A Look at Psychology and Dance
Great directors of ballet have always been intrinsically involved in the costumes of their dancers. Balanchine was no exception. Diaghilev was constantly involved with his costumers. Anyone involved in costuming any dance, be they dance teachers from a recital in the smallest of towns, to the great Balanchine, are interested in dance costuming. Dancers of all ages are interested in costuming and parents responsible for those dancers are interested in costuming. The demographics of dance indicate those participating in dance and in the dance audience is increasing.
Journal articles which identify and track this audience are identified below. These articles indicate adolescent participation in dance is progressively increasing and explain the reasons for the increasing youth participation which directly increases the dance audience.
Psychological Profiles Provided are Skewed for Professional Dancers
In My Opinion These Profiles do not apply to most student dancers
Included in this resource are psychological studies of ballet dancers. While the focus of this website is ballet tutu construction for “Moms” the fact that we are mothers of dancers is relevant. The psychological studies were cited with reference to non-professional dancers and high school and younger dancers. Generally speaking the psychological profile for these dancers is good and dance enhances their lives.
As parents of dancers, and some of us former dancers — as opposed to psychologists studying dancers, we recognize that an interest in dance, particularly an interest that lasts no more than three or four years is not identical to the ten to twelve years of dedication to dance that is required for entering most University Dance Programs. Typically students found in these programs will be exclusively those students with both intellectual and physical aptitude and these are the calibre of students that remain with dance.
I think this is the component these psychological profilers miss. The profilers indicate that a dancer’s success in dance translates to other areas of success in their lives. My belief is that only the successful students, and by that I mean across the board success, remain in dance. The true merit of these psychological profiles lies in their analysis of the professional dancer — not of the dedicated secondary and university level dancer. It is my opinion that only the brightest and best of students have the necessary mental and physical abilities to accept the challenges of advanced ballet and naturally these talents of these students will appear in other aspects of their lives. I do not believe ballet makes the student successful in other areas of their lives I believe it takes a successful person to master ballet. And so I disagree with many of the profiles of the dancers in their analysis of whether ballet creates a student who translates that success into other areas of their lives (which is the position of the profilers) or whether only the successful students succeed at ballet — which is my opinion. See The Exeter News-Letter for an article which addresses successful students who are also involved in ballet. The clear impression that can be drawn is that successful students are attracted to ballet. Ballet does not make successful students.
However, the psychological profile for the professional dancer is quite different from the profile of the non-professional. There seems to be universal agreement that overall students are not harmed by the non-professional study of ballet and these students tend to be the more successful students in other areas as well. There also appears to uniform agreement that the psychological profile of the professional dancer presents a grim psychological reality. Study these articles so that you can understand what your child really faces. They are so young, they cannot begin to understand the realities of the dance world. They think they are invincible. They are not.
If you are unable to obtain copies of these journal articles, contact me and I will help you find them.
The Student Dancer – Julia Buckroyd (text)
This paperback which can be purchased through Amazon deals with the psychological as opposed to the physical aspects of dance training. In “The Student Dancer” Julia Buckroyd brings together the fields of education, welfare, counselling and psychology in relation to dance teaching and training. She considers the ways these can deepen our understanding of the human dimension of dance training, and how they can be practically applied in vocational training schools. Following the substantial body of evidence which shows a high incidence of illness, smoking, injury and eating disorders among dancers and trainees, Buckroyd argues that current dance training is damaging to the welfare of students and needs to change. With examples of good practice, and many ideas, arguments and proposals, she looks at questions such as: the self and the body; adolescence and dance training; learning in groups; male trainees; eating disorders; and career transition. This book is aimed at teachers, students and administrators involved in professional dance training, and professional dance companies. It is also useful for parents of dance trainees as well as for students and teachers in other performance disciplines. See Amazon.com Paperback: 254 pages
An investigation of the relationships among performance anxiety, perfectionism, optimism, and self-efficacy in student performers
by McQuade, Christina Marie, Ph.D., Fordham University, 2009 , 108 pages; AAT 3361368
The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationships among performance anxiety, perfectionism, optimism, and self-efficacy. The sample included 139 undergraduate students who were studying one of the following performance arts: theater, acting, music, musical theater, dance, or speech arts. The majority of participants were matriculated students at a four-year college or university, while a smaller group was attending a postsecondary performing arts institution that specializes in musical theater.
All participants signed an informed consent form and completed a background questionnaire, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, the Life Orientation Test-Revised, and the General Perceived Self-Efficacy Scale. Participants received all of these documents in person or in the mail. There was one principal researcher who administered and scored all of the questionnaires.
Correlational analyses revealed significant and negative relationships between performance anxiety and optimism, and performance anxiety and self-efficacy. The results of a standard multiple regression analysis indicated that perfectionism, optimism, and self-efficacy were predictive of performance anxiety. These findings highlight the importance of understanding how intrapersonal factors may be influencing students’ experiences of performance anxiety.
Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in undergraduate dance majors: A study of female modern dance and ballet students
by Schluger, Alice E., Ph.D., Capella University, 2009 , 125 pages; AAT 3359054
This study investigated disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in undergraduate female dance students from a large metropolitan area. A quantitative, non-experimental ex post facto study design was used to explore differences between modern dance majors and classical ballet dance majors. Data collection was accomplished using two established eating disorder measures: Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) (Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982, “The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric Features and Clinical Correlates”) and Eating Disorder Inventory Perfectionism subscale (EDI-P; Garner, Olmsted, & Polivy, 1983, “The Development and Validation of a Multidimensional Eating Disorder Inventory for Anorexia and Bulimia”). The questionnaires were administered to study participants on-site at three colleges and universities.
Five variables related to eating disorder symptomatology were examined:
- diet concerns,
- bulimia and food preoccupation,
- oral control and social pressure to eat,
- self-oriented perfectionism, and
- socially prescribed perfectionism.
Multivariate analysis of variance and subsequent univariate analyses were performed to compare the two groups of dance majors and determine which variables were most predictive or relevant to eating disorder risk. As anticipated, the results showed that modern dance majors had, on average, lower levels of diet concerns, bulimic behavior/food preoccupation, and oral control than ballet dance majors did. Unexpectedly, however, no statistically significant differences were found between the two groups for the measures of perfectionism. The findings contribute to research in health psychology regarding disordered eating risk factors in athletes and dancers. New information obtained on eating disorder susceptibility in modern dance students helped to address this deficit in the current body of literature.
Exploring the relationship between risk and resilience factors for eating disorders in ballet dancers
by Estanol, Elena, Ph.D., The University of Utah, 2009 , 215 pages; AAT 3370968
The purpose of this study was to examine the risk and resilience factors that may enhance or decrease the risk of eating disorders (EDs) in dancers. Participants were recruited from three states (Utah, Ohio, and Oklahoma) that had highly competitive college dance programs and professional dance companies. Two hundred forty questionnaires were collected, but the final sample was 207 due to missing data.
Risk factors were measured by self-report instruments assessing anxiety, depression, weight pressures in dance, and perfectionism. The outcome variable was measured through three subscales from the Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3): (a) pressure for thinness, (b) bulimia, and (c) body dissatisfaction–which comprised the ED-risk composite. Resilience measures included social support, self-esteem, proactive coping in dance, hope, optimism/pessimism, sense of humor, and spirituality.
The data were analyzed in three phases: (a) Phase I included hierarchical linear modeling to tease out differences among sites; (b) Phase II included correlation analyses, hierarchical regression analyses to test for moderation effects, and confirmatory factor analyses to test the theoretical cluster factors to be utilized in the last phase; and (c) Phase III included structural equation modeling to test three models of the possible interrelationships of risk factors upon ED risk and the possible compensatory role that the resilience factors played.
The analyses yielded the following results: Weight pressures in dance was the risk factor most highly correlated with ED risk, followed by depression, anxiety, and perfectionism, respectively. Resilient factors most highly associated with ED risk in a negative direction included self-esteem, optimism, and dance-specific coping skills. No significant moderation effects were detected. The results of the structural equation modeling analyses suggested that negative affect mediates the relationship between environmental pressures for thinness and overall ED risk. Further, the results supported the idea that resilience factors serve a compensatory function in total ED risk. Sadly, resilience factors did not completely compensate for the impact that specific weight pressures have in the overall ED risk in dancers. Perhaps, further studies should investigate similar environmental or cultural pressures for thinness in the regular population and how they impact the overall ED risk after resilience factors are considered.
Parental influence on disordered eating habits of female adolescents who participate in aesthetic sports versus nonaesthetic sports
by Blusewicz, Erika Annell, Psy.D., Alliant International University, Fresno, 2008 , 118 pages; AAT 3300292
This study examined the relationship between the disordered eating patterns in female adolescents who are associated with the family environment and sport affiliation. More specifically, this study explored the relationship between the athlete’s participation in aesthetic sports (ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading, etc.) versus nonaesthetic sports (soccer, basketball, softball, etc.) and how that choice plays a role in disordered eating patterns when parental control is also examined.
The primary analysis of the specific research hypotheses included independent sample t tests, correlation, and regression analyses. The participants in this study included 28 female adolescent athletes in the following sports: gymnastics, cheerleading, Irish dance, track and field, water polo, basketball, swimming, and soccer. Athletes were mailed (n = 22) or were directly handed ( n = 6) questionnaire packets that included the following: a demographic questionnaire, the Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3), and the Family Assessment Measure-III (FAM-III). The most involved parent/guardian of these athletes was also included in this study ( n = 28).
Findings included a positive correlation between parent- and adolescent-rated control and rate of disordered eating patterns regardless of participation in either an aesthetic or nonaesthetic sport. Findings also included a positive correlation between perceived parental control and perceived adolescent control.
Project seeks to improve dancers’ health
Jacqui Wise. British Medical Journal.
(International edition). London: Jul 12, 2008. Vol. 337, Iss. 7661; pg. 70
A new research project aims to discover why dancers have such a high rate of injuries and to examine ways to keep them fit and healthy. Matthew Wyon, reader in performance science at the University of Wolverhampton, said that dancers have a huge injury occurrence: 80% of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform. The dancers’ health pilot scheme has been devised by Dance UK in partnership with the Olympic Medical Institute, the University of Wolverhampton, and the Laban, a contemporary dance training center in London. The pilot scheme will take place over two and a half years, and the findings will be published in 2012. The 100 professional dancers taking part will receive an in-depth screening comprising a history of their injuries, a health questionnaire, and assessment of their physiological fitness, biomechanical and muscular function, and nutritional and psychological health.
The Psychology of Dance – Jim and Ceci Taylor (Text) – not sure this is a valid work.
Psychology of Dance is a guide to helping dancers of all ages and abilities reach their fullest artistic potential. This reference attempts to focus in an understanding of the psychological issues that most influence dance performance and provides techniques to address the psychological needs of dancers.The text provides a Psychological Program for Enhanced Performance (PPEP) which attempts to provide a format which:
• builds motivation and develops self-confidence;
• presents techniques for maintaining optimal performance intensity;
• shows how to improve concentration and use dance imagery;
• provides strategies for overcoming slumps and avoiding stress and burnout; and
• helps the injured dancer through the physical and psychological rehabilitation process.
I am neither endorsing nor critiquing this work. I simply explain that it is available. I was left wondering if either of the authors were actually dancers? See Amazon.Com
The articles below were located through Ebsco Host. Your public library may participate in this program.
Alter, Judith B. Why dance students pursue dance:
Studies of dance students from 1953 to 1993. Dance Research Journal, Winter 97, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p70.
This article investigates why students pursue dancing as a professional career based on studies of dance students from 1953 to 1993. The article indicates there is a growth trend in the pursuit of dance and in the growth of the audience.
Bakker, F.C. Personality Differences between Young Dancers and Nondancers. Personality and Individual Differences.
Vol. 12, Issue 7, p. 671.
Bakker studied junior ballet dancers training for a professional career and spending fifteen or more hours a week on ballet. He noted this training appeals to a distinct subculture: relatively introverted, emotional, and strongly achievement motivated. He states the atmosphere might to some degree strengthen this profile. Those who have dropped out of professional ballet school choose dancing as a hobby and are attracted by the sub-culture of dance.
Barnes, Clive. Dressing Up Dance. Dance Magazine, Nov. 99, Vol. 73 Issue 11, p110.
I MISS CLIVE BARNES. Prior to 1929, and the death of Diaghilev it was di rigeur for ballet costumes to embellish the atmosphere of the ballet and was a major part of the expression of the dance. In this article Clive Barnes laments that dressing for dance has become almost as anachronistic as dressing for dinner. He gives credit to the minimalist costuming in instances where it has been effective i.e. Balanchine’s need to rustle up a new ballet on the cheap with his black and white ballets and his experimentation with neoclassicism. He applauds Martha Graham’s ability to design her own costumes for her own dances and expertly mesh the two. However, he notes, not all choreographers are Balanchine or Graham and even points to several of Balanchine’s costuming mistakes, implying that Karinska was there to save him from himself.
He laments Frederick Ashton’s weak sense of costuming, which clearly has been generally overcome in the restaging of the popular Cinderella. He praises the contemporaries and often times collaborators of Diaghilev, Alexander Benois and Leon Bakst and their obsession with costume for the dance. He calls them, innovators, and revolutionaries in a way, who wanted among other changes in the whole art of ballet, to bring costumes into a symbiotic relationship with dance. He noted the influence of Isadora Duncan and her simple flowing gowns used to enhance her movement. He praised Louie Fuller, and the diaphanous multicolored veils which became an integral part of her expression.
He paints a portrait of ballet costuming spanning his long career which few have had the opportunity to view first hand.
Daley, Amanda J.; Buchanan, Joanne.
Aerobic dance and physical self-perceptions in female adolescents. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, Jun99, Vol. 70 Issue 2, p196.
This article indicates that the benefits adolescent dancers receive from dance will keep them coming back. The growth of adolescent dancers inevitably leads to ballet audience growth.
Kalljopuska, M. Empathy, self-esteem and creativity among junior ballet dancers.
Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69, 1227-1234.
Kalliopuska studied non-professional dancers. The results from non-professional dancers differ significantly from the studies of professional dancers.
Kalliopuska defines self esteem as the fact that one appreciates, accepts and respects oneself. A very low self esteem may reflect feeling s of inferiority, self blame, or even self hatred. To be able to express the direction that feels right requires strong self esteem of the dancer.
In this article Kalliopsucka evaluates dance as medium which combines the physical, aesthetic, and intellectual aspect of personality. She found that empathy is an important tool for a ballet dancer because dancer must be able to express the language of the art, dance, with the whole body. In projecting a role, a dancer has to try to convey to the audience what is central and essential in the role.
She evaluated the self esteem of dancer from the ages of 9 to 17 and found classical ballet promotes development of sound self esteem positive self respect and increased self confidence in the young. The years of dancing and self esteem correlate. Classic ballet as a hobby promotes the development of a person’s sensitivity and empathy because empathy is expressed through emotions, kinesthetic expression and intellectual understanding. Generally, the hobby of ballet seems to develop strong sense of empathy in junior dancers. The ballet students manage normal school work better than average students.
She found that ballet demanded both psychic endurance and strong self-esteem. One learns to judge critically one’s own achievements. A goal for dancers is a mastery of dance technique, gaining profound knowledge of the history of dance and of music and of the place of dance in the culture. Accomplishing these goals developed self-esteem.
Murray, Louis. Dancing in the Millennium:
An International Conference. Dance Research Journal, Winter2000/2001, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p. 144.
This article focus not on the past of dance but its future which is strong. It indicates that dance schools will grow by 15-20 percent in the next twenty years With this growth forecast it appears that more and more mothers and dancing daughters will be interested in ballet tutu construction. There is no indication that classical ballet will loose dancers to other forms of dance. Dancing in the Millennium was the topic at the international dance conference.
Sussmann, Leila. Dance audiences:
Answered and unanswered questions. Dance Research Journal, Spring98, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p. 54.
This is the definitive study on the nature of the dance audience. It was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and looks at the various qualitative and quantitative studies of dance audiences. It examines the changes in the educational composition of the ballet audience from the traditional norms, the educational composition of the modern dance audience and perceptions of modern dance and ballet. As the middle class in our country has grown so has the involvement in dance whether at the audience level of the level of participation through a family member. This is a growing segment of our society.
Taylor, L.D. The MMPI-2 and junior ballet dancers.
Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 22, Issue 4, p. 521 526.
MMPI-2 was given to ballet majors at an accredited midwestern university which indicated that dancers may have a unique MMPI-2 profile. The ballet pre-professionals were found to have higher physical complaints, sensitivity to criticism, strong sense of femininity, higher creativity, and perfectionist tendencies. Taylor notes that the timing of the test was not the best in that a class ballet requiring hours of work had just been completed with three weeks left to prepare for the Nutcracker.
A thin line; Dancer/psychologist combines roles to examine eating disorders;
Elizabeth Cooney. Dec 24, 2007. pg. E.1
During her four years at Dartmouth and the while earning her Ph.D. in psychology at Yale, she continued to dance professionally. Now 26, she combines her two roles with the focus of her research: eating disorders among ballet dancers. She joined the Boston Dance Company’s production of “The Nutcracker” in Worcester last week, where she was a candy cane and a snowflake in the Christmas confection.
“It’s not just the ballet environment,” she said. “Dancers with eating disorders might self-select that environment.”
Jennifer J. Thomas sees patients by day, part of her psychology internship at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.
Evenings and weekends, especially at this time of year, audiences see her.
“Eating disorders are definitely treatable,” she said.
Cliques and Dance – Most Parents will confront this issue if their children remain in dance
From Performing Arts Media LLC Apr 2010
Mary and Betty,* dance students at Howell High School in Howell, New Jersey, had been good friends for as long as they could remember. They stood next to each other at the barre every day, and Mary even chose Betty to be in her piece for a student choreography class. But when Betty skipped some of Mary’s rehearsals, Mary replaced her with another girl. A furious Betty then announced that the two were no longer friends, starting a social war that eventually grew so severe the parents of the two girls demanded that the school’s director intervene.
Every teacher knows that there’s a social aspect to dance training, whether students are choosing barre buddies or hanging out in the dressing room after rehearsal. But serious problems can occur when these friendships start to affect what’s happening in class. Read More Here …..
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the ability to work effectively with a group is bigger than dance class-it’s a life skill. Remind your older students that in professional situations, dance-related or otherwise, they’ll need to be able to work with many different types of people to achieve success. Dance class is the perfect place to start practicing.
Exploring the Social-Environmental Determinants of Well- and Ill-Being in Dancers: A Test of Basic Needs Theory
Eleanor Quested – Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology
Feb 2010 Vol. 32 Iss. 1; pg. 3
Summary and Abstract of Article: Grounded in the basic needs mini-theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), this study examined the interplay among perceptions of the social environment manifested in vocational dance schools, basic need satisfaction, and indices of elite dancers’ well- and ill-being. The hypothesized mediating role of need satisfaction was also tested. Dancers (N = 392) completed a questionnaire tapping the targeted variables. Structural equation modeling supported a model in which perceptions of task-involving dance environments positively predicted need satisfaction. Perceived ego-involving climates negatively corresponded with competence and relatedness. Perceptions of autonomy support were positively related to autonomy and relatedness. Need satisfaction positively predicted positive affect. Competence and relatedness satisfaction corresponded negatively to reported negative affect. Emotional and physical exhaustion was not related to need satisfaction. Partial support emerged for the assumed mediation of the needs.
Two-phase survey of eating disorders in gifted dance and non-dance high-school students in Taiwan
Meg Mei-Chih Tseng, David Fang, Ming-Been Lee, Wei-Chu Chie, et al. Psychological Medicine. Cambridge: Aug 2007. Vol. 37, Iss. 8; pg. 1085, 12 pgs
Despite a growing body of literature reporting eating disorders (EDs) in non-Western countries in recent years, most of these studies are limited to questionnaire-based surveys or case-series studies. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence and correlates of EDs in Taiwanese high-school students.
Methods: The study subjects consisted of all the female high-school students enrolled in the gifted dance class in 2003 in Taiwan ( n =655) and non-dance female students randomly chosen from the same school ( n =1251). All the participants were asked to complete self-report questionnaires, including the 26-item Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) and the Bulimic Investigatory Test Edinburgh (BITE). All the screen positives and an approximate 10% random sample of the screen negatives were then interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis I Disorders Patient Version (SCID-I/P).
Results: The prevalence of individual EDs was much higher in the dance [0•7% for anorexia nervosa (AN), 2•5% for bulimia nervosa (BN) and 4•8% for EDs, not otherwise specified (EDNOS)] than in the non-dance (0•1, 1•0 and 0•7% respectively) students. Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed that being in the dance class, higher concern about body shape and lower family support were correlates of EDs for all students, whereas lower parental education level was associated with EDs only for non-dance students.
Conclusion: EDs were more prevalent in the weight-concerned subpopulation. Although AN is still rare, BN has emerged as a comparable prevalent disorder in Taiwan, as in Western countries.
Encyclopediae of Dance
Chujoy, Anatole and P. W. Manchester,P.W., ed. The Dance Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1967. (Out of Print.)
This “encyclopedia” was unique in its time. I might be disappointing to a modern audience accustomed to color photos and elaborate compositions. However, if it could be purchased at a reasonable used price it would be a good addition to any library and well worth the shelf space.
Cohen, Selma Jeanne Cohen, ed. International Encyclopedia of Dance : A Project of Dance Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 1998. ($1.475.75)
This is the pre-eminent dance encylopedia. Its price is prohibitive for most libraries and in fact the UNT library does not contain this encyclopedia, although I would recommend it. It is wonderful and should be essential for any university library which offers dance.
Clarke, Mary and Vaughn, David, ed. Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet. Bookthrift Company, 1980. (Out of print.)
This Encyclopedia is appropriate for any library on a budget if it could be purchased used at a reasonable price. I would recommend it for all libraries and it would support any reseach a student might attempt. Obviously, it cannot compete with the International Encyclopedia of Dance but most libraries can afford this encyclopedia. It is extremely difficult to find this type of information on dance in one publication. This could be an important reference.