Introduction - The purpose and goal of a Dancer Wellness Program and Dance Screens

Dance is a demanding neuromuscular, skeletal event, a temporal, spatial, kinetic interface, a kinesthetic, aesthetic syzygy anchored by the universality of human motion and propelled by creative forces. It is by its very nature a transient mode of expression that manifests in many styles and forms and therefore requires a delicate balance of perfection and freedom in the moving architecture of the human body. The very essence of this phenomenon implies an extraordinary exploration and refinement of what may be deemed normal human movement potential and an extreme in variation or deviation from the norm such that both ballet, contemporary dance forms and those ethnic dances that are woven into ‘fusion dances’ are in a constant state of contemporary expansion.

The student of dance must be prepared not only with the typical technical skills required in executing normal range of motion at all articulating surfaces but with skills to exceed normalcy and embrace extreme or variable deviant motion that may be required for creative explorations. The goal is to achieve the aforementioned with optimal correct mechanical advantage, balance and efficiency such that longevity is ensured and that maintenance of joint integrity, muscle strength and flexibility will all yield a lower incidence of occupational injuries. Researchers have suggested that the combination of flexibility, strength, power and endurance required of professional dancers equals or exceeds that of most professional sports. Historically, dancers who were injured had few medical professionals conversant in the specifics of their art form. Often, injured dancers lacked basic health information for self-care or the financial means to obtain high quality medical care.

This comprehensive goal of biomechanical efficiency, career longevity, injury prevention, and education serves as the basis for what is currently referred to in Dance Education as "Dancer Wellness" and is being endorsed on some level by a growing number of organizations including the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), the National Association for Schools of Dance, the Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and the World Dance Alliance to name a few. The major tenets of "Dancer Wellness" as defined by Marita Cardinal, Ed.D and Sarah Hilsendager, Ed.D include:

  • effective injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation
  • effective and efficient dance training
  • optimal levels of conditioning and health
  • increased self care among dancers

Including "Dancer Wellness" within the panoply of typical dance education programs can be achieved through various measures. Wellness programs may include screening protocols and educational components not only in kinesiology and anatomy but also in both Nutrition and Psychology in the hopes to address a fuller scope of dancer health. Dance specific screening protocols are becoming more prevalent and professional companies and university dance departments and programs have implemented screens. More about dance screens>>

The emerging field of dance medicine and science is serving as a vehicle for educators and artists to forge a bridge with the scientific spirit on the path to human knowledge. During the last two decades, Dance Medicine and Science has rapidly become a distinct field of study and is providing much needed information to guide the training and care of dancers. A large number of individuals from various fields (e.g. biomechanics, psychology, exercise science and education) have reported extensively on the incidence, etiology, and treatment of dance injuries. Journals and books regarding the science of dance and the care of dancers are now common.

One of the most consistent and urgent pleas in much of the recent literature concerning dance medicine is the need for Dancer Wellness programs in institutional settings. The implementation of such programs is becoming increasingly endorsed among professional organizations and receives attention at several international conferences.

Text adapted from "Dancer Wellness: Why, How and The Future; A Model at Case Western Reserve University"

Dance Screens

Dance screens are often used in dancer wellness programs.