Research has demonstrated that the aesthetic quality of dance performance is in part explained by fitness and that dancers who participate in structured fitness programs subsequently receive higher ratings on measures of performance quality.
Upper-body muscular endurance is one aspect of fitness that has been shown to relate to aesthetic competence. Modern dance relies heavily on upper-body work, particularly when handstands, falls, and partnering are included in performances.
It’s reasonable to assume that, given the nature of their discipline, modern dancers would demonstrate greater upper-body endurance than non-dancers, but there’s evidence to suggest this may not be the case.
Ambegaonkar et al. (2012) used a standardized “knee” push-up test to examine differences in upper-body muscular endurance between two groups of female university students: modern dancers (n = 17) and recreationally active non-dancers (n = 15) who exercised at least three days a week. Dancers trained an average of 20.4 hours a week; non-dancers trained an average of 3.3 hours a week.
Despite the large difference in training volume between the two groups, there was no reliable difference in upper-body endurance. Dancers averaged 22.2 push-ups before failure, compared to 19.9 for non-dancers (see graph below). Height was negatively related to push-up scores. In other words, taller individuals performed fewer push-ups.
Although producing quality movement in modern dance requires upper-body endurance, university-level modern dancers were equivalent to recreationally active non-dancers in this aspect of fitness. Taller dancers appear to be at greater risk. Training programs for modern dancers should specifically target upper-body development.
Source: Ambegaonkar, J. P., Caswell, S. V., Winchester, J. B., Caswell, A. A., & Andre, A. A. (2012). Upper-body muscular endurance in female university-level modern dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 16, 3-7.