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.
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.