Alumni Spotlight: In conversation with… Erin SanchezMon 2 November 2020
Educator and applied researcher Erin Sanchez graduated from Trinity Laban with an MSc in Dance Science in 2010.
Ten years on she works for One Dance UK’s Health, Wellbeing and Performance Department, is the Manager of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS), and also works for Safe in Dance International as one of their Quality Assessors and Registered Providers.
We caught up with her to find out more.
How did you get involved in dance science?
“When I was younger, my ballet teacher taught us about anatomy, alignment, and caring for our bodies, and so through my dance training I was always interested in the body and how it works.
“My undergraduate training was in sociology, psychology and dance, so I also learnt a little about brain development. During my undergraduate I met an incredible woman called Ginny Wilmerding, a pioneer of dance medicine and science, who suggested I look at Trinity Laban as an opportunity for further training and development.
“I looked and was really interested in the masters programme. I didn’t know much about dance science before I arrived in London and I can’t have imagined what it was going to do for me in terms of opening doors for professional development.
“When I arrived, I was delighted to learn about all the different aspects of dance science – the application of psychology, physiology and biomechanics to dance. I was fascinated and it was the beginning of a deep love and passion for dance science and what it can do to help people.”
What were the most valuable things you learned from during your time at Trinity Laban?
“I was able to partake in research in a variety of different fields. I was involved in the Centres for Advanced Training (CAT) research project as my master’s dissertation, where I looked at cultural background variables in dance talent development. That was a wonderful opportunity to see other researchers such as Prof Emma Redding, Dr Sanna Nordin-Bates, and Dr Imogen Aujla doing incredible work. I was very lucky to work alongside them at this earliest stage in my experience of dance science – Trinity Laban offered a huge variety of such opportunities!
These teachers, contacts, and colleagues were very influential in my next steps when I finished at Trinity Laban.
“I also had some wonderful people in my year such as Dr Sarah Needham-Beck, now a researcher in dance physiology and fitness, and Karine Rathle, who is now the President of Healthy Dancer Canada. I am still lucky to be working alongside them in many different respects.”
How has your career developed since training at Trinity Laban?
“After graduating in 2010 I started working at Dance UK, following in the footsteps of my good friend Dr Needham-Beck. Through this role, I have had a variety of opportunities to develop my advocacy and education skills.
“I was also honoured to serve on the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) student committee, and concurrently completed my Certificate in Safe and Effective Dance Practice from Safe in Dance International.
“I also had truly amazing support from my master’s dissertation supervisors which enabled me to publish my first academic paper in 2013. That was a big milestone for me. I am very proud of that.
“I also served as a part of the IADMS Education Committee, an opportunity to work with leading international individuals in education in dance medicine and science. As part of that work I presented the first course to prepare for the Safe in Dance Healthy Dance Practice certificate in Colorado, working with dance science pioneers including Jan Dunn and Margaret Wilson, who are superstars of the dance science world.
“After that, I started to get more involved with hip hop and dancer’s health. I was lucky to meet a woman called Nefeli Tsiouti who began Project Breakalign, a pioneering team of professionals in dance, science and medicine looking at trying to reduce injuries in hip hop dancers. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up, it’s amazing.
I’ve had the good fortune with with Nefeli to develop education resources and information for hip hop dancers, supported a great deal by Breakin’ Convention. So that’s been one of the definite amazing moments of my career development.
“The most recent thing I’ve been working on is my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, looking at the pursuit and attainment of high performance in dance. Specifically, investigating the nature, development and deployment of psychological skills among dancers. This is certainly the biggest (and best!) challenge I’ve experienced and I’m loving every minute!”
You are Manager of Dancers’ Health, Wellbeing and Performance at One Dance UK – what’s involved in managing this programme?
“More work involves education and advocacy. The Healthier Dancer Programme is the education arm of NIDMS and within that we provide introductory, entry level education to members of the dance profession and dance students about dance medicine and science. The idea is to make it accessible and applied to the dance environment so people can apply it to their work. We also have information sheets and website resources relating to topics around dancers’ health.
“At One Dance UK, we’re also responsible for providing industry standards from research and feedback from the dance sector that we’ve developed over the last three decades. We also provide a Health Care Practitioners directory through One Dance UK. My colleague Jess Lowe administrates all of this excellent work – and she is also a graduate of the Trinity Laban MSc in Dance Science!
“We also run the All-Party Parliamentary Dance Group where we feed up information to ensure dance is recognised as an important aspect of society and that dancers can be healthy and safe and have sustainable careers.”
You are also Manager for National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science – can you tell us about this role?
“I’m relatively new in the post, and I am following in the footsteps of three incredible women – Helen Laws (who wrote Fit to Dance 2), Claire Farmer, and Stephanie De’Ath (both MSc Dance Science graduates from Trinity Laban who are immensely accomplished – look them up!) but it’s a brilliant opportunity to be involved with our incredible partners.
“I am part of a partnership that ensures a long-term future of the Institute as a focal point to access dance science and medicine expertise. In practice, that means I’m responsible for providing dancers across the UK with free access to specialist, multi-disciplinary preventative and rehabilitative care. That includes our three NHS injury clinics in Birmingham, Bath and London which provide care through sports and exercise services and are free at the point of access.”
How have your studies helped or impacted your career?
My studies have been incredibly influential to my career path and trajectory. I’d have to say that without my experiences at Trinity Laban I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. My experience opened up a whole new world to me, as well as a lot of opportunities for professional networking.”
“Trinity Laban has been a perennial support for me. I graduated a decade ago and yet I still have very strong ties to the Dance Science Department. I’m in touch on weekly basis with work questions and issues. I come back and listen to graduate presentations every year which keeps me up to date on master’s level research and introduces me to the newest and brightest of the dance science world.
“I feel so lucky to able to access the resources of the Laban Library as an alum. I feel honoured to be able to work alongside the incredible staff (the incomparable Ralph Cox in particular!) who do such a brilliant job.”
Any advice to share for those interest in dance science?
“Sometimes it’s hard to know what education will bring to your life or to your way of thinking, but I have to say I found that openness was a really important aspect of my enrichment through education.
Be learning all the time. Be open to other people knowing more things than you do, and seek opportunities to be out of your comfort zone. Try new things. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
“If I hadn’t, I would never have found myself with the career I have.”
Any future plans you’d like to share with us?
“The first project I’m excited about is my PhD. I’ve been wanting to do a PhD since my masters’ degree but it did take me about eight years to organise my thoughts, to find the right supervisor and programme. It’s a big adventure. It’s really scary but it’s so much fun to collaborate on this level with people and add to the knowledge about talent development, psychological skills and mental health for dancers.
“The second project I’m super excited about is in collaboration with Safe in Dance International, Healthy Dancer Canada, The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation and NIDMS on safeguarding for dancers. It’s in development at the moment, but it’s a huge opportunity for the entire dance sector to draw together research. We’re aiming to develop guidelines and resources for the entire dance sector to inform better practice. Check out our presentation at the IADMS iConference as a part of the dance educators’ content.
It is so inspiring to be working with the international community I found through Trinity Laban on such big and important work.
“I’m so honoured to be a part of this. There’s no way I could have done either of these things on my own. I think it is so important to be working in partnership and recognising the strengths that organisations and individuals can bring.”
Join us for our free Dance Science Virtual Open Evening 17:00 – 19:00 Thursday 5 November 2020. Register now.
Find out more about studying at Trinity Laban on our Dance Science pages.