IADMS Big Messy Conversations: “How did we get here?” – How did it go?

Author: Claire Farmer on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee

The first of the IADMS Big Messy Conversations, curated by the Dance Educators’ Committee took place on April 25 with attendees from all corners of the globe. Amongst the experienced voices and newcomers to the table were those from Denver, Washington, New York, Cyprus, UK, Michigan, Portugal, Hong Kong, Sweden and Australia, to name a few. Rather than identifying facts, this inaugural conversation aimed to open doors for new discussions, open to all voices and passions.

The purpose of this initial conversation was to look at the history of dance science, not a timeline of events but a collection of experiences and narrative--some of which we know, some that perhaps have not been told--and to reflect on what might be missing in our understanding of the past, all to help us advance our next steps.

Hosted by Ellie Kusner, Joe Bowie and Brenton Surgenor of the Dance Educators’ Committee this virtual long table began with establishing ground rules, which included listen to understand; be respectful of one another; be willing to do things differently; and embrace discomfort. Then, both those with a rich past in dance science and those new to the field, engaged in an activity designed to enhance “socioception”, locating themselves amongst each other in the conversation. During the ensuing conversation, invited guests Emma Redding, Gayanne Grossman, Irene Dowd and Janet Karin, provided perspectives on the journey dance science has travelled thus far, and those who have influenced this along the way, before and after the term “dance science” was popularized.

Asked to consider where they first heard the term “dance science”, many struggled to identify the origins of the term, but cited early dance kinesiologists Karen Clippinger and Sally Fitt, as well as somatic practice pioneers Martha Myers, Irene Dowd and Lulu Sweigard as bringing the practices of dance science into awareness. Alongside this, there was discussion around the inclusion of dance science practices by dance educators. As Emma Redding and Janet Karin pointed out, dancers and dance educators are naturally curious about how the body works, how movement is learned, and how this appears in the different bodies in front of them. We are therefore all involved, as dancers, educators, practitioners and researchers in dance science, whether we choose to name it as such or not.

Those encountering dance science at a later stage in its evolution came into contact with it initially through internet searches that led them to IADMS, at IADMS workshops and conferences, or through dance science researchers, practitioners and educators such as Emma Redding and Shaw Bronner. Some first came into contact with dance science through injuries during their professional dance careers.

As the term “dance science” becomes more commonplace, Emma Redding raised the questions: When we name something, do we then have to define it? And in so doing are we restricting ourselves and potentially omitting ideas that are yet to come? As dance science continues to expand and develop internationally, the conversation also turned to people and topics that have not yet been included. Discussion ensued around somatic practices in dance science research, as well as interests in neuroscience, ethics, and the social sciences, which some identified as currently under-represented in the field. The conversation here also allowed room for new voices to discuss the possibilities moving forwards and for us to consider our varying roles within the context of dance science and IADMS. Joe Bowie challenged listeners to consider, “What can you do to contribute overall to equity and presence in the field of dance medicine and science and IADMS?”

After the conversation officially ended, many participants remained in the virtual “lobby” and continued to engage in vibrant conversation. Many newer practitioners of dance science expressed their ideas and concerns to the smaller group, which included Gayanne Grossman and Irene Dowd, who listened intently and also imparted valuable insights. In response to a question related to applying dance science research in the classroom, Irene Dowd advised asking students their goals and allowing these to guide course content and delivery; a perfect segue to our next Big Messy Conversation: What do students want today?

If you are interested in joining the next conversation, watch for upcoming news in IADMS emails, on our website, and across our social media platforms.