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Towards an evidence-based training approach for the elite contemporary dance industry

The highly competitive dance industry demands artistic integration with athletic prowess. Dancers push their bodies to the limits of human performance and experience high rates of injury. Leveraging an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate with Perth flagship contemporary dance company Co3, this project monitors the Co3 dancers as they experience an evidence-based training program for performance enhancement and injury prevention. Key outcomes of this internationally unique research will provide an exemplar to the contemporary dance industry for optimising dance training which can improve the wellbeing of contemporary dancers and enable greater physicality in dance performance while maintaining artistic integrity.

This project will examine the efficacy of introducing an evidence-based training program into the schedule of professional contemporary dance company, Co3. The professional dance industry is highly competitive and demands a unique level of athletic prowess in order to fulfil the demands of the art form (Koutedakis & Jamurtas, 2004). Many dancers and dance companies are looking to the human sciences in the interests of reaching the elite performance capacities demanded of professional dancers (Clark, Gupta, & Ho, 2014). To date, a modest evidence base has been developed which demonstrates that dancers respond positively to traditional athletic training regimes for improving dancer performance and preventing dancer injuries (Angioi, Metsios, Twitchett, Koutedakis, & Wyon, 2013; Beck, Redding, & Wyon, 2015; Girard, Koenig, & Village, 2015). However, there are no studies which have investigated how these training methods can be effectively incorporated into the schedule of an elite professional dance company while maintaining the artistic quality within the company productions. In order for a true culture shift to occur in dance training, a proof of concept exemplar is required to demonstrate how the evidence of athletic training in dance can be applied in practice. This project proposes to provide the required proof of concept.

The artistic staff of the flagship Western Australian Contemporary Dance Company Co3 have afforded the unique opportunity to examine the question of how can new training methods be incorporated within the 2017 company rehearsal and performance seasons. This is an internationally unique opportunity to work with a proactive artistic staff who are willing to openly consider how the company training is conducted in the interests of supporting dancer wellbeing, improving physicality in performance while maintaining the artistic integrity of the company productions. Through direct collaboration with and monitoring of the company dancers this project aims to build a multi-faceted descriptive analysis of the benefits and barriers to implementing a new approach to contemporary dance training and performance.

References

  • Angioi, M., Metsios, G., Twitchett, E. A., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon, M. (2013). Effects of supplemental training on fitness and aesthetic competence parameters in contemporary dance: A randomised controlled trial. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 27(1), 3-8.
  • Beck, S., Redding, E., & Wyon, M. A. (2015). Methodological considerations for documenting the energy demand of dance activity: A review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00568
  • Girard, J., Koenig, K., & Village, D. (2015). The effect of strength and plyometric training on functional dance performance in elite ballet and modern dancers. Physical Therapy Reviews, 20(4), 233-240. doi:10.1179/1743288X15Y.0000000017
  • Koutedakis, Y., & Jamurtas, A. (2004). The dancer as a performing athlete. Sports Medicine, 34(10), 651-661.

Funding agency

ECU Industry Collaboration Grant Scheme

Project duration

April 2017 – July 2018


Researchers

Dr Luke Hopper

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