Symposium Dance and Health

Published on

On 24 November Margot Rijven retired as coordinator Dans & Gezondheid (Dance and Health). Margot worked at the Theaterschool for more than thirty years, twenty of which she devoted to the programme Dans & Gezondheid. The symposium ‘Dansgezondheid verbeter(t/d)’ was organized to mark Rijven’s departure from the Theaterschool.

On 24 November Margot Rijven retired as coordinator Dans & Gezondheid (Dance and Health).  Margot worked at the Theaterschool for more than thirty years, twenty of which she devoted to the programme Dans & Gezondheid. The symposium ‘Dansgezondheid verbeter(d/t)’ was organized to mark Rijven’s departure from the Theaterschool.
With her passion for dance, Margot has made an important contribution to making students and teachers aware of how important health is to dancers. “Where in the past attention focused purely on the artistic side of dancing as an art form, nowadays we also take into consideration the physical and mental aspects of the dancers”, says Margot Rijven.
Three experts from the Healthcare for Dancers field were invited to hold a presentation during the symposium: development psychologist Dr. Jacques van Rossum, sport nutritionist Derrick Brown and Matthew Wyon, professor in Performing Science at the University of Wolverhampton, U.K.

 ‘Guidance rather than selection; developing dance talent’

The first speaker Jacques van Rossum, doctor in human movement sciences and involved since 1996 with talent development at the Dance Department, talks about different research he has undertaken into the balance between strain and work load capacity of dancers in- and outside the Theaterschool. Ultimately this resulted in the digital training logbook Healthy Dancer Diary.  This dance logbook serves as a self-guidance instrument for dancers and dance students. Injury prevention has become ever more important. Ensuring  the health of dancers is a shared responsibility. “But it is up to the dancers themselves to strike a balance between the strain of the métier and their own work load capacity”, Van Rossum explains.

Preliminary dance course students and students of the HBO dance study programmes along with dance teachers, have played an important role in obtaining information for this dance logbook.
“Observations were made, questionnaires filled-out and physical tests as to flexibility, strength, speed, fitness and length with regard to body structure and heart rate were undertaken”, according to Dr. Van Rossum. To conclude his talk, the audience was invited to show their knowledge of dance healthcare by using red and green cards to answer questions put forward.

‘Optimal nutrition and the Performing Artist’
Derrick Brown, Master of Science at the University of Wolverhampton UK. Through intake of the right amount and sort of food and drink, the body obtains the necessary high performance fuel so it can train optimally and gain top-level achievements.

Men aged between 19 and 22 years need a daily intake of 2900 kcal; women in the same age group require 2100 kcal. Research shows that female ballet students have a daily intake of between 1358 kcal and 1600 kcal. This is a deficiency of some 500 kcal! Ignoring the right balance between consumed energy and energy intake can lead to eating disorders, disruption of the monthly period, low bone density, stress factors and temporary or chronic injuries.”
“Research does not indicate that lower body weight leads to better performance”, according to Derrick Brown. “It is best to spread the intake of calories over the whole day; for maximum energy it is advisable to eat three meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Dieting results in hunger and that does not facilitate a good performance.”

‘From Training Hard to Training Smart’
The third speaker Matthew Wyon compares dancers to sportsmen. “Not only do dancers have a demanding sports schedule,” Matthew Wyon says, “they train more intensively than sportsmen and suffer relatively more injuries”. He explains that dancers have better motor skills but are physically less fit than sportsmen.

“Ever greater demands are made of dance students; new lesson elements are added and lesson rosters are more complex. As a result, dance students become tired and confused”. Wyon wonders if graduate students are optimally trained or merely good survivors of the study programme.

Exhaustion influences the technical development of students. “Should all aspects be dealt with in all lessons? Or should a lesson only focus on a specific component?” Matthew Wyon claims that quality is more important than quantity. And that specific goal-oriented training is more effective than general training. A short training is more productive than an extended training. An energetic student performs better than a tired student. Wyon concludes by asking his audience, “If at the start of a lesson students are already tired and exhausted, is it not better to cancel the lesson or limit it to something simple?”

Panel Discussion
After the presentations a lively panel discussion takes place, including not only the three speakers but also Margot Rijven and Gaby Allard. Gaby Allard, director of the ArtEZ dance academy sums up the day in three words: Celebration, the celebration of inspiration and enthusiasm; Repetition, it is important that meetings like this take place and that the same themes are continually addressed; Challenging, questioning tradition, research and persistently challenging one’s self.

“I want to challenge everyone in the dance field to narrow the divide between the different professions ”, Derrick Brown continues. A reaction from the audience is that within the educative sector it is important that teachers continue to confront themselves and keep asking questions. Margot Rijven points to the role of management. She says: “Everybody involved from all the different levels are necessary to make change possible”.

Matthew Wyon once again stresses the importance of bringing influence to bear on rosters and schedules. “Moreover, students themselves are also part of the development and transfer of knowledge”.

We have come a long way when it comes to creating awareness about healthcare among dance students. Healthcare for dancers is well-established at the Theaterschool. It continues to develop and improve. Erzi Hoogveld will take over as new coordinator Dance & Health.