Dance Science health screenings at Trinity Laban keep artists at peak performanceWed 10 October 2018
Advanced physiological and psychological health screening techniques developed for contemporary dance students at Trinity Laban are now being used to support a wide range of professional performers, including a dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet and members of a top London hip-hop company.
Led by Professor Emma Redding, Trinity Laban’s Dance Science Department and the National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science have pioneered a screening process for performing artists. Participants receive individual information about their physical potential and injury risk factors, which can then be proactively addressed.
Screening can be used to assess levels of fitness and track training progress, and to support performing artists in setting and achieving goals to optimise their performance potential. For Professor Redding and colleagues, collecting anonymised data sets is also vital for research, and gives an overview of the changing picture of Trinity Laban students each year.
But while traditionally dance science research has focused on the bodies of contemporary or ballet dancers, by working with performers in a diverse range of dance styles Professor Redding is opening up new areas of research into how different types of dancers train and the impact it has on their bodies.
“With data collected from screenings, we can compare and contrast the fitness levels, strength or types of injuries experienced by dancers across genres. This type of research can then inform training regimes and the development of performance in future,” Professor Redding explains.
Earlier in the year, six dancers from hip-hop theatre collective Far From the Norm spent the afternoon at Trinity Laban’s dance science lab undertaking a full screening process with Professor Redding and her team. Testing includes everything from body fat composition to hamstring flexibility, calf endurance, jump height and aerobic capacity.
Dancer Jordan Douglas noted that “it’s nice to know where you are physically, so you can focus your energy” while the group’s Creative Producer Lee Griffiths said: “Far From The Norm are working to access information and resources that aren’t currently available to hip hop dancers. We appreciate the extremities that their bodies undertake and we would like to understand the mechanics behind our practice more to enable us to support a generation of stronger artists in hip hop theatre.”
The company, founded by Botis Seva in 2009, work in styles that include b-boying, krump, popping, house, locking, lindy hop and contemporary.
Street dance methods of training are considerably different to those used by contemporary dancers, Professor Redding says: “We can learn a lot from their intensive training, which sees dancers moving with high intensity for long periods of time rather than stopping and starting which is more common in contemporary dance.”
“The screening with [the team] at Trinity Laban was incredibly insightful, and it was a true pleasure to work with such an engaging and professional team,” he said. “It’s really wonderful to know that there is research devoted to finding each individual dancer’s weaknesses, and then creating the clearest or easiest way to turn them into strengths.
“I feel a lot more confident for the near future, and what it might hold for my career, now that I understand a lot better how my own body functions with the increasing physical demands of ballet.”