Dance science

Dance science is the scientific study of dance and dancers, as well as the practical application of scientific principles to dance. Its aims are the enhancement of performance, the reduction of injury, and the improvement of well-being and health


The field of Dance Medicine and Science dates back to the 1970s and 80s, growing out of the field of Sports Medicine. In the early '80's, the American Dance Festival (ADF) started including Dance Medicine courses in their course work for dancers. When ADF moved to Duke University, physicians from Duke University Hospital became interested in dancers. Then, in 1990, IADMS (International Association for Dance Medicine and Science) was formed by an international group of dance medicine practitioners, dance educators, dance scientists, and dancers. Membership began at 48 members in 1991, and has grown to over 900 members in 35 countries today.

Dance science as an academic discipline that has been evolving over the past 20years. In the UK, three degrees (at master's level) now exist: one at the University of Bedfordshire, one at the University of Wolverhampton, and one at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. With regards to dance science research, another UK institution which has staff and students active in the area is the University of Birmingham. Some undergraduate degrees in dance, or other dance courses, also include one or several modules in dance science, with the aim of promoting healthy dance practices. These include the University of Wolverhampton, the Royal Academy of Dance, and Bird College.

Several universities in the US also offer dance science courses as part of their dance curriculum, accommodating both undergraduate and graduate level students. These include, but are not limited to: Cornish College of the Arts, Columbia College of Chicago, California State - Long Beach, Florida State University, Goucher College, Long Island University - Brooklyn Campus, Ohio State University, Ohio University, UCLA - Irvine, University of Colorado, University of Illinois - Urbana Champagne, ad the University of Oregon.

Typically, the subject areas within dance science are similar to those studied in "sports science", though naturally with a focus on dance and the special considerations that this involves. They include: physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, and similar. Contrary to sports science, however, dance science sometimes also studies related topics such as creativity and somatic techniques, including the practices of Pilates, yoga, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais method, etc.

Some dance companies employ dance scientists to provide support services, such as physiological testing, psychological support, conditioning and nutritional counseling. Such professionals include Physical Therapists, Nutritionists, Pilates Instructors, Massage Therapists, and Dance Medicine Physicians. Dancers that are not employed by a dance company that offers rehabilitation benefits on-site can sometimes have access to such facilities within their city of residence. Dancers in New York City are fortunate to have access to The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, located at the NYU-Hospital for Joint Diseases, NYU Langone Medical Center, which offers many subsidized and free services for the dance community. These services include "clinics staffed by orthopedists and dance physical therapists; state-of-the art research and rehabilitation technology and free injury prevention screenings and lectures." Westside Physical Therapy, directed and founded by Marika Molnar - the first PT hired by the New York City Ballet - is another example of a physical therapy clinic in NYC that offers specialized care to dancers (and non-dancers alike).

The largest organization promoting dance science internationally is the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, (IADMS), as mentioned previously. As well as producing a scientific peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, it also holds an annual conference. The Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) that holds its annual symposium in Aspen-Snowmass, CO, is a unique organization that concerns itself with the injuries and health issues of musicians as well as dancers. In the UK, DanceUK is perhaps the foremost proponent of dance science and healthy dance practice more generally. A conference entitled From Cognition to Conditioning was held at Middlesex University in February 2007.

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