Who’d have thought?
Birmingham Hippodrome was the venue for an insightful conference called Beyond the Body: Pyschological tools for performance enhancement and wellbeing in dance. A joint venture between Dance UK and The Royal Society of Medicine it provided an excellent account of the progress made and the work still to be done in the relatively new area of dance psychology.
As well as 18 nationally and internationally recognised speakers, Dr Peter Lovatt exclusively revealed the results of his new research debunking the notion that dancers have a low sense of self-esteem and the day was concluded by the important announcement that the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) was opening its second NHS Dance Injury Clinic, this time in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
One of many themes that came out of the conference was that while the acceptance of the necessity of dance psychology had come on leaps and bounds over the past few years, there was still an awful lot of work to do, particularly in the need for more research tailored specifically for dance (much of the current findings are based on sports psychology research, which remains streets ahead).
Many of the speakers, such as Professor Joan Duda (Professor of Sports Psychology and self-confessed dance fan from the University of Birmingham), also stressed the importance of not simply dwelling on negative psychological aspects such as self-harm or eating disorders but also using positive applications as a tool to promote dancers’ wellbeing, particularly through direct methods of teaching and education.
Equally, a more interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of dancers’ injuries and psychological health was advocated by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Clinical Director Nick Allen, Counselling Psychologist Carol Chapman and Chartered Psychologist Anne Thomas.
Perhaps the most memorable image to come out of the conference was Professor Jon Arcelus’ ‘pie of life’: it shockingly demonstrated how eating disorders could take hold in a situation where dance was taking up too much of an individual’s sense of identity and self-worth. It really brought home just how much discussion and action in this area is still required and how crucial the development of positive psychological tools are to combat such notions.
Well organised, extremely informative and with a high attendance of delegates, Beyond the Body could well prove to be an inspiring landmark in the development of the psychology of dance.
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