Anyone who follows ballet knows that it requires a high level of fitness as well as great co-ordination. The range of injuries that professional dancers suffer from nowadays can compete with any high intensity sport.
And just as with sport, sustaining an injury can have a huge impact on the career and future of even the fittest dancer, this is why professional ballet companies are employing the services of sports scientist to create training sessions that support the art of ballet specifically and reduce the chance of injuries.
Science & Ballet
You may be surprised to learn that science plays a large part in supporting professional dancers, particularly at the Royal Ballet. Since 2012, innovation and research has been driven by the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science. It is formed through a collaboration between different universities and dance colleges across the UK.
Dancers don’t just practice their moves with a choreographer for hours on end but are regularly tested by sports scientists who are working to find ways to improve power and fitness. You are just as likely to see a force platform in a ballet studio today as you are a tutu or two.
Training for ballet dancers can be tailored for different routines. A quick step section, for example, undoubtedly requires a good deal of aerobic fitness. Dancers are put through their paces with a carefully designed cardio routine while being tested for their oxygen efficiency.
Injury recovery is also used a lot in professional ballet, in the past you might have taken an ice bath, today’s dancers are using NASA inspired cold therapy suits!
Ballet Training helped by Science
Visit the Royal Ballet and you’ll not only find professional dancers but some highly motivated and scientists and health experts, all with facilities that you would normally associate with top flight sports clubs. They cover everything from strength and fitness training and measurement to providing dancers with the right diet, helping them perform better and reduce the prospect of injury.
The research that is going on is also important. Universities are developing their own facilities to provide cutting edge R&D that is changing how dancers and choreographers prepare when they are training and putting on a show. It’s thrown up some surprises. Evidence suggests that dancers can prepare to work on a darkened stage in a theatre better by undertaking what researchers call ‘closed eye training’.
Science Reducing Dance Injuries
The challenge is always how research and science-based evidence is introduced into the dance studio. At the Royal Ballet, dancers can be subjected to huge workloads, often practicing six or seven hours a day. That doesn’t take into account the actual ballet performance either. This high level of activity means that ballet dancers can sustain injuries at a comparable rate to most contact sports.
Their research has led to an increase in strength training for dancers, working on the areas that support the feet and ankles, all of which is beginning to reduce the range of problems. In female dancers, for example, it’s more than halved the occurrence of injuries. That in turn should increase levels of endurance and ensure that dancers can have long, successful careers in dance with as little injury as possible.