Singapore Sling!

Report from the 22nd Annual Meeting of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science

by Helen Laws, Manager of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science

For the first time in October 2012, the IADMS Annual Meeting took place in Asia and our hosts Paradigm Wellness made us feel incredibly welcome. In particular, the IADMS members whose first taste of the conference had been in 2007 when it visited Australia were really pleased to see it return to a venue a relatively short flight away. There was a larger than usual contingent from Australasia and Hong Kong!

Although there may have been fewer delegates than usual from the UK, our presence was strong among the presenters. One of the most memorable presentations was given by Moira McCormack, Head of Physiotherapy at the Royal Ballet on ‘Successful recovery to full professional dance after surgery to stabilize a complete Lisfranc dislocation’. The detailed journey of this dancer, from the occurrence of this potentially career-ending injury, through surgery and then painstaking rehabilitation, was fascinating. There were two take-home messages – the importance of fast, specialist treatment, and how crucial it is to take a measured and incremental yet dedicated approach to rehabilitation. This dancer was fortunate enough to have an extremely knowledgeable ballet coach to work with them one-to-one, with the back-up of healthcare professionals as needed. It was the dancer’s sheer determination combined with systematic planning of the rehabilitation process by the physiotherapist and experienced coaches that resulted in a return to the stage a year post-injury.

I am also proud to be able to report that the partners in the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) featured strongly. Sanna Nordin-Bates and Imogen Aujla each presented research findings from the UK’s Centres for Advanced Training undertaken during their time at Trinity Laban. The full report of this groundbreaking research exploring perceptions of talent, and commitment, adherence and dropout among young dancers, is available at

Charlotte Woodcock of the University of Birmingham presented ‘The what, why, how and effectiveness of psychological skill and technique use by vocational ballet students’. The team at Birmingham have been doing some really interesting work with a number of vocational ballet schools around the use of psychology interventions to improve learning, health and performance.

Another fascinating series of presentations explored the great collaborative research between NIDMS partners University Of Wolverhampton, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Birmingham Royal Ballet and Dance UK members including the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, to look at nutrition-related factors for dancers. Derrick Brown, of Codarts University for the Arts, presented on the ‘Impact of a breakfast consumption on dancers: measuring glycaemic factors and effect’ and ‘Nutritional supplementation habits and perceptions of dancers: an international perspective’. The findings showed that skipping breakfast impacts how a dancer feels as well as energy levels. Supplementation was undertaken by 51% of dancers, primarily for health maintenance and to enhance the immune system; however 85% of dancers said they would like to know more about dietary supplementation, something organisations such as IADMS, NIDMS and Dance UK are working to address.

Singapore scenery. Photo: Helen Laws

Dr Roger Wolman presented ‘Vitamin D Status in professional ballet dancers: winter vs summer’. He showed that, probably due to the amount of time spent training indoors, professional ballet dancers had a high incidence of low vitamin D levels in winter, only improving marginally during summer when 84% were insufficient or deficient. As vitamin D is an important factor in maintaining healthy bones, this is something that all full-time dancers should be aware of. Royal Academy of Dance Chloe Naalchigar’s presentation on ‘Bone mineral density in male professional ballet dancers’ looked further into bone health and how it is impacted by physical workload. Her findings showed that in spite of the large amount of lifting undertaken, particularly by male principal dancers, there was a tendency for many to show low bone mineral density in the arm. Taken together these presentations suggest that there is more we need to learn and do to ensure dancers’ nutritional health is optimised and injury risk reduced.

There were too many other presentations to name but the UK made excellent contributions with further research presented dance physiotherapists: Daryl Martin’s ‘Musculoskeletal injuries in a national ballet company: a two-year prospective epidemiological study’, Alexander McKinven’s ‘The effect of shoe heel height on vertical ground reaction forces and muscle activity in jump landings in female dancers’ and Nicola Stephens’ ‘Is there a link between lateral preference and dance performance?’ These demonstrate the huge potential for further research from this country. Feel free to contact me for further information on the subject matter.

I can’t finish without mentioning one of the many insightful presentations that didn’t emanate from the UK. Luke Hopper, of the University of Notre Dame Australia, gave a great summary of both what we know and still need to investigate in ‘When does spring equal sprung? Future directions for dance floor research’. He managed to make the complex biomechanics in understanding the influence of dance floors on dancer injury and performance relatively easy to follow, stating that a ‘coalescence of engineering, movement science and epidemiology is required to provide valid data regarding floor properties in a safe dance environment’. IADMS and NIDMS supporter Harlequin Floors’ Group Marketing Manager, Mark Rasmussen said, ’when Luke pointed out how dancers can spend 40+ hours a week rehearsing or performing, I thought how vitally important this work is. We know that his work, among others’, will help influence the future development of our products.’

There was much to share and learn at the conference, followed by some amazing performances to remind all the health care practitioners and dance scientists (many former dancers themselves) why we were there. Mavin Khoo and his company moved through and around delegates socialising. A highlight for me was the expert placement of Khoo’s hand on my shoulder as he made his way to the main dance floor that would later see delegates and sponsors alike doing IADMS very own version of Gangnam Style! Some of us still had it!

Originally published in Dance UK  magazine, Issue 85 – Spring 2013