previous phases contributing to the Romantic esthetic in dance. But the preoccupation with the supernatural that characterized so much of 19th-century ballet could be traced to the success of the ”ballet of the nuns” in Meyerbeer’s first production at the Paris Opera.

”Robert Le Diable” led directly to the creation, in 1832, of ”La Sylphide,” the first complete Romantic ballet. The libretto for ”La Sylphide” was written by Adolphe Nourrit, the tenor who had the title role in ”Robert le Diable” and his sylph was of course, Marie Taglioni. Filippo Taglioni, her father and who is usually credited with the dances in the Meyerbeer opera, choreographed ”La Sylphide.” And another member of the same team, Pierre Ciceri, the stage and lighting designer responsible for the gasp-producing effects in ”Robert le Diable,” introduced the same ghostly gas lighting into ”La Sylphide.”

Otherworldly Attire

Carlotta Grisi as Giselle in Act II (1841). Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image.

Carlotta Grisi as Giselle in Act II (1841). Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image.

The long white tutus of the Wilis are based on the costume trend that Taglioni introduced for the more benign creatures of La Sylphide. The University of Utah’s ballet history page explains:

“The Romantic tutu is first seen in La Sylphide and was designed by Eugène Lami (1800-1890) […] By complementing Taglioni’s ethereal style of dancing the tutu triggered a new image in the mind of the public; that of the Romantic ballerina, transmuted into a creature soaring amidst a mist of muslin.[…] Like the pointe shoe, the Romantic tutu actively assisted the ballerina with the interpretation of her role, adding a buoyancy and unreal suspension to her fleeting steps and a softness to her landings.55″

Are They a Dream?

Of course, a possible interpretation of the Wilis is that they are a figment of Albrecht’s tortured thoughts. Anna Kisselgoff writes, “Whether he actually sees her ghost or imagines it in Act II is the kind of question 19th-century Romantic ballets such as this one have always left unanswered.”

What do you think? What’s your interpretation?

Giselle and Albrecht Say Goodbye at the End of Act II


The Specter Of Stage Fright…

"Dança" by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. [Changes to photo: filter added]

Dança” by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. Changes to photo: filter added

by Rachel Hellwig

Stage fright can feel like the ultimate self-betrayal. After all, dancing is what you love most, you’ve put in hours and hours of rehearsals, you’ve carefully warmed up, you’ve reviewed the steps in your head, the big moment has come… And now, you’re caving to fear. However, rest assured—

Your fear is not irrational. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

As Aaron Williamon, professor of performance science at the Royal College of Music, has explained:

“It’s not a natural thing to do, going out and dealing with such high levels of stress in public. And it’s nothing to do with age or inexperience. No matter how highly skilled a person is, the body’s preprogrammed stress responses mean they can enter a different physical state and sometimes even a different psychological state.”

For me, as a regular performer (albeit in the “passionate amateur” category) stage fright is inversely proportional to the size of the performing venue. In a larger theater, where in the audience is mostly consumed in darkness, I experience minimal nervousness. In a smaller theater, where I can see the people sitting in the front rows, nervousness is more of an issue. In a studio performance, where I can see the faces of everyone watching…well, let’s just I say this is where I need the most improvement…

My experience with a frustrating bout of stage fright during a studio performance this past summer inspired me to research the topic more. Beyond the common suggestions of calming techniques and “be prepared”, here are some interesting thoughts and reminders I came across:

The Audience Is Not Hoping to See You Fail

“The audience is not there to see [you] fail. Think about it. Every time you go to a performance or a play or a musical, do you sit in the audience and think, “I hope they fall…I hope she messes up…oh, I really want to see them do badly…”? You don’t!” – Kathryn Morgan, Performance Anxiety & Stage Fright

So true and yet so easy to overlook. Also, when you do see a performer make a mistake in a show, are you filled with delight or scorn? No. You probably feel empathy and as well admiration for their courage to keep going.

The Audience Probably Isn’t There to See You At All

“Remind yourself that they’re not here to see or hear you, unless you’re a very famous person, or your mother’s in the audience.”- Blocked by Performance Anxiety?

This is especially true in school dance shows, recitals, and semi-professional productions. (It’s probably even true in many professional productions) Be honest. In most performances, most people are just there to watch their family members and/or friends perform. So, “dance like no one is watching” because there’s probably quite a bit of truth in that!

It Could Be Helpful to Imagine Worst Case Scenarios

“Try to think of the worst case scenario, and then give yourself advice what to do if it happens: I could forget my steps (OK, I’ll improvise). I could fall off or on the stage (well, in case something like that really does happen, I should only worry about not injuring my legs, not my pride, and after all, it will make a great anecdote some day!). I could fall out of rhythm and completely mess up the whole dance (I’ll catch up with it after just a few seconds, I know I will), etc.”- 3 Tricks To Help Irish Dancers Overcome Stage Fright

This takes “be prepared” to another level. But, if it makes you feel more comfortable to consider different backup plans like this, then why not? If nothing else, the idea that a major error will “make a great anecdote someday” is a good frame of mind to keep things in perspective and take the pressure off yourself. (See Kathryn Morgan’s Performance Mishaps & Funny Moments video for a good laugh.)

You Might Not Be Able to Completely Free Yourself From Stage Fright…

“I am onstage more than fifty years. Sometimes I do shows every night for weeks. Still, it never doesn’t come. Starts four hours before. I don’t even try to fight it anymore. I know it will always be there.” – Mikhail Baryshnikov, I Can’t Go On!

Yes, it’s a rather horrifying thought. But, when all else fails, you might just have to accept that stage fright is an obstacle you will regularly have to ride out. But dancers are used to dealing with obstacles, and, at the end of day, it will be well worth the ride. Remember, you’re in good company if Baryshnikov knows exactly what you’re going through!

"IMG_9361.JPG" by  Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

IMG_9361.JPG” by
Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Changes to  photo: filter added


Flash Feldenkrais for the Busy Dancer: Part I

We’re pleased to offer you “Flash Feldenkrais for Dancers” — by Nancy Wozny. Nancy is the Somatics expert on our Dance Wellness Panel — she wrote the article introducing Somatic work, and why it matters for dancers, “A Somatic Update for Dancers” in August of 2014. Nancy is a Feldenkrais practitioner herself, and is sharing her expertise with you in this series of “Flash Feldenkrais” postings — here is the first one.  Try it  –  I think you will like it.  Enjoy!       – Jan 

Jacob's Pillow

B: Brandon Collwes, Molly Griffin, and Brandin Steffensen of Liz Gerring Dance Company in glacier. Photo Christopher Duggan

Note: This is the first in a series of Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Lessons that have been streamlined for dancers.

by Nancy Wozny

Watching Liz Gerring’s dancers in glacier this summer at Jacob’s Pillow navigate their way through a glorious feast of highly nuanced movement reminded me of how somatically rich some contemporary dancers’ lives are these days. Because Gerring’s vocabulary is so mind bogglingly detailed, her dancers are neurally nourished with novelty on a daily basis. Gerring’s dancers also move as if each step is a question, embracing an exploratory process, so that each movement feels like an act of discovery. The sheer abundance of specificity not only makes for compelling choreography, but has an added benefit to the dancers, and possibly the viewers as well. Just watching these deft movers made me feel as if I was getting a month-long Feldenkrais retreat thanks to those handy mirror neurons at work.

Sometimes, we forget just how diverse a dancer’s life is when considering the role of Somatics for today’s dancer. Somatics, defined by philosopher Thomas Hanna, is the study of the body as a lived experience. In my first piece for 4dancers, A Somatics Update, I outlined the characteristics of the field, which include cultivating an accurate sense of awareness, the use of non-habitual movement, resting between actions and attention to our habits, to name a few. The Feldenkrais Method, one of many somatic practices, is particularly useful for performing artists, especially dancers because of their complicated movement lives, which includes both repetition and novelty.

Contemporary choreographers and educators regularly look to change the status quo in what they are asking dancers to do. The movement in today’s dance classes and choreography is considerably more varied than it was say 20 years ago. What does all this have to do with Somatics?

You are busy, and all of us dance health folk are always trying to make you busier. Do this! Do that! The list of what a dancer needs to do besides daily technique class to stay healthy seems to grow each year.

I understand the demands of today’s dancer enough to know that anything can be streamlined to fit an artist’s schedule, even the prolific work of Moshe Feldenkrais, who created over 3,000 brilliant Awareness Through Movement lessons. And trust me, each one is a gem. Although it’s always beneficial to do longer and more complicated lessons, especially when you are in recovery mode, it’s possible to receive a benefit from shorter lessons.

Feldenkrais could very well be the father of cross training as well as somatics, as he addressed expanding our habits head on by introducing the role of novelty in movement as a neural refresher.

We also need to keep in mind that Feldenkrais Method and dance share some of the same domain, which includes inventive movement. The average dancer has no shortage of novelty in their lives, as they regularly meet the demands of today’s choreographers who tirelessly look for new ways to put the human body into action.

Maintenance mode doesn’t quite need the same time commitment, especially when you are getting a good amount of somatic diversity in your daily classes and rehearsals. However, a dancer’s time and energy budget is tight, so perhaps a need-to-know approach may be more doable when it comes to maintaining your somatic health.

With all of this in mind, I offer Flash Feldenkrais for the Busy Dancer, streamlined lessons that address common conditions in a dancers’ working life, which sometimes involves an abundance of novelty. That can be discombobulating in its own right. Sometimes, we need to scale back, look to more central organizations, and simply calm the whole system down. And because it’s Feldenkrais, a tiny bit of novelty pops in at the end because we always need a little post Feldenkrais play time.

Flash Feldenkrais Lesson #1: Returning to Neutral

When to do this lesson: When you have been doing a lot of performing or traveling, or both at the same time. Anytime something has thrown you off from your center, this lesson will help reel you in. I find it to be a somatic palate cleanser, and a “returning to your baseline” lesson.

Why do this lesson: You will find a wonderful ease in your limbs afterward. It’s the Feldenkrais equivalent of straightening out your holiday lights when they get all in a jumble.

What do you need to do this lesson: A soft mat or blanket and 15-20 uninterrupted minutes in a quiet room.

Remember: Rest between each step and before you fatigue. Do each instruction just a few times. Make the movement as easy as possible.

Lie on your back with your legs long and your arms by your side. Sense your contact against the ground. Bring your right arm up so that your fingers point to the ceiling and your palm faces your midline. Notice the effort it takes to do this movement.

Bend up your knees and bring your feet to standing. Bring your right arm up again and move your right arm slightly toward and away from your midline. Notice the “sweet spot” when you pass through neutral.

Bring your right arm up again and move it slightly toward your head and then toward your feet. Notice when you pass through neutral.

Bring your right arm up again and move it toward the midline and away, then toward your head, then your feet, always returning to neutral between each movement.

Repeat steps 1-5 with the left arm.

Repeat steps 1-5 steps with both arms at once.

Repeat steps 1-5 with the right leg in the air.

Repeat steps 1-5 with the left leg in the air.

Bring all limbs into the air and spend some time improvising. Play with the limbs moving toward and away from each other in various configurations. This is where the imagination can slip in while you find some new and fun ways of moving your limbs in space.

Rest on your back again. Lift your right arm into the air and notice how easy it is now. Come to sitting, then standing. Walk around and notice your sense of ease and grace.

NEXT UP: Stay tuned for the second installation of Flash Feldenkrais for the Busy Dancer, which will focus on organizing oneself for a shift and cleansing the kinesthetic palate.

Nany Wozny

Nancy Wozny is editor in chief of Arts + Culture Texas, reviews editor at Dance Source Houston and a contributor to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine, where she is also an contributing editor. She has taught and written about Feldenkrais and somatics in dance for two decades.


Autumn Ballet Videos

Fall is upon us, and if you live somewhere with four seasons, you are likely watching the leaves turn glorious colors…

We thought it might be fun to share a few “Autumn-themed” ballet videos with you, to get in the spirit of things–enjoy!

“The Leaves Are Fading” Pas de Deux –Antony Tudor (set at the end of summer)

Autumn Fairy — Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella”

 Autumn from “The Four Seasons Ballet” Shanghai Dance Academy


Dance Medicine: IADMS 25th Annual Meeting

IMG_1212by Catherine L. Tully

The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science held their 25th annual meeting in October at the Marriott City Center in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Starting off with a day for teachers, the gathering spanned a four-day period that offered networking opportunities, information-sharing, and an overall sense of purpose that was clear and heartfelt.

As a first-time attendee, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the meeting with those who may be interested, and those who might want to consider going in the future. After all, next year’s meeting is in Hong Kong, which would make a lovely trip!

I have to say that I really enjoyed my time with this unique group of professionals, and felt the experience was definitely worthwhile. As most of you are already aware, I’m very passionate about the topic of dance wellness, and I’d love nothing more than to see IADMS continue to grow and connect with dancers and dance teachers everywhere.

So…here are some thoughts on the experience from my perspective, along with a few photos that should give a little context to my narrative.


Without question the single largest benefit to attending this meeting is the networking. The IADMS gathering brings professionals together from all over the world, giving them a chance to compare notes, talk dance medicine, and, perhaps most importantly, get to know one another.

Even with the magic of connecting via the web, there is just no substitute for face-to-face interaction. To that end, I enjoyed having the chance to meet the members of our own Dance Wellness Panel in person for the first time, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the planning time we had to solidify topics we’ll share with readers throughout the year (stay tuned!).

Although IADMS is smaller gathering of professionals than conferences such as Dance USA and the Dance Teacher Summit, it actually works to the advantage of the organization in this case. It simply felt much easier to connect with people here. Faces became familiar after a day or two, and because of that, it made approaching people less intimidating–even for a somewhat introverted person, such as myself.

IMG_1166Several events were incorporated into the meeting’s overall framework that allowed participants the chance to just relax and mingle a bit. Among these were the welcome reception Friday evening, and the “dance party” on Saturday night.


The information presented at the IADMS meeting fell into three primary formats: lectures, movement sessions, and poster presentations. There were also a number of tables on-hand from various supporters and exhibitors. To try and summarize everything offered is quite an impossibility, so an overview of the main categories is offered here instead…each with a few examples…


Throughout the event there were numerous lectures available for attendees to take in — from Nutritional concerns in vegetarian and vegan dancers to “The science of motor learning: creating a model for dance training” to “Anterior hip pain in a dancer – an alternative diagnosis.”

Injury prevention/treatment, teaching strategies, metabolism, and dancer fitness were just some of the topics addressed by professionals from the podium. Lecture sessions were typically brief and specific, with accompanying slides. Following each lecture there was an opportunity for questions/comments.

Poster Presentations

IMG_1161Poster presentations offered another approach in terms of information sharing and engagement. Posters were displayed in a room where attendees could peruse them and discuss ideas with one another at a leisurely pace. These sessions were lively, and many people took advantage of the opportunity to join in the conversation.

There were two poster presentation slots during the span of the meeting, and a wide range of topics were covered, such as, “Differences in sway area observed in ballerinas en demi pointe and en pointe,” “Can textured insoles improve ankle proprioception and performance in dancers?” and “Building a safe environment for private dance sectors: a business model to provide healthcare for dancers.”


Movement sessions

IMG_1139In addition to the posters and lectures, the IADMS meeting also provides numerous “movement sessions” where participants have the chance to explore thoughts and ideas in a more “hands-on,” active environment.

Some of the movement sessions included: “Using technology for movement analysis in the dance studio,” “Incorporating conditioning into a modern dance technique class,” and “Gaga, Ohad Naharin’s movement language,” among many others.

Unlike the lecture sessions which are generally rather short in length, the movement sessions typically run about 50 minutes, giving attendees the chance to dig in a bit and try some things out for themselves.



IMG_1221In my time at the meeting I met a wide range of educators, students and dance medicine professionals — from seasoned, founding members of the field — to brand new faces just joining the ranks after graduation.

It was wonderful to see such a large span of ages and experience levels in attendance, and exciting to think about the possibilities that bringing this group of people together offers to the dance community throughout the world.

For more information on IADMS, please visit their website, and be sure to keep an eye on their blog. Those hoping to attend the 26th annual meeting in Hong Kong can keep an eye out for details on the site, and membership information is there as well.

Disclosure: 4dancers attended the 25th annual meeting on a press pass granted by IADMS, but no monetary compensation was received for coverage of the event. All transportation, lodging, and meals were paid for by 4dancers.


The Stages Of A Swan

By Samantha Hope Galler

Before I could even understand the true meaning of ballet, I dreamed about dancing in Swan Lake. I would even fall asleep listening to the music of Tchaikovsky. In 2001, my mom took me to see a performance of American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Paloma Herrera danced the principal roles of Odette and Odile. I was so completely entranced. That performance solidified my love for dance.

Five-year-old Samantha (on the right) in dance class.

Five-year-old Samantha Hope Galler at the barre.

Years later, while I was dancing with Alabama Ballet, I had the opportunity to perform as Odette and Odile in the four-act Petipa/Ivanov version of Swan Lake.

Swan Lake was first was created by Julius Reisinger in 1877, but redeveloped by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895. The Petipa/Ivanov version stands as a base for many versions today.

Read more


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