Welcome back to the dancer blog. Last week we began our discussion on why it’s so hard for healthcare providers to understand dancers. We looked at dance as an industry and all the aspects of dance that make it incredibly complex and varied. This week we’ll be discussing the healthcare industry’s side of things. We’re going to be looking at how healthcare is taught from an educational standpoint and the availability of dance research or lack thereof.
Let’s start with the educational side of things. Why is it so hard for healthcare providers to learn about dance? Well the honest answer is… because there’s way too much other stuff that future doctors need to learn about and 5 years is only so much time. The reality is; Chiro school, Med school, and healthcare schooling in general is about 5 years for a doctorate. That’s 5 years after your initial 4 years of undergrad. While 5 years may seem like a lot of time, it’s not. During these 5 years of education, future doctors need to master their basic sciences; microbiology, anatomy, neuroscience, physiology, pathology. Then they need to master the practical side of their role as a doctor; diagnosis, lab skills, pharmacology, spinal manipulative technique. And of course, they need to master clinical skills such as; history taking, bedside manor, patient education, professional edicate and interprofessional communication. All of this needs to be mastered in 5 years so that the doctoral student can pass their licensing exams and go into practice.
THAT’S A LOT!!! And this is all while learning how to treat patients. And when it comes to
treatment, there is absolutely no way to learn about every condition or patient population known to man in the 5 short years you have to transform yourself into a doctor. This is why, depending on what kind of doctor you want to be, your education will be focused on preparing you to treat the largest variety of patients that you will regularly see. In chiro school I learned a lot about less common and even rare conditions out there that can affect the neuromusculoskeletal system. But I had whole courses on neck pain, low back pain, disc herniations and conditions that affect the nerves. So it should come as no surprise that a population as infinitely complex and varied as dancers gets passed over entirely. And I do mean entirely! I can tell you exactly one and ONLY one fact I ever learned about dancers during my time in Chiro school: An Os Trigonum can cause a lot of pain for runners and dancers.That’s it!
Side note, an Os Trigonum is an extra little bone that can occur in the back of the ankle. It can be especially troublesome for dancers who do a lot of pointe work. Most of the time it can be remedied with surgery; the surgeon just removes it. I’ll make sure to do a blog on this topic at some point but for now there’s your explainer.
One could honestly spend their entire 5 year doctoral career learning about the medical aspects of dance. But that would also require professors with advanced knowledge on the topic… which are super rare. I personally don’t know any retired professional dancers who teach courses in chiropractic, or medical management for dancers… yet. Someday readers, someday! Now you may be asking yourself “Why does the professor need to be a dancer?” Afterall many professors teach courses on topics they do not personally experience. Well that’s true. However, for all the reasons we discussed last week, it’s next to impossible to have an advanced understanding of dance if you only ever come at it from the outside. This is especially true if there isn’t a lot of research to create a pool of knowledge for outsiders.
Which brings me to my next point, research! Everything in healthcare is built on research. When we learn how a muscle moves, it's based on research. When we learn what tests give you a diagnosis for a given condition, it’s based on research. And when we learn how to best treat a given condition, say it with me, it’s based on research!
So how much research is there on dance? Well… a lot actually… and next to none. There are actually entire journals dedicated to research into dance, such as the cleverly named Dance Research Journal. The problem is, there’s such a large variety of different kinds of dance that even with the research available, it barely scratches the surface. Remember there are literally dozens and dozens of different dance techniques. On top of that, each technique has its fair share of styles within. Each with unique biomechanical demands on the human body. Now add to this how rapidly dance, specifically choreographic trends, changes over time and what we have is a very small window of time to come up with detailed research.
What do I mean by this? Well, let’s look at Bob Fosse. Fosse was a Broadway choreographer who is known as one of the great choreographers of the Post-WWII Golden Age. His style of jazz dance was popularized in the late 50’s up to the 80’s. It is still performed today but is not nearly as popular or widespread as it once was. Now the 50s-80ds may seem like a long time but 30 years is not nearly enough time to build up a meaningful body of research if one was trying to truly understand Fosses specific style of jazz dance from a biomechanical standpoint. Fast forward to today and new dance and choreographic trends are emerging by the decade. Robert Battle, Victor Quijada, Cidra Belle and Crystal Pite are all revolutionary choreographers known the world over. And each of them have a unique style of dance associated with them AND each emerged onto the dance scene in the last few decades.
That’s a lot of simultaneous and different biomechanical movement styles in a very short time. What this means is that the dance profession is changing much faster than the research can keep up with. So while there is a large body of research centered around constants that never change in the language of dance movement, research that looks at injuries associated with specific styles and techniques are very rare. This makes dance one of those topics that institutions like colleges and universities just avoid outright. There’s not enough reliable research to make the information easily organized and there are too few professors available with expert experience on the subject matter. So it doesn’t get discussed. And I hate that so much!
Alright we’re almost done with this topic but I will be extending this out one more week. The last thing we have to cover might actually be the biggest part of this puzzle: cultural competency! This is how the world and the educational powers that be view dance and dancers from a cultural standpoint. You might be surprised how big a role that plays in why healthcare providers don’t learn about dance. Next week, I’ll be giving my experience with this first hand and discussing a number of interactions I’ve had with educators on this topic.
But for now, let’s shift gears to this week’s dancer shout out. This week we have Charlotte
Phillips, pictured above. Charlotte graduated from London’s Bird College of Dance and Theater Performance with a BA Honors Degree in Dance and Theater Performance in 2012. Did I mention Charlotte’s British! While dancing professionally in England Charlotte performed in productions such as Curtains, The Producers, and started as Roxi Hart in Chicago. Charlotte is also a proud Co-owner of RocDance located in Webster, NY. I’ve featured RocDance on the dance blog before back when we discussed Why Telling Dancers To Stop Doesn't Work. It’s an awesome school for young dancers to learn how to dance and discover their inner performer. Make sure to check them out!
And remember, if you have any questions or topics you would like me to address here on the
Dancer Blog comment below and let me know! Also if you want to help this community grow
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