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Beyond the Body: Psychological tools for performance enhancement and wellbeing in dance, 2013

The Healthier Dancer Programme Conference for 2013, Beyond the body: Psychological tools for performance enhancement and wellbeing in dance, was organised in response to calls from leading dance professionals for more support and information about performers’ psychological health. It explored the effects of injury, perfectionism, motivation and self-esteem as well as many other topics, from the points of view of dancers, teachers, managers and health professionals.

View the conference programme

View the conference abstracts and biographies

View videos from the conference

Overview of the day

A dancer’s training begins at a young age and requires commitment to years of discipline and hard work, tough competition and the drive for the ‘perfect’ performance combined with the prospect of a relatively short career and the threat of injury. These factors can have a major psychological impact on dancers and their work.

Dance UK’s conference covered the key areas of psychology that impact on dancers’ health and wellbeing with sessions examining both the challenges of training and careers as well as the psychological tools necessary to improve performance.

The programme included an introduction to the history and milestones of dance psychology and explored the contributions of clinical, positive, and sport psychology into dance performance and education. Sessions aimed to apply theory in practice in both dance environments and health contexts. Speakers were drawn from the clinical, research and dance sectors including:

  • Dr Joan Duda, Professor of Sports Psychology in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham
  • Professor Dave Collins, Chair and Director, Institute of Coaching and Performance, University of Central Lancaster, and performance psychologist and systems consultant
  • Dr Howard Hall, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, York St John University
  • Professor Jon Arcelus LMS, MSc, FRCPsych, PhD, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor at the Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders (LUCRED)
  • Charlotte Woodcock, Lecturer of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Staffordshire University
  • Jennifer Curry, Director of Development, Dancers’ Career Development
  • Isabel Mortimer, Dancers’ Career Development beneficiary, certified Personal and Executive Life Coach CPCC, ICF endorsed Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and Organisational Relationship and Systems Coach
  • Elsa Urmston PhD, freelance dance science researcher and lecturer
  • Eleanor Quested PhD, Research Fellow in Dance Psychology in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham
  • Dr Imogen Aujla (née Walker), Senior Lecturer in Dance and Course Leader, MSc Dance Science at the University of Bedfordshire

Professor Jon Arcelus, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor at the Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders, described the risk factors in developing disordered eating. He explained the importance of dancers maintaining balanced ‘pies of life’, which value life interests and passions outside of the dance world.

Life coach Isabel Mortimer encouraged dancers in career transition to allow time and space to reassess and consider future options. She highlighted the useful skills dancers have – such as tenacity, resilience and adaptability – which are transferrable to other job roles.

Dr Joan Duda, Professor of Sports Psychology in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham, described the importance of open discussion about psychological problems. She also emphasised an important change in focus in the field, away from the ‘dark side’ of dance psychology and into positive psychology for performance enhancement and wellbeing.

 

Conference steering committee

Professor Joan Duda PhD Professor of Sports Psychology in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at The University of Birmingham
Dr Eleanor Quested PhD research fellow in Dance Psychology in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at The University of Birmingham
Dr Elsa Urmston PhD freelance dance science researcher and lecturer
Charlotte Woodcock Lecturer Sport & Exercise Psychology Staffordshire University
Professor Jon Arcelus, LMS, MSc, FRCPsych, PhD is a Consultant Psychiatrist and a Visiting Professor at the Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders (LUCRED)
Dr Huw Goodwin is a Visiting Fellow at the Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders (LUCRED)
Dr Imogen Aujla (née Walker) Senior Lecturer in Dance & Course Leader MSc Dance Science, University of Bedforshire
Erin Sanchez and Niamh Morrin, Healthier Dancer Programme Managers, Dance UK
Helen Laws, Manager, National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science