Industry standards for dancers’ health, well being and performance

Industry Standards

Context

This work stemmed from the need to update the Dancers’ Charter (the small booklet Dance UK published originating from the delegates at the first Healthier Dancer conference in 1990), which went out of print in 2001, and takes into account the findings and recommendations in Fit to Dance 2 and the positive steps forward the profession has made over the last 20 years.

This draft was drawn up by Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme following input from representatives from dance companies, dance training and education, independent dance and community dance. It is an attempt to provide, in one simple document, clear guidelines on the standards of practice the dance industry is striving for in this area that can be used as an advocacy tool and checklist.

The dance profession aspires to:

  • Excellence in dance performance.
  • Healthy and effective dance training/teaching.
  • Fit, healthy, confident, accomplished dancers providing positive role-models for future generations.
  • Responsible employment taking into account dance specific industry recommendations in addition to statutory health and safety requirements.
  • Continuing professional development.

All dancers have a right to:

  • Be taught safely and effectively by an appropriately qualified and experienced teacher.
  • Education in and access to up-to-date information on healthy dance practice, injury prevention and dance science.
  • Access to affordable and fit for purpose medical healthcare and dance science services.
  • Safe and appropriate spaces to work in.
  • A working environment that allows for adequate rest, nutrition, hydration.
  • A working environment that is conducive to psychological as well as physical health in order to meet the performance demands of the dancer-athlete.

 

Standards for specific working areas are listed below:

Dance Education and Training

Dance Medicine and Science Support

Working Environment

Policies

Dance education and training

For young people and the general public will include:

  • A basic introduction to warming up and cooling down, nutrition and applied anatomy (including the growth spurt), demonstrated through the teaching.
  • Clarity from the teacher for students and parents on why these are important and how they apply to healthy dance practice.
  • Signposts to further information for students and parents.

For vocational dance students will include:

  • The above and…
  • Education in how the interrelated areas of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, psychology and nutrition apply to dance practice and performance.
  • Essential information on injury prevention and management.
  • Essential information on the growth spurt.
  • Dance spaces – what the requirements for safe and optimal dance practice are and how to mitigate risk in circumstances that aren’t ideal.

For dance teachers will include:

  • The above and…
  • The application of the above in and through the teaching of dance.
  • Basic first aid and the contents of a dancer’s first aid box.
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on the above subjects to be undertaken at least biennially.
  • Being a member of an appropriate network/organisation that will ensure access to up-to-date information and news of developments in the field.

Professional dancers, choreographers, directors and dance managers:

  • Will keep themselves regularly updated on the latest best practice for dancers’ health, wellbeing and performance appropriate to their position.

Dance Medicine and Science researchers / practitioners:

  • Will uphold their responsibility to disseminate research and application of relevant findings to dance educators to allow the above.

Dance medicine and science support

For all dancers will include:

  • Use of the NHS: dancers educating the health practitioners seen about the specific needs of dancers (Dance UK and its partners will lobby for more ‘Sports and Exercise Medicine’ specialists and to have dance as a speciality within that).
  • Dance UK’s Practitioners Register: ensuring dancers know about the register and can access it to find dance knowledgeable medical practitioners when they need them.
  • Dance specific musculoskeletal assessments for individuals to understand their own anatomical limitations in order to work with them.
  • Monitoring of growth for young people to adapt training accordingly during growth spurts.
  • Health questionnaire to be completed by individuals to flag up any potential problems to be aware of during dance training.
  • Access to suitable first aid, especially ice.

For dancers on intensive training programmes:

  • Regular assessments – musculoskeletal, health, fitness, anthropometry – to monitor for improvements/problem areas, helping to assess effectiveness of the training for that individual.
  • Supplementary training provided as needed and recommended for individuals following individual assessments.
  • Access to (at minimum) a dance knowledgeable physiotherapist, nutritionist and counsellor as well as registration with a local GP.
  • Longitudinal monitoring of injury for analysis in order to spot trends, mitigate identified causes of injury and inform resource provision and training.
  • Access to an appropriate medical insurance scheme.

For professional dancers:

  • Regular assessments – musculoskeletal, health, fitness, anthropometry – to monitor for improvements/problem areas, helping to assess effectiveness of the training for that individual.
  • Access to multi/interdisciplinary team of dance medics and scientists including: physiotherapist, masseur, Pilates (or other somatic/body conditioning practitioner), physiologist, psychologist, nutritionist, GP, physician, surgeon.
  • Supplementary training programmed as per recommendations from medical/science team following assessments/consultation.
  • Longitudinal monitoring of injury for analysis in order to spot trends, mitigate identified causes of injury and inform resource provision and training.
  • Access to an appropriate medical insurance scheme

Working environment

Dance spaces – the requirements for safe and optimal dance practice are:
• A clean, suitably sprung floor with the appropriate surface for the type of dance (see alsoImproving Dance Floors and Dance Floors by Mark Foley (1998, Dance UK)).
• A high enough ceiling to allow jumping, leaping and lifting without obstruction.
• Enough space so that when limbs are outstretched each dancer has enough personal space not to come into contact with an obstruction/fellow dancer.
• Natural lighting (for regularly used rehearsal spaces and studios).
• Well-ventilated.
• Heating able to be maintained at a comfortable 21c; not going below 18c.
See also Dance Spaces by Mark Foley (1994, Arts Council England) and Dance Teaching Essentials (2002, Dance UK) and FAQ on dance floors for useful links.

Working time for dancers:
• Hours: in practice work load is known to increase up to 10 hours per day with proximity to performance periods (Wyon, 2010), however this high workload may be a contributing factor to dancer’s self-reported high levels of fatigue and injury rates (Fit to Dance 2) – focus should be on quality not quantity of training (Wyon, 2010). At least one day a week should be free of strenuous physical activity and free of dance. More research is needed to give optimum recommendations.
• Travel / touring: ensure that rest days really are rest days and not filled with other physical activity or travel – plan so that dancers are not performing in the evening of a day spent travelling a significant distance (Fit to Dance 2 – p.103)
• Periodisation: draw up a plan of the year or the season that includes rest periods as well as work periods – also looking a weekly and daily schedules – ensure those making decisions about schedules and touring understand the importance of rest and risks of excessive or monotonous workloads (Fit to Dance 2 – p.103). The week immediately prior to each performance period needs to be designated as taper – entailing reduction in volume of dancing time, but not in the intensity of the dance (see Wyon, 2010 – for full application and example). Periodisation should be evolving and continually adjusted to reflect changing performance schedules and dancers’ fitness levels (Wyon, 2010)
• Adequate breaks for refuelling – day to day planning of small breaks is highly important for optimal training and performance of dancers. A lunch break of at least 1 hour should be provided in the middle of the day as well as small breaks around every 2 hours to allow food and fluids to be taken on board. Dancers should also be given opportunities to take on fluids during class and rehearsal.

See Wyon, M. (2010). Preparing to perform: periodisation and dance. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 14, 67-72; Laws, H. (2005). Fit to dance 2 (Dance UK)

Policies

Organisations will have in place the following policies as appropriate to their practice:
• Child protection
• Disability including reference to disabled dancers in a company
• Equal opportunities
• Health and Safety – general
• Dancer health and well being, including injury prevention and management and eating disorders

Policies should be developed in house with a group of staff / dancers who are representative of all those who can make a difference, in order to be most effective and work in the specific context they are being used in. Only through consistency, with all the staff working to the same agreed guidelines, can the aims of policies be achieved. As each institution is different, examples of policies should be used as a guideline rather than as a set blueprint.
The following example policies are available on our resources pages:

Please contact the HDP manager  for further information on creating policies. In the past we have worked in a consultancy capacity with a number of companies and schools to create bespoke policies for them.