Understanding Anatomy Creates Better Dancers

By Elizabeth Sullivan

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Swati Agrawal


Dancers engage virtually every muscle group within their bodies during movement, a phenomenon observable even in the execution of fundamental steps. Such intense muscular activity inevitably predisposes dancers to injuries. I have been part of the Performing Arts Company (PAC) at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) since my sophomore year, and I have noticed that many of the dancers develop injuries throughout the semesters, often resulting in the inability to perform on stage. In pursuit of a deeper comprehension of dance-related injuries and strategies for injury prevention at the amateur level, a cohort of fourteen students was surveyed and invited to partake in a survey and workshop from PAC. They answered questions regarding their knowledge of lower body muscular function, foundational dance steps, and past dance injury. Survey responses revealed that 50% of the students have sustained a dance-related injury, and 80% of those students agreed that better knowledge of muscular function could have prevented their injury. Then, the fourteen students were instructed to perform two dance steps for technique and balance, respectively. After completing both steps with demonstration only, seven students left the room, while the other seven received instruction on how to execute the movements with the correct muscle groups. Students exposed to muscle-centric instruction had increased balance time (4.17 sec more than control group) and indicated a qualitative enhancement of 21.4% compared to those without supplemental instruction. In future survey and analysis, increasing the sample size will aid in both evaluating the effects of anatomy instruction for dancers and achieving more statistically significant outcomes. The amalgamated data, along with supplementary literature, served as the foundation for a virtual muscle movement guide tailored to meet the needs of amateur dancers at UMW, which is available for all members of the Performing Arts Company at UMW.




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