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Dance Competitions: The Specificity of Dance Training

Dance Science

The General vs The Specific

To many this may seem obvious, in order to have healthy young Dancers we must educate our young Dancers in longevity as well as the flashy tricks and flourishes we see in 21st Century Ballet.  

In an article published yesterday from The Royal Ballet School, the question was posed as to whether current Ballet competition culture is putting young Dancers at risk? with a huge shift towards technical and physical attributes rather than artistry. This article maybe poignant to some, having seen many high profile young "competition" Dancers leave the art form at a young age to pursue a different career.

The Royal Ballet School

At Science in Dance, we feel there is a balance. There will forever be competition in Dance. Lets face it, It is "competitive" to get a job in Ballet. But the definition of competition is important. And at a young age, the highs and lows of competition should not be prioritised beyond the artistry, development and wellbeing of the person who chooses to take up Dance because of the joy it gives them. 

The work, for example, that Safe in Dance International to educate Dancers and Teachers in best Dance Practise is a crucial aspect to enriching the experience of young people in Dance. 

So... whats our point?

How does this fit in to health and wellness and my favourite topic of Strength and Conditioning?

A frequent request from young Dancers when enlisting our services is... "Can we make my leg go higher? Can we get my split leap working so I can do it repeatedly?" 

This requires an element of specifics... For example... Dance is a skill based discipline and very skilful Dancers with high technical can often lack the general foundations that would allow them to do the skills repeatedly. As we know that fatigue is a big factor in the occurrence of injuries and injuries in Dance often occur when highly technical skills are asked to be repeated without the pre-requisite strength. 

So... If we emphasise competition (specific) prep from a young age without building technical foundations and basic strength and fitness characteristics then we may be placing a Dancer at risk of injury, burnout, long-term pathological issues?

I will also fight the corner of specificity. Dance Training is specific and necessary from Dance skill development. Similarly, targeted skill specific practise is necessary to ingrain quality Dance performance. If you want to get better at driving a car... Drive a Car. If you want to get better at writing... Write. If you want to get better at jumping... you have to jump... You get the idea. If you want to be a better Dancer... You must Practise. 

However, as fatigue sets in, that skill and practise can break down, placing the Dancer at risk of injury. This is an potential scenario that happens in repeated competition prep where there has been a lack of attention to paid to the GENERAL preparation and welfare of the Dancer due to the Specific Prep taking up too much time. So there is a balance to be found. 

From a physiological stand point, if young Dancers are to take part in competitions then a large degree of emphasis should be placed upon artistry and general preparation over including elements of Dance Skill that are not age-appropriate. 

KS Dance

I am pleased to see so many young Dancers that we work with at KS Dance embracing their general preparation, artistry and overall education prior to emphasising specifics. We must encourage this and strive for well-being over competition success.

Here are some examples of General preparation for robustness and health as well as some safe skill specific preparation.

Melissa Hughes

Suzie Murphy

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