What is ‘Performance Enhancement’ in an artistic context?
Author: Gemma Harman on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee
Our next two posts from the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee question what we really know about performance enhancement from a dance science perspective and from the individual dance artist’s point of view.
What do we know?
An awareness of how the term ‘performance enhancement’ operates in the activities of athletes is well understood in the field of sport and exercise. In recent years, there has been a move amongst educators using the term performance enhancement within an artistic setting (i.e. through the teaching of dance science and health related education classes as part of a students’ training). Whilst educators advocate the need to enhance the learning, performance and artistry of the performer, very little is known about performance enhancement from the perspective of the individual performer.
As an educator and researcher, I often refer to the term performance enhancement through teaching specifically devised Safe Dance Practice and performance enhancement modules. However, I am aware that I use the term without really considering its meaning and significance in an artistic context, and rarely from the artist’s point of view. With this in mind, I have arrived at the following questions:
This blog post will share findings from a pilot study I undertook with ten professional performers (6 dancers and 4 musicians). The pilot study used a qualitative research approach and interviewed performers to find out their thoughts and views on performance enhancement. By gaining an insight into what we know about performance enhancement from the individual dance artist’s point of view, it is hoped educators can provided an informed approach to enhancing an individual’s artistic practice.
My findings from the pilot study reveal three factors that need to be considered when seeking to understand the idea of performance enhancement in an artistic setting.
Other findings of interest
• The views of performers can be separated into two groups: (1) those who do not use the term and associate it to external factors (i.e clothing and stage lighting) rather than the performance itself, (2) those who perceive it to be a set of strategies that can be applied to help enhance a performance (i.e warming-up or mental preparation).
• The views of performers imply that performance enhancement is about human excellence, achieved through the attributes they have as individuals rather than sole changes in the preparation and/or enhancement of training.
What can I do?
• When using the term performance enhancement in your teaching, consider whether your understanding is the same when applied to the ‘performer’ or a ‘performance’. Such consideration will provide you with an informed awareness as to what you are wanting to enhance and how you might go about achieving it.
• Give your students an opportunity to have a voice! In turn, this will generate a broader and more consistent use of the term and contribute to our understanding of the concept in an artistic setting more generally.
• Through your teaching consider whether you are delivering the principles of performance enhancement to your students, or the skills for your students to apply and then enhance their own practice (or perhaps both). This will help your students to differentiate between theory and practice and importantly, how such knowledge can be applied to what it is they do.
Given the emphasis placed on delivering ideas relating to performance enhancement as part of a students’ training, it is crucial that we continue to give our students a voice and to understand more about performance enhancement from the individual dance artist. As educators, we also need to place greater emphasis on considering what part the performer plays in the enhancement of their training and performance. This is captured by one performer who shared with me:
‘‘Performance enhancement is anything that allows you to develop, it can be physical, mental or psychological……. it doesn’t make you a better performer, but it gives you more access to being a better performer, it’s about enhancing who you are and what it is you do’’.
Gemma Harman, PhD Candidate, MSc, FHEA is Senior Lecturer in Dance and Acting Programme Leader BSc Dance Science at the University of Chichester. Gemma is also a lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is an Academic Tutor at Bird College of Dance.
Hays, K.F. The Enhancement of Performance Excellence Among Performing Artists. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 2002; 14, 299-312.
Krasnow, D.H., Chatfield, S.J. Dance Science and the Dance Technique Class. Impulse. 1996; 4, 162-172.
Orlick, T. (2007). In Pursuit of Excellence. Champaign, Illinois, USA: Human Kinetics.