The Ballet Buzzwords... Dance Science and Athletic Artists
In the past 4 years I have met numerous Dancers and Artists. Some of which, enjoy being likened to the Athletic Elite we see on sporting channels and in newspapers. On the other hand I have spoken with many well established Dancers who prefer to be referred to as artists, athletic artists or simply state that they are Dancers and nothing else.
Here's one for the health professionals and anyone that has had reservations regarding sport science and its integration into the Dance world. After a very interesting discussion this week with an established Physiotherapist at one of the Premier Ballet Companies in the UK, I have come to the conclusion that the current generation of Sport Scientists and Health Practitioners are very good at being "Active Listeners".
As a Strength Coach for a variety of disciplines and sports, not just Ballet, I think it is fundamentally important to observe, question and understand the roots of the sport or discipline before attempting to launch a full scale intervention for the given Sport.
This is particularly important in Ballet. Dance Pros have knowledge, and their own, remarkably, eloquent understanding of anatomy, biomechanics and technique for their art form. Sport Scientists have knowledge, normally both academic and field/gym based experience. Us "Academics", have to be ultimately respectful of a discipline that has been traditional and produced amazingly strong Dancers that have continuously pushed the boundaries of modern Art. We have answers and potential strategies for a lot of the "red flags" that we see in the day to day runnings of Dance companies and Vocational Schools.
The phrase, "Slowly, Slowly, Catchy Monkey" comes to mind and I have often likened the meeting of Strength Training and Ballet to the age old battles between science and religion with the Plié and the "Squat" as the God Particle and Anti Matter of the rivalry.
I jest... what I mean is this... Sport Science and Dance have much to learn from each other. Since there are many "Coaching" and "Practitioners" resources out there for consumption it is surprising the amount of times I have heard that a Sport Scientist or Physio has infiltrated the sacred realms of Ballet World with seemingly bullish tactics. Therefore, I feel it my obligation to stress that us Scientists are at the Dance World's disposal to simply create a safer environment for Dancers to train and perform. We may have great intentions but that should never come before the work that Dance Teachers and Coaches do with Dancers.
Therefore, this article is aiming to create awareness to the Dance community that we can help, want help to with the best intentions and there is so much to know beyond what muscle does what and how to lift a barbell. And in the same breath I wand to encourage Health Practitioners and Strength Coaches that want to work in Dance to spend time observing and understanding Dance and its culture. The two should not be at loggerheads over whether or not cycling or lunging will create unwanted adaptations "It Wont!" nor should there be night fights regarding whats best for a Dancer when they are injured because inevitably there should be discussions and modifications made.
Lastly, I encourage you all to question the "why" in all the Strength Training Principles you observe on social media these days. But there can be situations where S&C can be taken too far beyond what is necessary therefore be inquisitive and identify what is beneficial for Dancers but also be open to an explanation from a Science Professional.
I believe in Dance Science and I believe S&C has a place in the art form but it is 3-5% of the puzzle and should be used to aid a Dancer in their progression. We do not want to waste a Dancer's time with "sexy" balance exercises or "monkeying" around in the gym. We are here to apply the basics well and give you and your Dancers the foundations for great development and Performances.