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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

08Feb

From Ballerina to Scientist: Teaching Dance Science as a way of Advocating for Dance Education

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Maria Haralambis, M.Ed., NASM CES, FMT, The Dance Scientist, LLC, PhD Student, Entrepreneur. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

The field of Dance Science is an excellent way for dancers to learn about their bodies, anatomy and biomechanics from a young age. These lessons on anatomical awareness impact dancers for the rest of their lives and are unique to dance. One of the biggest ways I believe we can make Dance Science more normalized is by having a consistent curriculum for young dancers, who I believe are left out of dance science learning This blog post was written with the underlying theme of Dance Science, and particularly exploring ways we can teach our dancers while simultaneously advocating for the benefits that dance offers. As a Dance Scientist, I’m on an eternal quest for new strategies to expand my pedagogical practices. Therefore, in an effort to continue on my own journey and possibly inspire others, this blog will be an overview of some of my favorite strategies for how Dance Science can be used to advocate for Dance Education.

1. Prioritize students’ understanding of anatomy as being equally important as their dance technique.

A young white woman standing next to her poster presentation of her research

Teaching young dancers anatomy is just as important as teaching them technique. These lessons go a long way in supporting them holistically as human beings, which is another reason why Dance Education should be advocated for. I don’t feel guilty for taking time away from technique because I know how much even a 5-minute anatomy lesson can impact them short and long-term. When dancers are taught anatomy from a young age, we’re setting them up for a longer and healthier career because they learn how to take autonomy over their own bodies; another reason to advocate for Dance Education.

2. Reach a Wide Range of Learning Styles.

One of the ways research recommends reaching a wide range of learning styles is by broadening the types of pedagogical tools we use. By reaching a wide range of learners, we can help dancers gain a deeper understanding of their own anatomy; something that is unique to the art of dance. This is another way of advocating for dance education for all because it’s highlighting the unique experiences gained from dance. Another thing we have to consider is that we’re naturally inclined to teach in a way that reflects our personal learning style, so it’s important that we keep stretching our ‘box’ of pedagogy. I recommend Dance Educators take time to research what their own learning style is because this will inform them on how to keep stretching their box. https://learningstylequiz.com is a quiz that I like to use for this.

3. Incorporate fun games and ways of learning, including assignments centered around concepts.

Here’s a list of some examples of how I teach Anatomy to young dancers. Each of these strategies goes a long way in supporting students beyond dance technique. They serve to care for the dancers' health in a holistic way by contributing to their well-being as humans. Collectively, they’re another reason why Dance Education should be advocated and fought for.

  • Anatomy Coloring Pages
  • Anatomy Quizzes
  • Fun Muscle Games
  • Imagery Assignments
  • Vision Boards
  • Design an assignment around a concept you want to teach them (such as turnout)
  • Partner Explorations 
  • Experiencing the Anatomy Lessons
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Journaling
  • Goal Setting
  • Anatomy Apps - My favorite app to use with my students is any app by Visible Body. Visible Body is an entire website of several apps and the aim is to teach anatomy in a more 3D, realistic, functional way.

4. Implement “Experiencing the Anatomy” Lessons to Kinesthetically Embody the Concepts.

A young white woman standing in front of an IADMS step and repeat

Experiencing the Anatomy (EA) lessons offer the dancers a deeper way of embodying their own anatomy & biology, something that will support them in all facets of their lives. EA lessons are a strategy that has gained more attention recently for its usefulness with helping dancers transer scientific principles more effectively directly into their dancing. It is now recommended that EA lessons are used in conjunction with traditional ways of studying and learning about Anatomy & Kinesiology.

There are essentially two layers of teaching anatomy to dancers, something I like to call the ‘cake.’ The bottom layer of the cake is teaching them basic anatomical concepts and terms which will be their foundation for the top layer of the cake, which is teaching them more advanced anatomical concepts through things like “Experiencing the Anatomy” lessons. Since dancers are movers, they need to also be able to “feel” and “embody” these concepts at a deeper kinesthetic level.

5. Stay current on Motor Learning & Cognitive Psychology research.

Within my instruction, I try to implement the latest research in Motor Learning and Cognitive Psychology. This is another way that Dance Science can help dancers to learn valuable lessons that they probably wouldn’t learn elsewhere. I took NDEO’s Online Professional Development class, “Thinking with the Dancing Brain” with Dr. Rima Faber, and it had a huge impact on the way that I lesson plan and implement my strategies. For example, since there is such a thing as “cognitive load,” I have learned to be shorter with my explanations for some occasions. Beginner dancers, especially, have less existing space for the new information to cling, to which means they reach their cognitive capacity much faster than an advanced or accomplished learner.

Interested in learning more about dance science? Register now for NDEO's OPDI Course "Using Dance Science to Enhance Curriculum" with professor Maria Haralambis! 

Course runs from June 24 - August 18, 2024 - Register Here

Headshot of woman with dark hair, light skin, and on a pink backround.

Maria Haralambis, M.Ed., NASM CES, FMT is a Dance Scientist, current Ph.D. student, and CEO of The Dance Scientist, L.L.C.​ As The Dance Scientist, she helps Dancers & Educators understand & apply Dance Science principles. She streamlines & simplifies scientific concepts & translates them into digestible products that are evidence-based, including mentoring, master classes, online courses, printable resources, & on-demand webinars. Through the products she offers, she aims to make Dance Science more accessible, affordable, and streamlined for Dancers & Educators by helping reduce the barriers that exist. A wider range of people can access her products because she offers a broad range of product options and prices, allowing individuals to select how much time, effort, and money they want to spend. She also mentors students in Dance Science, helping them to build connections in the field and navigate their career options. The intentional work that she does in Dance Science has a direct imprint on Dance Educators, who then pass this onto their dancers, thereby enhancing their health & well-being using modern science. One of the most significant gaps she sees is young dancers, specifically, who she believes need a Dance Science curriculum embedded into their dance education.

Photo Credits: Headshot by Yandura, Featured Photo by Lady Red Photos (Erika Ruch)

References

Daniels, K. (2007). Teaching anatomically-sound turnout. Journal of Dance Education, 7(3), 91–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2007.10387343

Enghauser, R. (2003). Motor learning and the dance technique class: Science, tradition, and pedagogy. Journal of Dance Education, 3(3), 87–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2003.10387235

Geber, P., & Wilson, M. (2010). Teaching at the Interface of Dance Science and Somatics. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 14(2).

Kirk, J. (2017) Moving from the Membranes: Exploring the Integumentary System Through Experiential Anatomy and Dance, Journal of Dance Education, 17(3), 8-15. DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2016.1134797

Learning Style Quiz. (n.d.). What is your learning style? Learning Style Quiz. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.learningstylequiz.com/

Pengelly, F. (2010). Anatomy for dance: An expanded design. Journal of Dance Education, 10(3), 77–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2010.508696

Salk, J. (2005) Teaching Modern Technique through Experiential Anatomy, Journal of Dance Education, 5(3) 97-102. DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2005.10387292

Comments

Thank you for this thoughtful blog. Very useful!
2/13/2023 3:17:04 PM |

@Pascal Rekoert: so happy to hear that. Thank you so much for reading!

2/18/2023 10:03:03 AM |
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