The benefits of supplemental fitness training for dancers have been established. For example, Koutedakis et al. (2007) found that dance instructors’ ratings of performance quality were higher for modern dancers who completed a 12-week fitness program than for control group dancers in the same company.
The primary limitation of that study was that agreement among raters in the measure of performance quality was not assessed. If there are large differences in examiners’ ratings, it’s difficult to know whether performance quality is what’s truly being measured.
An attempt to improve the measurement of dance performance quality was made by Angioi et al. (2007). In this study, ratings of “aesthetic competence” were made by directors of dance companies who used a standardized scoring protocol. Agreement among raters was greater than 90%.
The results also showed that higher levels of fitness were associated with more favorable aesthetic competence ratings. Dancers with the greatest lower body power (vertical jump height) and upper body muscular endurance (push-ups) received the highest performance quality scores.
Collectively, these results demonstrated that a) aesthetic competence is an accurate measure of performance quality and b) fitness predicts performance quality. The question that remained unanswered, however, was whether participating in an adjunct fitness program would result in improvements in dance quality. This was examined in a follow-up study.
Fitness Training for Dancers
Angioi et al. (2012) recruited preprofessional and professional female contemporary dancers and randomly assigned them to a supplemental fitness program or a control group.
The fitness training had two primary components. The first was circuit training (CT) with plyometric and resistance exercises.
Circuit training involves moving from exercise to exercise with limited periods of rest. This approach is ideal for promoting power (a combination of strength and speed) and muscular endurance. The other advantage of circuit training is that it’s less likely than conventional weight training to promote muscle growth, which is desirable for dancers who want to minimize body mass.
The second component of the fitness training program was whole body vibration (WBV). Dancers were instructed to assume various dance-related positions (e.g., squat, lunge, relevé) while standing on a vibrating platfrom that stimulates muscle contractions. WBV was selected as a training protocol for three reasons:
- It’s an effective strategy for building power and active flexibility in dancers
- It requires less time than conventional fitness training to produce a training effect
- It’s unlikely to result in increased muscle mass
All dancers in the fitness and control conditions participated in their regular dance classes. Those in the fitness condition participated in the six-week fitness program twice each week for one hour sessions. CT was presented first, followed by WBV.
Dancers in the control condition participated in two additional one-hour contemporary dance technique classes each week.
Before the fitness program, there were no differences between the groups in physical characteristics, fitness, or aesthetic competence.
After the six-week period, fitness program participants experienced reliable improvements in aerobic fitness, lower body power, and upper body muscular endurance. Their aesthetic competence ratings also increased.
Control group participants experienced a small improvement in aerobic fitness only.
You can see the change from baseline for both groups in graph below:
- The combination of circuit training and whole body vibration training improved fitness in female contemporary dancers
- This supplemental training also contributed to higher ratings on a standardized measure of performance quality
- Two hours of fitness training a week for six weeks was enough to promote a training effect
- Additional dance classes taken by control group dancers failed to produce the effects of fitness training
Sources: Angioi, M., Metsios, G., Twitchett, E. A., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon M. (2012). Effects of supplemental training on fitness and aesthetic competence parameters in contemporary dance: a randomised controlled trial. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 27, 3-8.
Angioi, M., Metsios, G. S., Twitchett, E., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon, M. (2009). Association between selected physical fitness parameters and aesthetic competence in contemporary dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 13(4), 115-123.
Koutedakis, Y., Hukam, H., Metsios, G., Nevill, A., Giakas, G., Jamurtas, A., and Myszkewycz, L. (2007). The effects of three months of aerobic and strength training on selected performance- and fitness-related parameters in modern dance students. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 808-812.