Feb 01, 2021 in DIS-TANZ-SOLO

Science of Dance Training Page Title

What struck me most when reading SCIENCE OF DANCE TRAINING, edited by Priscilla M. Clarkson and Margaret Skrinar, was that I felt that nothing much had changed since the book was published in 1988. A majority of dance professionals still have the same misconceptions about strength training and muscle hypertrophy as 33 years ago, dancers still make the same “mistakes” in their warm up and training routines, and companies still draft the same subpar rehearsal and performance schedules.

While a good dance performance is never about the pure display of physical ability, or the dry execution of a scientifically analyzed and optimized sequence of movements, I really feel that we make our lives harder than they need to be. We could avoid a lot of injuries and, with all certainty, grow artistically if we would just access the knowledge that other athletes have been utilizing for decades. Healthier and stronger bodies, and a greater movement efficiency lead to an improved physical performance. And the less we have to worry about our physical performance while on stage, the bigger our ability to focus on all things artistic, the bigger our ability to be “in the moment”, the bigger our ability to make interesting choices.

SCIENCE OF DANCE TRAINING collects the results of important research and studies done by individual authors in various fields related to dance education and puts them into practical guidelines. With contributions from dancers, sports medicine professionals, and exercise scientists, the text pulls together a wealth of information on the scientific, medical, behavioural, and pedagogical aspects of dance training.

You’ll learn about the components of conditioning, get an introduction to the different types of resistance training, read about cardiovascular aspects of dance, get an overview of the most common dance-related injuries, etc.

I picked out two very different passages to give you an idea about how multifaceted the articles in this collection are. Yes, the book is old and some of the info is outdated, yes, it focuses a little too much on Ballet, but it still offers a valuable overview. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Cover SCIENCE OF DANCE TRAINING by Priscilla M. Clarkson & Margaret Skrinar

by Priscilla M. Clarkson & Margaret Skrinar (Editors)

Publisher: Human Kinetics (1 April 1988)
Language: English
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 9780873221221
ISBN-13: 978-0873221221

Principles of Dance Training:
Warm up

The desired physiological effects of warm-up are linked to the elevation of body temperature. The goal of an effective warm-up should be to elevate internal temperature one to two degree so that sweating occurs. This temperature elevation is associated with increase in metabolic rate, enzyme activity within the muscle, blood flow to the muscle, and oxygen reaching the muscle and released within the muscle. All of these effects aid in the efficient production of energy for fueling muscle contraction.

Elevating the internal temperature also has these effects: decreased muscle viscosity, increased flexibility of tendons and ligaments, greater speed and force of muscle contraction, increased muscle elasticity, increased speed of transmission of nerve impulses, and decreased contraction and relaxation times of the muscle. (DeVries, 1966; Shellock, 1983). It has been suggested that many of these factors are beneficial for injury prevention by increasing neuromuscular coordination or by making the tissue itself less susceptible to damage. The influence of temperature on muscle relaxation time is particularly important in dance because of the common use of reciprocal motion in which the inability of a muscle to relax fast enough may cause the antagonist muscle to produce a tear. (…)

Warm-up is more beneficial when it is specific (i.e., when it uses the muscles and movement patterns required for a given activity) as well as active. The combination of specificity and action increases the temperature of the body parts to be used and provides a slight rehearsal effect (Shellock, 1983). (…)

Another important consideration in effective warm-up design is timing. The effects of warm-up are transient, and, ideally, a warm-up should precede a rigorous performance by no more than 15 minutes (Astrand & Rodahl, 1977). The beneficial physiological effects of warm-up appear to be abolished with 45minutes of rest. Thus a company class is not sufficient for a performance one or two hours later, and a morning class is inadequate preparation for an afternoon rehearsal. This means that it is often necessary for individual dancers to go through a brief warm-up before the performance, taking into account the specific demands of the individual part.

Karen Clippinger-Robertson
Seattle Sports Medicine

Psychological Aspects of Dance:
Dance, Play, and Sports

Dance and sports have often been seen as close relatives. The role of play in these fields has been underemphasized, although the psychology of play has been well-studied. The theoretical relationship to dance is subtle but crucial. Play has been defined as being consciously outside of ordinary life, as being not serious but simultaneously fully and intensely involving the player; it is a profitless experience, proceeding by fixed rules in an orderly way within boundaries of time and space; it causes exclusive social groups to be formed, groups which stress their differences from the outside world.

Early in his career Freud wrote that the pleasure of movement was inherently sexual, noting that „modern“ education made much of games to replace sexual enjoyment by pleasure of movement. Later on, he also pointed out that a certain drive in play was the attempt at mastery; playing became a way of dealing with psychologically traumatic episodes by repeating them in a simple, safe way. Menninger felt that play was most importantly a way to safely express aggression. Games are often battles or even one-on-one fights, with clear rules permitting and encouraging certain types of aggression.

Fenichel extended an earlier report of Deutsch’s that had been based on the successful treatment of a highly inhibited ineffectual man who was paradoxically an able athlete. Deutsch had suggested that sports allowed individuals to express inner conflicts by transforming painful feelings into pleasurable ones. Fenichel agreed that without conscious intent, the psychological conflict is projected onto the sport, allowing a sense of mastery in that setting; this makes sport counterphobic.

Sacks has reviewed these findings in a paper on the psychodynamics of sport, extending these notions to focus also on the creative and transcendental aspects of sport, which may have application to dance. Sacks feels that a fantasy associated with sport allows the player to „…recapture the illusion of a subjective reality that is felt as intensely pleasurable and creative, despite his awareness that he is just participating in a sport.“ For Sacks, the subjective reality and illusion afforded by sport provide a highly pleasurable sense of omnipotence and fusion experiences similar to those of early childhood. He touches on one possible reason for the intense body preoccupations of athletes by noting that these omnipotence and fusion experiences and the repetitive movements in sport may provide further associations for the athlete to that early part of life when the individual’s sense of „self“ was largely a „body self“, before the boundaries of one’s body and one’s sense of self and others were complete. During this period the outside world is seen as an extension to this state, which Winnicott has described as an „intermediate area“, partway between the objective reality of the adult and the subjective reality of dreams and fantasy.

Jerome M. Schnitt & Diana Schnitt
Yale University / Connecticut College


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