Healthy Dancer Canada Conference 2017

Author: Alyssa Perron on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee 

This year’s annual Healthy Dancer Canada (HDC) Conference, held in Calgary, Alberta, brought together a diverse community of dance educators, medical practitioners, researchers, and artists from across Canada and around the globe. A breadth of topics were covered, all fitting within the conference theme: “Science to Studio to Stage”. Particular emphasis was given to the role of the dance educator, and on actively translating research into practice, which was definitely a highlight of all presentations. 

The three-day conference began with a warm welcome reception and a viewing of Calgary’s professional jazz dance company, Decidedly Jazz Dance’s, dress rehearsal, followed by an artist talkback. This set the stage for a weekend of discussions, collaborations, and practical applications of ideas aimed to improve dancer health. 

Our next morning began with a delightful breakfast and roundtable discussions before the first session. The agenda for the weekend was full of presentations in lecture, poster, and workshop formats. Question periods had a novel arrangement this year. Three consecutive presentations were followed by a longer, panel-style Q&A. This unique arrangement fostered a sense of community, encouraged interdisciplinary debate and sharing of ideas, and promoted a depth of discussion between delegates. In addition, this time created space for connections to be made between the ideas brought forth in the lectures and workshops, enabling conversation that otherwise may not have arisen. 

Jennifer Bezaire, Siobhan Mitchell and Erika Mayall

Recurring themes of injury prevalence and related subjects including hypermobility, psychological pressures, and coping skills during periods of injury were discussed at length. Several speakers discussed how they were using previous research to implement practical programs in dance companies and schools, along with nuanced approaches to supplementary training. Emerging concepts, such as social media influences, alternative healing through First Nations dance, and the role of intention within performance, allowed delegates to consider dance medicine and science through a holistic, alternative lens. 

One highlight of the conference was Physiotherapist, Erika Mayall’s research on “Instaculture; the effects of social media and Instagram culture on young dancers”, in which she discussed new challenges of ensuring young dancers’ physical and mental health in this technological era. Young dancers seem to be willing to put themselves at risk for the “perfect shot” or more “likes” on a photo, and there is a growing problem with adolescent dancers idolizing, and normalizing potentially harmful tricks, contortions, and training styles. Another enlightening session was a lecture discussing the timing of maturation and how different timings have implications on health, training, and performance of female dancers. This work was presented by PhD Candidate, Siobhan Mitchell, who was this year’s winner of the HDC Research Award and serves as the IADMS Student Committee Chair – Congratulations Siobhan! 

It was an incredible weekend, with a feeling not just of dissemination, but of true knowledge exchange. Healthy Dancer Canada’s next conference will be held in Toronto in Fall of 2018 and will mark 10 years of this important organization - hope to see you there! 

Alyssa Perron BA, MSc is a member of The Healthy Dancer Canada Conference committee.