June 6, 2019

Class of 2019: First cohort of students graduate with combined dance and kinesiology degree

UCalgary one of first in world to offer degree in emerging field of dance science

Hayley McDougall started her undergraduate studies as a dance major with hopes of pursuing kinesiology or biology courses alongside her dance degree.

“It was our very first lab with the cadavers that absolutely enthralled me. I could actually see science come to life in front of my eyes. I could see real human muscles and organs among the bodies and could finally imagine the whole system working in unity to move, to dance,” says McDougall.

That’s when she decided to apply for the combined degree.

This June, the University of Calgary will celebrate the graduation of its first four students with both a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree.

Unique opportunity

The combined dance and kinesiology undergraduate degree, introduced in the fall of 2014, is unique in Canada and one of a small number of programs internationally. With a current cohort of 20 BKin/BA Dance majors, the University of Calgary is taking an active leadership role in advancing the field of dance science.

“The program merges two of my strongest passions, dance and science, in a way that I didn't think was possible prior to post-secondary,” says McDougall.

Dance science important for injury reduction and prevention

Under the leadership of assistant professor Dr. Sarah Kenny, PhD, students with a strong dance background are given a solid foundation in the science of human movement performance. The goal is to add dance practice as a distinct area of study to many existing programs in the sport sciences so that dancers, like athletes, benefit from the tremendous advances that have been made in training for high performance and injury prevention.

During the past five years, McDougall and her peers Lindsay Morrison, Alexandra Toutant and Melinda Coetzee have worked hard in dance studios, the human performance research lab, and on stage.

“An undergraduate degree in dance is challenging, and an undergraduate degree in kinesiology is challenging; together they are extremely challenging but in complementary ways. The academic stressors of the kinesiology requirements were managed by the physical and creative stressors of the dance requirements, and vice versa,” says McDougall.

Dance as art and science

On top of the combined degree program, Hayley McDougall is the first BKin/BA Dance student to complete a kinesiology honours thesis. With the support of Kenny, McDougall surveyed Calgary-based Highland dancers to find out more about the burden of injury that these dancers are experiencing as well as the risk factors they are exposed to.

“I jumped at the opportunity to further merge my two passions: injury prevention and Highland dance. Literature on this form of dance is scarce in general, and practically nonexistent in the field of sport injury epidemiology,” says McDougall.

The future is wide open

McDougall will present her findings at the annual International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference in Montreal in October 2019. She will also submit her honours manuscript for publication in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

“Looking forward, I feel as if I have more options now that I have degrees in both dance and kinesiology,” says McDougall.

“For this coming year I have plans to complete my Healthy Dance Practice teaching certificate through Safe in Dance International. I’m also planning to dance in several performances in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. And next year, I will begin the application process to attend graduate school and/or continue learning about myself through my job search in the fields of kinesiology and dance, hopefully merged.”