an audience watching a man speak on stage

The 2023 International Association for Dance Medicine & Science Conference Explored Dancers’ Physical and Mental Health

More than 500 dance medicine and education professionals gather each year, both in person and virtually, to share and learn how to better achieve health for dancers, and health for our communities through dance. The most recent conference, held in Columbus, Ohio, in October 2023, hosted 121 presentations and movement/interactive sessions and 22 poster presentations by practitioners from all over the world. Here is a small sampling of the remarkable breadth of work presented and topics discussed.

a female dancer wearing black balancing on her shoulder with her legs straight up

A Dancer’s Guide to Managing Panic Attacks

Although panic attacks can be incredibly scary and debilitating for anyone, the performance-based nature of dance introduces additional challenges. For Patrick, the intense anxiety that sometimes resulted in panic attacks inhibited her from attending auditions. “I felt, because of my anxiety, I wouldn’t be able to make it through auditions,” she remembers.

Young woman after an ACL surgery, sitting on the couch adjusting her knee orthosis.

How Physical Injuries Can Impact Mental Health

Dancers suffering from an injury should consider emotional recovery as well as physical recovery and, if experiencing mental health challenges, seek professional help. According to Mainwaring, finding someone to confide in is key, particularly a psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience working with dancers.

Young tired unhealthy mixed race woman sitting on couch in living room at home with closed eyes, holding head with hand, suffering from strong sudden headache or migraine, throbbing pain.

A Dancer’s Guide to Managing Migraines

Migraines affect more than a billion people worldwide. Despite their prevalence, migraines can be unpredictable and debilitating, and can present unique challenges, particularly for dancers.

a male dancer jumping straight up with his arms extended directly out

Dance, Autism, and Creating Neurodivergent-Friendly Spaces

How can studio spaces become more inclusive of neurodivergent dancers? Jennifer Milner, Madeleine’s mother and a dance and Pilates instructor, says that it’s important to create space for individual needs. This can be as simple as respecting when dancers don’t feel comfortable being touched, or when they may be having what Milner calls a “red button day”—when stress, anxiety, or other stressors make corrections and critiques difficult to receive.

a group of dancers moving between a long piece of plastic

How Social Anxiety Disorder Can Impact Dancers

Social situations, especially those that are new in some way, can present difficulties for someone with SAD, Hyde says, so attending a new class, joining a company, or attending an audition could be an extra challenge.