This month, I wrote a piece that was featured in the IADMS (International Association for Dance Medicine & Science) newsletter which I wanted to share. It has caused a bit of a stir among members who are opposed to my suggestions, however I feel confident and passionate that a change is a comin' and it's up to us, members of the IADMS community, to lead the way. Confident enough to share this with a wider audience.
For those who are unaware, IADMS is an international association composed of dance artists, researchers, educators, physicians, therapists, company directors and dance enthusiasts! I've been fortunate enough to serve on the student committee for the past year and have become deeply involved in the fantastic work IADMS does.
Dance science is a vast field that encompasses a wide number of aims. Because of this, IADMS is a multi-disciplinary organization which I believe is one of its greatest strengths. Although the most common aim of dance science is to optimize the health and wellbeing of dancers, a collection of therapists and researchers are interested in how dance, as an intrinsically healing tool, can be used with other populations. Until now, IADMS has tiptoed around this topic not wanting to step on the toes of dance therapy organizations.
Much of my interest and experience in the health and fitness field comes from working with people of all different abilities including children, elderly and people with Parkinson's. I decided to follow this pathway for my Masters degree thesis and investigated a dance imagery programme for people with Parkinson's. But we'll save that for another day!
I did however, present my work at the IADMS Annual Meeting in Seattle last year. Here were my thoughts...
To the IADMS community...
This was my first year attending an IADMS Annual Meeting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being surrounded by so many passionate people left me feeling inspired and optimistic about the future of dance science. I had the pleasure of presenting my research, which was an investigation into the effects of a dance imagery program for people with Parkinson's. There were three presentations on topics related to Parkinson's, indicating that dance for health research is certainly growing.
When submitting my proposal, I was asked to address how my presentation related to the mission of IADMS - that of enhancing the health, well-being, training, and performance of dancers by cultivating educational, medical, and scientific excellence.
After re-reading this statement, I feared that my research might fall-short given that it focused on dance as an intrinsically therapeutic tool with ‘other’ populations. Not traditional dancers. To my delight, the selection panel accepted my abstract, however this got me thinking that perhaps it is time for our mission to more clearly acknowledge dance for health research.
Fantastic work is being undertaken in this area and most certainly evolving at a fast pace. I would like to propose that IADMS’ mission more fully embraces dance for health research in its mandate. Expanding our mission would help us bridge connections with those doing innovative work in this field; it could increase funding by addressing health based government initiatives and increase awareness about IADMS - resulting in attracting more members!
By embracing dance for health research, IADMS will encourage us to consider how we define the “dancer”? Is an elderly man in his third year of dance classes just as much a dancer as a child in her first ballet class? Is the woman just diagnosed with Parkinson's, who has rediscovered her love of movement—as opposed to her fear of loss of movement—not a dancer? Why exclude innovative scientists and practitioners who have tapped into the healing power of dance?
For those who are challenged by this idea or feel that IADMS is crossing boundaries with dance therapy, I urge you to recall that 23 years ago IADMS was in its infancy and dance psychology research appeared irrelevant. We now fully appreciate the importance of keeping our dancers both physically and psychologically healthy, and indeed at the 23rd Annual Meeting in Seattle, we witnessed numerous presentations addressing dance psychology topics. I believe the multidisciplinary nature of IADMS is one of our greatest strengths and what sets us apart from other organizations.
In her opening remarks this year, Past President Emma Redding proposed that dance science may no longer be considered a “new and emerging” field of dance research and might even be
considered a distinguished field. We have established ourselves as members of the scientific community and are now able to push boundaries, take risks, and expand our goals.
I believe it is time for us to be more confident of what our mission stands for so that it encompasses more clearly dance for health for a wider group of dancers. Bold steps are the result of confidence and maturity. I can only imagine where the future of dance science will go.
One of the best things that London has to offer is parkrun!
Saturday, at 9am on a windy and rainy London morning, I set off for my first Hilly Fields parkrun! It wasn't the easiest decision, getting out of my warm cozy bed, fumbling for the coffee machine as I stared out the window at a pitch black sky. But I was determined to try the parkrun course just a mile and a half away from my house. And they weren't lying when they said it was hilly... oh boy!
It is amazing how ridiculously keen I was!!
This slowly faded as I stepped outside my house into a windy, rainy London morning. But even though it wasn't the nicest weather (understatement!!) I figured I've lived in London long enough to know if you let some rain postpone you from doing things, you won't get much done.
So off I went, sporting my new running hat and running gloves thanks to the Denison family, to check out my neighbourhood course.
Parkrun, for those who don't know it, is an amazing not-for-profit initiative consisting of a collection of 5-km timed runs occurring in parks around the world. It is run completely by volunteers and is free for anyone, regardless of fitness level to join. Once you register on the parkrun website, you are free to attend any parkrun without letting them know you are coming. You are given a unique barcode which you print and bring with you to each run. After the race is finished, your barcode is scanned and within hours all results are uploaded onto the internet. You are then sent an e-mail (or text) with your results. At any time you can look on your parkrun profile and see the results of all your parkruns, including your position and gender position, age grade, and the number of runs you have completed to date. it's a great way to track your performance and see yourself improve over time! And did I mention it's run completely by volunteers?
A little history...
Parkrun was first started in 2004 by a man called Paul Sinton-Hewitt. The first run was in Bushy Park Teddington and had just 13 runners attend. It was intended to be a free, community based all-inclusive project that allowed people to come together and celebrate their love for running. Since then, it has grown so much.
As of November 3, 2013 over 50 000 people participate in parkrun with runs taking place in Australia, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Uhh... Canada??? Canadian entrepreneurs here is your chance!!
In 2009, founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt was presented the Runner's World 'Heroes of Running' award for philanthropy for the work he has done with parkrun. The initial aims of parkrun were that it be a community project where runners could run together at no cost, competing with themselves. These community values are still very much a part of the event.
A community of Runners
I have always been drawn to activities that foster a sense of community, and so it was so nice to discover parkrun - seeing as running can be such a solitary activity. I was struck by how friendly everyone was upon immediately arriving at the run. As we gathered to begin the run, the head volunteer for the day asked if it was anyone's first time. I raised my hand and the group erupted into cheers and claps. A community feel was immediate! When the whistle blew there was a "see ya after the run" and everyone set off.
One woman started speaking to me after the run and confided that it was actually her favourite time of the week. She has 3 small children at home, and every saturday at 9am is when she can get away, unwind and have her alone time. Six months ago when she participated in her first parkrun, it took her 35 minutes to complete the course and she walked half of it. She's cut down her time by 5 minutes and can now run the entire course!
The hilly fields course is a great location for me as it's a leisurely 1.5 mile jog from my house. It was however, incredibly challenging as the name implied it was hilly! Combined with the crazy amount of rain we have had, parts of the course were really muddy which made it quite difficult to get a good time. At one point I was "running" through ankle deep mud and I could hear the mud squishing in my shoes. I say "running" as I was moving so slowly, merely for the sake of trying to not slip. I have a feeling this man took a few too many chances and ended up on his bottom.
So much for my beautiful purple trainers... Ah well!
Parkrun is an amazing concept! People come for all different reasons. Some are there to increase their 5k time from 15:30 to 15:25 (crazy!) , others are just trying to make it through the course. Yes there is a "winner" per say, but there is no feel of competition just pure camaraderie.
It's a wonderful place for experienced runners to practice their speed while at the same time newer runners are welcomed in a safe welcoming environment, fostering a sense of community in an active way.
Well Canada, I think it's time we brought parkrun over!
Hi, I'm Hannah. I'm a dance science consultant, Movement specialist and Registered Massage Therapist residing in Toronto. I am a Registered Provider for Safe in Dance International and teach workshops and courses related to Safe Dance Practice. Here is what I have to say about all things health and movement related.