Where Science and Dance Meet
Above: Studying dance science doesn’t always mean you’ll lose performance opportunities. Here, Goucher students perform in Pascal Rioult’s Wien. Photo by Jason Lee, Courtesy Goucher.
Dance science is one of the fastest-growing areas of interest for college dance majors, and one that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice time in the studio. A second degree or concentration in the subject opens up a variety of practical career paths. For instance, dance science students often go on to pursue graduate degrees in physical therapy, dance medicine or kinesiology. It’s also common for dancers with science backgrounds to work as teachers, personal trainers or somatic instructors while performing. Of course, dance science programs vary in terms of focus and course requirements. Here are three top options to include in your search.
Baltimore, MD; goucher.edu
Degrees offered: BA in dance with a concentration in dance science. (A biological science major with a concentration in dance science is also offered—course requirements are very different.)
Audition required: No
Technique classes required: A minimum of six technique credits total; two per semester are suggested. Dance majors must also take composition, music for dance, lighting design, technical stage application, dance history, Labanotation, anatomy and kinesiology for dancers and dance criticism, theory and philosophy.
Nondance courses required: Six credits of classes in biological diversity, cell biology and biochemistry, animal physiology, nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, physics or introduction to psychology.
Performance opportunities: A student must be enrolled in at least one technique class in the same semester she wishes to perform.
Opportunities for outside study: Internships are encouraged. In the past, students have shadowed physical therapists and physicians or have worked with a foot surgeon at nearby MedStar Union Memorial Hospital.
Elon, NC; elon.edu
Degrees offered: BS in dance science. Many BFA dance performance and choreography students choose to double-major (earning both a BFA and a BS).
Audition required: Only the BFA program requires an audition.
Technique classes required: One ballet, modern, jazz, tap class; two world dance classes; somatics; improvisation and choreography classes are available. Double majors take daily technique classes. Dance history is required.
Nondance courses required: Nutrition, human anatomy, human physiology, somatic theories, biomechanics, sports psychology, physiology of exercise, research methods
Performance opportunities: Auditions for the Elon Dance Company—which performs around three times per year—are open to dance science majors.
Opportunities for outside study: Not required, but credit is given. Students have interned with the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, shadowed those in Elon’s physical therapy graduate program and have conducted and presented research with Elon’s dance and exercise science faculty.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
Irvine, CA; uci.edu
Degrees offered: BA in dance with the option to focus in dance science. (BFA dance students can also take dance science courses, though they often encounter more scheduling limitations.)
Audition required: Yes
Technique classes required: At least one per semester. Students typically enroll in ballet and modern classes three to five times per week.
Nondance courses required: Dance health and injury prevention, kinesiology for dance and experiential anatomy. Students must take at least 12 units of elective classes, and by working with a faculty advisor, students can create a track for themselves, often enrolling in medical, science, sports medicine or motion-capture classes offered in departments across campus.
Performance opportunities: Students are required to earn two performance credits from departmental concerts.
Opportunities for outside study: While they’re not required, students can take part in short-term projects that relate to their research. Students commonly work with professors to conduct research and present at International Association for Dance Medicine & Science conferences, earn Pilates certifications or work with the physical therapist in the dance department. n
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.