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Dancers v athletes


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And every now and then, of course, you get a newspaper or magazine which does comparisons of the various fitness levels of sportspeople, dancers and so on, and finds that dancers tend to score higher than athletes in quite a few sports.  Football (not the American kind, which is I assume what Pointe is referring to) is one of those, generally speaking.

 

Come to think of it, I haven't see one of those in a while.  Perhaps it's time for another one ...

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I always suspected that dancers were superfit but this brief summary of a recent study confirms it

 

It doesn't, really, I'm afraid! The study only looked at one indicator of fitness, and that was jump fatigue. We know that dancers have a more efficient way of landing from jumps because of training to use the feet and ankles to decelerate and absorb some of the impact  (supported by recent research done by HCDI in New York on jump biomechanics in dancers and basketball players). Athletes who are not dance trained land and only a few muscles 'absorb' the impact force, whereas in dancers this impact force is dissipated through all the muscles in the feet and calves as well as the legs. If force is more spread out there's less work for each individual muscle to do, meaning they can do more repetitions. Add to that the specificity of dance training on endurance (repeated activity) of the feet, ankles and legs, it's hardly surprising.

 

Another point to bear in mind when looking at research - The write-up also doesn't state what level of ability or training the dancers or team sport athletes had. If it's a study published by the AJSM I would hope that they were comparable with each other, but you never know. For example in the UK you wouldn't compare 'University level' ballet dancers with Commonwealth games athletes - but in the USA 'university level' ballet dancers would rival Central or Northern students.

 

I'd be interested to see what the outcomes would be if they used other areas of the body, or other fitness parameters entirely!

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Judging from the university level ballet students I have both observed and taught (over many years) - the level upon completion of a three year curriculum is barely intermediate.   This opinion applies only to ballet - not any other dance form..

 

Ballet I - is absolute beginner.

 

Ballet II - the students have completed two semesters (Sept-May) of Ballet I

 

Ballet III - the students have completed Ballet I and Ballet II.  There might be a few students a tad more technically advanced who are there by special permission but I would still place them as high intermediates.

 

The curriculum is set up so that one can only take Ballet I for two semesters - which is only one school year - after that the data base considers it a "fail."  Same for Ballet II.   Thus upon entering Ballet III one has only had two school years of ballet.

 

Classes are usually 2 or 3 days in the week. Considering the amount of holidays, time between fall and spring semesters (about a month or more), plus summer off - that leaves very little time actually in the dance class compared with vocational training of a dance student.

 

I know of only one person (male) who actually started in a university Ballet I and ended up dancing professionally - but he was a true phenomenon who was very quickly taken out of the class and given a scholarship at a vocational school.  

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Anjuli thank you for clarifying this. Perhaps it's changed since I was in the USA but the dancers I worked with at SUNY (Purchase) were way, way above any university dancers in the UK.

 

I think there are some programs which are "special" - such as University of North Carolina-Charlotte in which there is a "by audition only" program in higher level ballet.  Perhaps that is what you experienced in SUNY-Purchase.

 

What i related above is what is more generally the case.  Even in a four year curriculum leading to a degree, the student would only have four school years of ballet study which as we know would not normally lead to a professional performing career.

 

I found that most of the students are in ballet class as a way of satisfying the physical education requirement of their course of study.   This doesn't mean they didn't work hard or were less enthusiastic.  However, they often did have a very different mind set than a vocational ballet student.  

 

As for comparing athletes to dancers - frankly I don't see the point.  The study is different, the goal is different and the outcome is different.  

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I was also under the impression that some 'College Programs' were on a par with certain UK vocational schools. Of course I'm aware of the 'feeder' schools for companies in the US, but thought that some uni's offered a very complete ballet training.....(Always learning !) x

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Anjuli thank you for clarifying this. Perhaps it's changed since I was in the USA but the dancers I worked with at SUNY (Purchase) were way, way above any university dancers in the UK.

 

Any?

 

I was a "university dancer" in the UK having completed a degree in dance. I was also one of three vocational school graduates in my year (the other two did MT courses but were still strong in ballet) so while the standard was mixed, there were students of a pretty high standard.

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For example in the UK you wouldn't compare 'University level' ballet dancers with Commonwealth games athletes - but in the USA 'university level' ballet dancers would rival Central or Northern students.

 

 

In actual fact, this type of collaborative and comparative research study happens all the time between the elite sports and ballet worlds in order to learn from one another and improve. I signed numerous permission slips for participation in exactly this type of study before my DC turned 18 as no doubt have many others.

 

'University level dancers'? Central is to all intents and purposes a university (albeit a specialist one) its graduating students are awarded fully validated undergraduate foundation and honours degrees. Other dance 'schools' are also offering formal academic further and higher education qualifications. Perhaps unsurprising therefore that similar sport based establishments often seek to collaborate and pool resources.

 

Outcomes of these studies contribute to other fields too - not just blogs and magazine articles. For example there are links on the Central website to news articles about a likely medical breakthrough from research based on a comparison between ballet dancers and rowers.

 

http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-09-27/scientists-crack-ballet-dancers-lack-of-dizziness/

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When I said 'you wouldn't compare....' I didn't mean that studies wouldn't compare ballet with other sports, because you can learn a lot from doing that. What I meant was that scientists look to compare 'like for like' to ensure the conclusions in difference/similarities are not explained by other factors like their level of training.

 

What I was meaning was that if I was doing research using Olympic level athletes I would want the most elite dancers I could find, and that in my opinion is not dancers on a university course, but dancers either in the 3rd year of upper schools or professionals.

 

There may of course be the odd one or two elite dancers on university courses but not enough to form a group reliable enough for research purposes.

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In my ignorance I wonder how a comparison could be made between - say - lifting weights?

 

The dancer lifts a living weight - the weight ilfting athlete does not.

 

 In the case of ice dance - it's a living moving weight - which requires a unique skill.

 

The dancer's singular intent is how it looks - the athlete's intent is a score. (generally speaking)

 

The dancer has to contend with the vagaries of live music - the athlete does not.

 

The dancer has to stay within a character as well as time in history and a place (Romeo/Verona/the conventions of the time) - the athlete does not

 

The dancer has to be aware of how every part (to the smallest finger or tilt of the head) of the body looks - the athlete does not

 

Athletes have other challenges - different challenges.  

 

And, to further elaborate on my ignorance - I don't understand the use of the word "versus."

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I get the point you're making about comparing the sport elite to the dance elite and I agree. However, suggesting that there may be only one or two elite dancers on university courses in the UK is inaccurate and potentially misleading. Elite schools offer university courses and elite dancers study them.

 

Students in the 3rd year of upper schools such as Central & Rambert have in the main already completed an undergraduate foundation degree in years 1 & 2. Completion of 3rd year converts the award to honours. They are on university courses. Students of dance genres other than ballet study for dance degrees too, though often a couple of years later than ballet students but also at top schools. They too are elite dancers on university courses.

 

Many dancers choose these schools and courses specifically because they do offer an internationally recognised university qualification alongside the elite dance training enabling the switch to other careers in place of or after a professional dance career. People looking for information on vocational dance training post 16 should not get the idea that a university course signifies an inferior standard of training or dancer. Unless it's a maths course in which case they're far less fussy about turnout......

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Bankrollingballet you are completely correct. But I doubt students at Central of Laine (for example) would say that they go to university, they would say they are at a vocational school/college.

 

Unfortunately there ARE university dance courses with a lower standard of entry and low practical element. I'm sure there are some good ones too - but students should not be misled into thinking they can do a dance degree at any University and get sufficient training to be a professional dancer.

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I know quite a few people who have a degree in dance and who'd never done a plié before the age of 18. As drdance said, it's important to understand what you (as a student) are getting. A degree in dance (and here I'm not including the practical elements found at Rambert, Central, RAD BA Ballet.. etc) is valuable, even for vocational trained / former pro's / current dance teachers, but it won't, in most cases teach you how to dance, or how to teach. Focus is most likely to be more on academic, rather than artistic skills. 

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The factor which will give a good guide to the level of technique in a Dance degree is whether entry is by audition with many candidates competing for places, or whether it is only academic exams that are needed for entry.

 

I think most of the university (not vocational) courses hold auditions, even if candidates are not necessarily competing for entry as fiercely as they would be at vocational schools. Some universities even those with a high academic content, often waive entry requirements for a student who has a strong practical background.

 

I agree that many students on such courses are misled into thinking that they will be prepared for a performing career in a professional company and that they should be given a clearer picture of what kind of graduate destinations are realistic.

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My ex dd told me that some of the dance students the dance degree course at her university seldom got the chance to perform the state of the art theatr there and from other things she said, I believe they generally felt short changed by their course. I really felt for them.

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