"We cannot simply adapt training volumes... We must train Dancers to be robust and be capable of tolerating the volumes of Dance they are exposed to." - Kate Simmons
After a fantastic response to our Dancer Workload article last week, I decided to elaborate a little more and explain in further detail some of the trends noticed in full time professional dance training.
KS Dance has been recognised as one of the UK's leading full time Ballet and Dance Schools for the last 30 years with staff having trained Dancers consistently at the school for the majority of that time. KS Dance has Teachers and Coaches from around the world and some of the most highly thought of trainers.
Kate Simmons was a former Dancer with Rudolph Nureyev at English National Ballet. Gillian Hurst was Royal Ballet School Trained and has been a Master Ballet Teacher for over 30 years. Nathalie Leger was a Principal Dancer in Paris... The list goes on. They have a considerable reputation for coaching Dancers from the age of 3 to 21, and those Dancers going on to gain employment in Dance companies around the world.
Needless to say KS Dance has adopted a pro-active approach to Strength and Conditioning with a number of Coaches and Support Staff working with the Team.
In the previous article we demonstrated that training load monitoring via Session RPE (Rate of perceived exertion x time in minutes) can indicate the volume and intensity of Dance Training and provide insight to Dancers that we should pay close attention to on an individual level. High chronic workloads have been linked to illness, injury and chronic fatigue related issues. Similarly, sharp changes in workload (Increase and Decrease) can also lead to acute injuries and altered responses to training and practise.
One point that we conveniently left out of last weeks article was the consideration of training effects. A question I was asked in response to the progressive nature of training loads was this: "Wouldn't we expect to see training loads increase as the teachers progress the Dancers into harder Dance Training between week 1 and week 6?" As the work gets harder one would expect to see Workload increase... Yes. However, we must consider that whilst we are wanting to adjust training load to not exhaust Dancers, we also want to induce training effects whereby Dancers get fitter and stronger and can subsequently handle greater workloads. A lot of Sport Scientists consider adjusting training load when volumes are high, however what we should be striving for it making athletes and Dancers more robust so that they can handle these higher loads.
So therefore what we observe in weeks 1-6 is not "poor understanding of what constitutes Hard Dance Training" but rather a training effect whereby Dancers have gained strength and endurance and subsequently the robustness to handle incremental workloads. This is why Session RPE reflects a drop in workload. Despite an increase in the quantity of classes and Dance Training the exertion levels for these sessions are lower due to physiological gains. These improvements include positive changes in week screening tests and objective strength attributes.
Although KS Dance embraces Sport Science, the artistry is deeply engrained within the school. Dance Science and S&C is by no means at the forefront of the schools objectives but rather a Dark Knight that aids Dancers find confidence in themselves and keeps them as health as possible throughout there training. Many Dancers from Major Ballet School and Dance Companies have visited KS Dance and Science in Dance to rehabilitate injuries and re-train so they are once again "fighting fit". The way in which the Teachers at the School embrace Dance Health is fantastic and I am grateful for their futuristic approach to caring for Dancers.
Pastoral care and health is a top priority at KS Dance and there S&C fits nicely into that theme. Nevertheless, the Teachers aim to teach Dancing and ensure Dancers have correct technique and are capable of obtaining employment in the Dance World. Even though KS Dance is smaller school than some, the Standard of Dancer in each Genre of Dance is incredibly high. As such Students are able to compete in major Ballet and Dance competitions and represent the School on a global stage. High levels of Artistic expression and Dance ability is what the school strives towards and this is apparent given the improvements students make between 1st and 3rd year.
The Quality of the Dance Training at KS is so high, Teachers are asked to Coach and Examine all over the world, yet remain dedicated to whoever joins KS Dance. The students are regularly encouraged to engage with S&C and commit to the wellness and screening protocols in place which further enhances the overall buy-in. If the Teachers believe in it, The Dancers believe. For KS Dance recovery and nutrition are keys to success whilst mental health remains something that all of the staff are mindful of.
The subjective nature of monitoring training loads via RPE allows Dancers to take into account how they are feeling which can stress to daily workloads and often impact performance and fatigue. KS Dance uses the training load data on individual basis to gain understanding for what each student is going through. It is so great see Dance Coaches and Staff heavily involved in the daily undertakings of Sport Science. In the modern age where Dancers are placed under enormous pressures from Social Media, their peers and the never-ending pursuit of immediate success, it is crucial that Dance Teachers do have an understanding of the physiological changes that can occur as a result of this development and KS Dance has embraced this concept to the advantage of the students.
Strength Training and Consultancy with Science in Dance is available to all. Contact us HERE