Everlea Bryant wasn’t a medical student. She was a dance performance major at the University of Florida—which made designing a dance program for youth with sickle cell anemia especially daunting. Individuals with sickle cell anemia have a range of limitations, including osteopathic issues and severe, sudden pain crises that can be triggered by dehydration or too much exercise.

 

To create the program, which Bryant completed as part of her Dance in Healthcare certificate at the University of Florida, she examined hundreds of medical journal articles, synthesizing information about the disease, its symptoms and effective (and ineffective) exercise programs. She summarized her findings and, working alongside Professor Jill Sonke-Henderson, developed a dance program that incorporated contemporary jazz and hip-hop movement while allowing for frequent breaks and avoiding jumps, squats or weight-bearing moves. Bryant’s project was implemented through Shands HealthCare in Gainsville, Florida, and continues to operate today.

 

The Dance in Healthcare certification is a joint effort of the UF School of Theatre and Dance and the Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education (CAHRE), which was co-founded by Sonke-Henderson. The 12-credit course of study incorporates seminar, studio and clinical coursework. Students learn the historical and contemporary use of the arts in healthcare, examine links between medicine and dance and participate in over 120 hours of clinical work at hospitals or other healthcare facilities. The goal is to develop creative artists who use movement to connect with people in a healthful way.

 

Dr. Rusti Brandman, co-director emeritus of CAHRE, says that life in the hospital can be a restrictive, passive experience for patients. “For an artist to come in and take what’s important to you—a movement or type of music or idea—and implement it as a dance or painting is very validating and healing,” she says.

 

While arts in medicine is a relatively new field, a 2007 survey of more than 1,800 healthcare facilities found that over 40 percent of them had arts programs. Artists such as Liz Lerman, Anna Halprin and Mark Morris have incorporated dance in healthcare into their companies’ work. And dancers like Bryant have found the UF training and certification a helpful credential and tool.

 

The dance-in-healthcare model, Brandman notes, operates differently from dance therapy. Dance therapy uses a psychotherapeutic model; practitioners use movement as a diagnostic tool and work toward a desired outcome. Dance in Healthcare, meanwhile, is therapeutic, but the artists attempt to connect with patients and contribute to their mental, physical and emotional well-being. Unlike dance therapy programs, which focus on patient outcomes, dance in healthcare emphasizes the ability to connect with patients through the creative process, without prescribed results.

 

When working in a healthcare setting, a dance artist’s goal is not necessarily to teach patients specific techniques, but to lead them through their own creative processes. “The artist is a kind of tour guide,” Brandman says. “Thus they need to have a keen awareness of the other person.” The UF certificate is open to non-dance majors, but students are expected to have an intermediate proficiency in at least one dance technique, as well as an acquaintance with improvisation and dance composition.

 

Hands-on clinical work, which introduces students to the logistics and life within the hospital, is an integral part of the certificate. Students shadow Brandman, Sonke-Henderson and other artists-in-residence as they work with patients. This work might take shape as one-on-one sessions in a patient’s room, a group workshop or a hospital performance.

 

The movements the dancers model and perform are patient-driven. For example, a woman awaiting a lung transplant describes the type of dance she will do when she’s recovered. Then an artist at her bedside translates these visions into improvised movement. Group workshops or onsite performances may be more technical and directed at patient health, such as helping individuals with cystic fibrosis practice Pilates and Laban breathing exercises.

 

The certificate is a unique credential for dancers seeking to launch or enhance their careers. Not only does it increase a dancer’s skill set and marketability, Brandman says that the ability to connect a funding proposal to health-related goals is “one more way that a company’s grant proposal might stand out.”

 

Bryant sees a direct link between her coursework and her current position as the owner of a Pilates, health and dance facility. “I had to learn how to deal with limitations, and work with medical partners, in an extremely structured environment,” she says. “When a client comes to me now and says, ‘I have such-and-such limitation,’ I don’t even flinch.” DT

 

Sara Versluis is a freelance writer in Virginia.

 

Photo: Dance major Sea Lee assists a Dance for Life participant at the barre. (courtesy of Lauren Arce)

Dance Teachers Trending
"Music is magical," says Black. "It just transforms kids." Photo courtesy of Black

After 31 years of teaching, Kim Black has mastered how to reach young dancers. Between a studio and private school, she teaches 34 classes per week in Burlington, North Carolina: That's 238 kids from ages 2 to 6 years old. "You have to make them fall in love with dance," says Black. The music, she says, cues this engagement.

Keep reading...
Site Network

2019's movies featured some truly fantastic dancing, thanks to the hard work of many talented choreographers. But you won't see any of those brilliant artists recognized at the Academy Awards. And we're (still) not OK with that.

So we're taking matters into our own jazz hands.

On February 7—just before the Oscars ceremony—we'll present a Dance Spirit award for the best movie choreography of 2019. With your help, we've narrowed the field to seven choreographers, artists whose moves electrified some of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year.

Keep reading...
Dance Teachers Trending
Kathryn Alter (left). Photo by Alexis Ziemski

In every class Kathryn Alter teaches, two things are immediately evident: how thoughtfully she chooses her words, and how much glee she gets from dancing the movement and style of modern choreographer José Limón. At the 2019 Limón summer workshop at Kent State University, Alter demonstrated a turning triplet with her arms fully outstretched, a smile stretching easily across her face. "It should be as if…" She paused to think of the perfect analogy that would help the dancers find the necessary circularity of the movement. "As if you live in a doughnut!" she finished, grinning broadly. The dancers gathered around her laughed—her smile and love for something as foundational as a triplet was contagious.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Melanie George (right). Photo by Grace Corapi, courtesy of George

Teachers from coast to coast are pushing students to move outside the constraints of popular music. There is a consensus that the earlier you introduce varied musical forms, the more adept and adaptable a dancer's musicality will be.

New York–based jazz scholar and teacher Melanie George notices that many students' relationships to music can be reductive: They may think exclusively about lyrics or accents. But jazz, for example, is about swinging: an embodied comprehension of instrumentation that only comes with musical acuity. "Students are ready for this specificity, even if we aren't giving it to them," she says. When her students understand that there is a technique to listening, it becomes less about going forward, and more about going deeper into the sound and into their bodies.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in a scene from An American in Paris. Courtesy Fathom Events.

If you loved Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris on Broadway, you can now see the 1951 Oscar-winning movie it's based on in all its Technicolor glory. Fathom Events will present MGM's An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and French ballerina Leslie Caron, and with music by George and Ira Gershwin, in select theaters nationwide January 19 and 22.

Keep reading...
Instagram
Photo by Rachel Papo

Alicia Graf Mack's journey to become director of The Juilliard School's Dance Division—the youngest person to hold the position, and the first woman of color—was anything but a straight line. Yes, she's danced with prestigious companies: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But Mack also has a BA in history from Columbia University and an MA in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis; she pursued both degrees during breaks in her performing career, taken to recover from injuries and autoimmune disease flare-ups.

As an undergrad, she briefly interned at JPMorgan Chase in marketing and philanthropic giving, and she later made arts administration central to her graduate work, assuming that she'd eventually take an administrative role with a dance organization.

Keep reading...
Dance Teachers Trending
Morrissey (left). Photo courtesy of Interlochen Center for the Arts

When Joseph Morrissey first took the helm of the dance division at Interlochen Center for the Arts, a boarding high school in Interlochen, Michigan, he found a fully established pre-professional program with space to grow. And his vision was big, with plans to stage the kind of ambitious repertory he'd experienced during his dance career. But the realities quickly set in. During his first year in 2015, the department was denied by the George Balanchine Trust to license any Balanchine ballets—the dancers were not quite ready.

This early disappointment didn't derail Morrissey. In just four years, he has not only raised Interlochen's training standards, he's staged ambitious full-length ballets and been granted the rights to works by Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille and, yes, Balanchine. Guest artists regularly visit, and he's initiated major plans to expand the dance department building. Morrissey is only 37, but it should come as no surprise that he's done so much so fast—his entire life's journey has prepared him to be an artistic leader.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Valerie Amiss with students. Photo by Tracie Van Auken, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet

Jared Nelson, artistic director of California Ballet, demonstrates a tight fifth position as he talks to his class about the importance of rotating from the hips. "Having a visual image helped me as a dancer, so I try to demonstrate as much as possible," he says. "But I am also very conscious of word choice. Every dancer is different, and you have to phrase things in a language they will understand."

Teachers should always be aware of how they communicate with their students, including how they choose language for different individuals, classes or situations. Using the right terminology in early stages of training will ensure that students learn the proper names of steps. This foundation is crucial, particularly when so much of the classical vocabulary has been substituted by nicknames and phrases. (Think "lame duck" or "step-up turn" in place of piqué en dehors.) But good use of language also means using imagery and positive reinforcement to ensure the right kind of messaging. What teachers say in the studio could make the difference between dancers who listen—and ones who really hear.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Dance Theatre of Harlem's Derek Brockington and Da'Von Doane in Claudia Schreier's Passage. Photo by Brian Callan, courtesy of DTH

Back to your routine after the holidays, but still looking for something to watch? Then this new PBS documentary titled Dancing on the Shoulders of Giants is for you. The hour-long film tracks the creation of two dance pieces: Claudia Schreier's Passage for Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Sir Richard Alston's Arrived featuring students of Norfolk's Governor's School for the Arts. Both works were co-commissioned by the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Arts Festival last May, in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of Africans to English North America and the history of slavery that followed.

Keep reading...
Instagram
Getty Images

Q: My tween is begging me to go to a faraway summer intensive, claiming "all my friends are going." How do I know if she's ready?

A: It can feel like a rite of passage for serious dancers to attend an intensive at a major ballet school. They dance all day and often explore the area's surroundings or attend performances on weekends. But living away from home, having a roommate and living the "dorm life" can be a challenge.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Kensington Macmillen in class at CPYB. Photo by Joel Thomas Photography, courtesy of CPYB

Last year, Kensington MacMillen auditioned for summer programs away from home for the first time. A longtime Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet student, MacMillen had spent previous summers at her home studio, but now she was ready to branch out. After auditioning for three programs, her first response was a rejection from Miami City Ballet.

"A bunch of people from here had gotten in, and I didn't," she says. "So then you just kind of panic." She was still waiting to hear from the other programs and worried that she'd have nowhere to go.

Keep reading...
Dancer Health
Physical therapist Meredith Butulis in action. Photo courtesy of Twin Cities Orthopedics

After a long tennis match or a basketball game, elite athletes often head straight to the locker room and hit the exercise bike. On first thought, this might seem to be overtraining, but in fact, they are pedaling as a way to cool down properly.

"All of our blood vessels get dilated and blood goes out to muscles when we are doing cardiovascular work," says Meredith Butulis, a physical therapist specializing in dance medicine. "The blood goes mostly to the leg muscles, and blood pooling there is a real phenomenon. If your blood doesn't get back to the heart and brain, you can pass out."

She goes on to explain there are two ways to recover from an intense workout: actively, using a low-intensity movement to gradually bring the heart rate down, or passively, with no activity at all. The latter requires little explanation—how many times have you seen a dancer do a run-through and follow it up by sitting down on the side of the studio in a static stretch? But for many reasons, including the real possibility of blood pooling that Butulis describes, a passive recovery is not the best choice for dancers.

Keep reading...

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox