June 4, 2019

Leading-edge research helps reduce injuries among ballet dancers

Purchase tickets for Alberta Ballet School's year-end performance on June 8 and learn more about research collaboration with UCalgary

Watch research in action at the Alberta Ballet School’s year-end performance Les Sylphides and Other Works on June 8.

This celebratory evening showcases performances by the school’s rigorously trained students from grades 7 through 12, including a contemporary ballet piece choreographed by esteemed guest Josh Beamish.

The performance will begin with the famous Grand Défilé, featuring more than 130 students on stage. Closing out the evening, professional division students and Alberta Ballet trainees will perform an impressive triple bill, ending with the romantic reverie Les Sylphides, widely considered to be the first purely abstract ballet. 

Dance Science research partnership leading injury reduction and prevention

In addition to watching the high-calibre performances, attendees will also enjoy in-lobby activities showcasing UCalgary’s research partnership with the Alberta Ballet community — one of few university-ballet school collaborations in the world.

The research collaboration is informed by leading-edge studies into injury reduction and prevention by the University of Calgary's Dr. Sarah Kenny, PhD. The research activities on display will include Dance Talks, a two-way exchange of ideas involving UCalgary researchers, community practitioners and performers; as well as demonstrations of physiotherapy techniques that will highlight the many ways dance and science intersect.

“Dance scientists bring understanding and knowledge from sport science areas including exercise physiology, biomechanics and performance psychology, and apply it to dance populations,” says Kenny.

“Originally, dance science came from the strong need to support the health of the dancer. A lot of the work, research and education focuses on how we can improve the dancer’s experience so that they have longer, more successful careers while minimizing risk of injury.”

Cultivating best practices and improving dancer health

Kenny and the school’s director, Ashley McNeil, report noticeable benefits for dancer health, since they began data collection and pre-season screening with the Alberta Ballet School dancers four years ago.

“Comparing year one and year two, we’ve seen a 10-per-cent reduction in injuries without implementing any formal preventive strategies,” says Kenny. “As our partnership grows, we hope to continue reducing the prevalence of injury while increasing the number of dancers seeking care, cultivating best practices that put us at the forefront of dance science research.”

“The education from this research project has impacted our programming, how we train our students and the support systems we put in place for injury prevention,” McNeil adds. “We’ve reported significantly lower injury rates and time loss because of the study. Over the long term, this research will be instrumental in educating future dancers and shaping training curriculums and philosophies to prioritize injury prevention.”

In addition to the world-renowned research partnership with the Alberta Ballet School, UCalgary’s combined Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Bachelor of Kinesiology degree is the first of its kind in Canada, emphasizing the importance of integrating kinesiology disciplines to develop best practices in dance teaching and training, improve dancer health and well-being, and enhance overall artistic performance.

Purchase tickets for the Alberta Ballet School’s year-end performance Les Sylphides and Other Works at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on June 8 at 7:30 p.m.