StEPS: Dance Medicine & Science | Jan Dunn

StEPS: Dance Medicine & Science | Jan Dunn

What is Dance, Medicine & Science and how is it impacting performance athletes?

Welcome to Beyond the StEPS

Dance Medicine and Science is a field that focuses on the medical and scientific aspects of dance, including injury prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. It aims to improve the health, performance, and longevity of dancers, as well as other athletes. The field is growing and gaining recognition as a specialized area of study, and it is becoming increasingly important in the dance community and beyond, as it helps to address a variety of issues related to health, wellness, and performance. We have special guest Jan Dunn* with us to discuss these important matters. With Jan's extensive knowledge and experience, we are confident that she will provide valuable insights and information that will benefit dancers everywhere. We are honored to have her as a guest.

Dance medicine and science is such a broad title that encompasses so many different things.  To simplify, what does Dance Medicine and Science refer to exactly ?

In summary, dance medicine focuses on the care and treatment of injured dancers, while dance science is the research that supports it. Dance medicine involves doctors, physiotherapists, athletic trainers and other healthcare professionals who work with dance injuries. Dance science is often conducted in university dance departments and medical institutions, and it focuses on the research behind new methods and treatments for dance-related injuries. The two fields are distinct but interrelated, with dance medicine being more practical in its approach and dance science being more academic and focused on research. It evolved from the sports medicine field and was started by dance educators and medical professionals who recognized the need for similar research and health care for dancers. The field grew from small pockets in different countries, including the U.S and England, to the formation of international organizations such as IADMS, the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. This growth was driven from the grassroots level by passionate individuals who wanted to improve the health and well-being of dancers.

In the dance world, it's especially so because ballet, many other dance forms have such a rich history and tradition. However, with the advent of dance medicine and science, the dance community has come to recognize the importance of overall health and wellness in improving the longevity and quality of a dancer's career. By incorporating principles of dance medicine and science into their training and lifestyle, dancers can help prevent injury and continue to perform and enjoy their art for many years to come.

A book by Dr Jeff Russell (BDP board of directors and is a major force in dance medicine) talks about empowering dancers and giving them the authority to speak up for themselves and to question traditional practices in dance. The book aims to challenge the longstanding tradition in the dance world where dancers are taught not to question their teachers and to follow their instructions without questioning. The book promotes the idea that dancers need to take more action to better their physical, mental, and emotional health. By empowering dancers to take control of their own health and well-being, they will be able to have longer and more fulfilling careers in dance.

The hierarchical nature of the dance world, where teachers' words were treated as gospel, is being reevaluated to give dancers a more active role in their own health and well-being. 

The trend is definitely moving towards more awareness, education, and empowerment in the dance community, both for young dancers and their teachers. This is aimed at promoting better physical, mental, and nutritional health and allowing dancers to have a longer and more fulfilling dance career. However, it is a slow process, as changing centuries-old traditions takes time. Nevertheless, the work of experts in dance medicine and science, and the efforts of organizations such as the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, are making a positive impact in the field.

One of our biggest struggles is finding professionals with expertise in dance medicine. Trying to change the mindset of "dancing through the pain" is a big challenge. This mindset has been prevalent in the dance world for a long time, but it's important to shift to prioritize the health and well-being of dancers over pushing through pain. Encouraging dancers to speak up and prioritize their health is key in changing this toxic trait, and it's happening slowly but surely through education and empowerment efforts by dance medicine professionals and organizations.

Today, there is an overwhelming amount of information available, especially with the influence of social media. This can be confusing and frustrating for parents, dancers, and teachers, as they have limited time to determine which organizations to listen to and which information is credible. It can be difficult for people who don't have a scientific or medical background to understand the information, as it often involves medical jargon. What are your recommendations for parents and educators who want to stay up to date on the research being done in dance medicine and science and want to share that information provided by the professionals but maybe don't have all that much time and patience?

It can be overwhelming with all the information about dance medicine and science, and how it can be  confusing  to know which organizations and information to trust. There is a website called, which has been run by  a Chicago teacher since 2010, and is focused on educating people about dance medicine and science in everyday language, so that people without a medical or scientific background can understand. It's important to be able to educate people through writing articles in plain language, and including explanations of medical terms in layman's terms.

  • The author of the information should be a dancer or someone with expertise in dance medicine and science. The information should be based on scientific research and should be written in everyday language, avoiding scientific jargon.

  •  It's important to check the author's background and qualifications in dance and related fields, to look for clear references and sources, and to be cautious if a program or product is being sold with limited external support.The information should be credible and free from harm. Some guidelines for evaluating the credibility of online information are available on the and bdp websites.

  • There are important criteria to consider when evaluating the credibility of information about dance and dance medicine. Knowing the author's background and qualifications, as well as the sources they use for their information, can help you determine if the information is trustworthy and relevant to the topic. Additionally, it's important to be cautious of websites or programs that are solely focused on selling a product without proper external resources and credentials to support their claims.

  • It is important to look for clear references and sources for the information presented on a website or online source, as this indicates that the information is supported by current dance medicine and science research. The presence of references also suggests that the author is not claiming to be the only expert on the topic, and is instead relying on reputable sources.


  • Is a program or something else is being sold on the side or if they're asking for your money is it supported with external resources and credentials?

Those guidelines can all be found on as well as on the Bridge Dance Project site. Those are just some basic guidelines of when you're out there as a parent or a teacher or an older dancer looking to try to find information to kind of filter through what's out there and see what's the best thing that you should be looking at.

Why is dance medicine and science education so important at each of these levels?

I will say one, and then you give me a quick reason why they need to be paying attention. 

Studio and recreational dance programs: Healthier dancers, dance longer. It doesn't matter what level you're dancing at whether you're professional, recreational, whether you're a teacher

anybody who dances and loves dancing wants to do it as long as possible and dance medicine and science is there to help you dance longer and healthier that's the bottom line.  

Competitive dance: Same thing competitive, okay let's get a little commercial, expand “healthier dancers win more” okay because they can compete, longer and stronger and healthier without injuries. They're gonna win more.

School dance teams: Even if they're going to do it for two or three, or four years. While they're in high school or college they love it, they enjoy it for all the reasons, but they want to do it as long as they can in a healthy manner.

What's one thing you would like our readers to focus on from this week until the next, what is one action item we can all take ?

We've mentioned a number of different websites and things out there that people can learn information from,  we've mentioned the

Bridge Dance Project 

We’ve mentioned Iadms  

We've mentioned doctors for dancers 

We've mentioned 

Please visit one of these sites and just read a bit to educate yourself and your dancers.


Jan is a dance educator and dance medicine specialist, in Denver, CO with BS / MS degrees in Dance Science. She is Co-Founder / Co-Chair of The Bridge Dance Project, Co-Director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates (DDMA), and is Dance Wellness Editor for 4dancers.orgPreviously she was dance faculty / dance wellness coordinator at several universities, including University of Colorado – Boulder, and Loyola Marymount University (LA), and is currently working with Metro State University (Denver) to develop a Wellness Program.  She was involved in the founding of IADMS, serving as President, Executive Director, and on the Board of Directors (1990–2012). She was Chair of the NDA Committee on Dance Medicine and Science, Co-Chair - International Dance Medicine Conference, Taiwan (2004), and co-founder of the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. 


Beyond the StEPS

Season 3; Episode 2

Previous post
Next post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published