Transforming Dance Medicine and Science: A Journey towards Inclusivity and Empowerment | Susan Haines*
Welcome to Beyond the StEPS
Dance is a beautifully expressive art form that spans cultures, communities, and individuals. However, the realm of dance medicine and science has often struggled to keep up with the diverse and intricate nature of the dancers it aims to support. In this blog article, we delve into a thought-provoking discussion about the need for inclusivity, representation, and change in dance medicine and science. The conversation, which covered topics like body diversity, medical accountability, historical injustices, and gender identity, emphasizes the importance of reforming the field to better serve all performers.
Body Diversity and Representation
In the dance world, bodies come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and abilities. However, traditional dance medicine and science have often adhered to a one-size-fits-all approach, which excludes those whose bodies don't conform to a specific mold. The conversation brings to light the significance of recognizing and respecting these differences.
A point of concern arises from the inadequacy of research and studies that fail to include a diverse range of body types. This exclusion perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions about what constitutes a "dancer's body," further alienating performers who don't fit the conventional image. To address this, there's a growing need to shift the framework of research to be more inclusive, allowing for a deeper understanding of the physiological and biomechanical variations in different bodies.
Medical Accountability and Distrust
In the wake of the global pandemic, the conversation highlights the erosion of trust in the medical field, a sentiment that has permeated society. This distrust poses challenges for dancers seeking medical guidance and treatment. Medical professionals, burdened by the fear of lawsuits and public skepticism, may prioritize avoiding controversy over providing accurate advice.
For dancers, particularly performance athletes who require specialized care, this issue creates barriers in receiving appropriate treatment. To counteract this, dancers are encouraged to find practitioners who understand their unique needs and lived experiences, creating a collaborative environment for health and well-being.
Historical Injustices and Intersectionality
One of the most poignant aspects of the discussion is the acknowledgment of historical injustices and systemic biases that have plagued the medical field. In particular, marginalized communities, such as Black and brown individuals, have faced exploitation and experimentation. This dark history casts a long shadow over modern medical practices, urging a commitment to ethical protocols and a deep-rooted desire for change.
Additionally, the conversation addresses the intersectionality of gender identities within dance medicine and science. With an evolving understanding of gender, it's crucial for the field to catch up and adapt. This means recognizing that gender identity is not binary and that medical approaches should accommodate a diverse spectrum of identities.
Empowering Performance Athletes
The discussion ends on a hopeful note by offering actionable steps for performance athletes to advocate for themselves and drive change. The guests emphasize the importance of finding practitioners who listen, understand, and respect individual experiences. Access to trusted resources, such as those that cater to the unique needs of dancers, is crucial for making informed decisions about training and health.
Inclusivity, representation, and empowerment are not just buzzwords but essential values for the future of dance medicine and science. This insightful conversation sheds light on the existing challenges, the importance of rethinking traditional paradigms, and the necessity of collaborative efforts among dancers, medical professionals, and researchers. As the dance world continues to evolve, so must the field that supports its physical and emotional well-being. By amplifying diverse voices, challenging norms, and embracing change, we can create a dance medicine and science community that truly serves every dancer, regardless of their background, body, or identity.
To make a meaningful impact in the dance medicine and science arena, start by critically examining existing resources and challenging outdated assumptions about the body. Engage with modern perspectives from experts like Thomas Myers and Gil Headley, expanding your understanding beyond traditional norms. Trust your personal bodily experiences and advocate for your well-being by seeking practitioners who listen and understand. Embrace a broader perspective on gender identity and empower yourself by both valuing your unique experiences and questioning established norms. Through these actions, you can contribute to inclusivity and positive transformation within the field.
Apolla Performance plays a vital role in advancing the field of dance medicine and science by providing valuable resources and education through initiatives like the STEPS program. Their dedication to addressing issues such as racism, gender equity, and nutrition in the context of dance contributes to creating a more inclusive and informed community. Apolla's efforts to challenge existing norms and promote a holistic understanding of body dynamics align with the broader goal of driving positive change within the dance industry.
*Susan Haines is a dance kinesiologist bringing new ideas in dance science directly into technique classes to prevent injury and build dancer specific strength. Susan works with the causes of dysfunctional movement in the motor control center with NeuroKinetic Therapy. She created Dance Conditioning Technique to bridge research in neuroscience and fascia into dance training. She is the Director of Dance at Western Washington University and has presented her research at conferences nationwide. She has studied fascial movement patterning and taping and holds certifications in NKT, NCPT Pilates, Yoga, FMT Mobility Specialist, and IASTM. www.danceconditioningtechnique.com
Watch full episode below!