4: Guardian (link to RCS-1)



Behind each move (be that of a professional dancer or not) there lies a scientific approach. Or so they say. Peter Lovatt, PhD and founder of Dance Psychology Lab talks (also in Ted talks series) about the incredibly positive effect of dancing on patients with Parkinson, studies done in relation to genetic hormonal make up and dance attractiveness and many more.

Peter Lovatt: ‘Dancing can change the way you think’

Dancing can help with problem-solving – and researchers are looking at its effects on people with Parkinson’s disease
Dr Peter Lovatt is head of University of Hertfordshire’s Dance Psychology Lab.

How else can dance change how we think?How can dance change the way people think?

This section interests me as I want to encourage a new style of student into dance. One that focuses on critical thinking and problem solving. That understands movement and their bodies limits within this. They make informed decisions about their training as they have understanding ofter bodies needs and training to benefit it.

This review takes people into the lab. Encouraging dancing and then doing problem-solving. Results showed different sorts of dancing help them with different sorts of problem- solving. When people engage in improvised kinds of dance it helps them with divergent thinking – where there is multiple answers to a problem. Whereas when they engage in very structured dance it helps their convergent thinking – trying to find the single answer to a problem. There has to be a research grant in this somewhere lol !

You’ve been studying the effects of dance on people with Parkinson’s disease…

My Dad sadly has Alzheimer’s and I have observed he was always good at making up movements but not recalling and repeating trained movements. Now he is getting worse this is also becoming more increasingly obvious in everyday movements  thoughts too.

For this reason I’m interested in discovering how dance supports disease such Parkinson’s disease. This research shows as in my observations of my Dad and Papa that as the disease develops it can lead to a disruption of the divergent thinking processes. I was interested to find out if we used improvised dance with a group we might see an improvement in their divergent thinking skills. This is positively exactly what the results showed.

Next the researcher would like to study what it is about dancing as an intervention that has as impact on neural processing. One possibility is that when they dance they are developing new neural pathways to get around dopamine-depleted blockages. I he training in single channel patch clamp which could measure this quantitatively.



Dance and self-esteem

There have been several papers looking at the self-esteem of ballet dancers in training – and what they have found is that girls in their mid-teens have significantly lower self-esteem than non-ballet-dancing girls. Proof that dance has had a counter productive effect.  There are two explanations for this. One would be that girls with low self-esteem choose classical ballet because the struggle for perfection reinforces their poor self-image. Another theory says that ballet training subculture can be very detrimental to a young girl’s self-esteem because they are constantly being told they are not doing it right and that the body shape issue is very important in classical ballet. I hope that my proposed research provides a way to map and enhance progress and thus positively benefit dancers.

Which explanation do you think is correct?

The researchers are trying to test these two hypotheses in the lab by comparing data from 600 dancers in different dance groups. They are looking at things like comparing classical ballet dancers with Indian classical dancers – the latter do not have to wear tight-fitting clothing in training. The research also compares them with burlesque dancers who are very happy to show a fuller body. If it is the case that girls with low self-esteem choose ballet there is not a great deal we can do about that. But if the classical ballet subculture might lead to eating disorders and self-harm then that is something very important we should address.

Is there a dance style that is good for self-esteem?

Any dance genre where there s a high degree of tolerance for not getting it right will promote self-esteem. For example, ceilidh dancing people smile, laugh and giggle and they are adults and it esteem is not a problem. There have also been studies that have found that dancing in baggy “jazz” clothing is better than tight-fitting clothing for the dancer’s self-esteem.

Is it correct that women think men whose ears are the same size are better dancers?

It sounds like nonsense (I’m thinking so) but a study by Brown, et al found that physically symmetrical men were rated better dancers by women. A second study by Fink, et al focused on men’s fingers. They measured the 2D-4D ratio – the relative length of the second and fourth digit, an indicator to exposure to prenatal testosterone. He found that those men with a high degree of prenatal testosterone exposure were again rated as more attractive and masculine dancers.

To built on this research?

Researchers in this study went to a nightclub and offered people free entry if they took part in the study. They measured fingers, their ears, their fertility, where the women were in their menstrual cycle, their relationship status, whether they were looking for a mate. Men with high 2D-4D ratio were rated as more attractive dancers. Results showed something unique: the women signalled their degree of fertility through their body movement by isolating and moving their hips, which made men find them more attractive.

So is their a causal link between factors such as symmetry or hip-movement and being an attractive dancer?

Some researchers, such as Brown and Fink, argue that your hormonal and genetic make-up is directly linked and signalled by the way you dance.  But it might not be that at all: imagine you are a really beautiful person so whenever you go out to a club, everyone looks at you and that fills with you with confidence – that might be what makes you dance in an attractive way that people find even more attractive. There might be a link, it could be an association though behaviours that makes you more confident. Wish I had this problem.

So female performers in pop videos dance as if they were at the most fertile point of their cycle?

Apparently so! There are often lots of images of women’s hips moving in isolation. Often it is not the most attractive form of dancing – it’s an artificial enhancement. What is interesting is that people who look at these women and tell us why they find them attractive never say: “I just spent the last three minutes looking at her hip region”, which is what the data in this study suggests they are doing. Rather, they find all kinds of other reasons to justify what they think.

The end of this research is a bit random but it shows I am not the only unconfident dance mad scientist!!


Clin Sports Med. 1983 Nov;2(3):525-37.

Physiological aspects of dance.


Improvement in cardiovascular fitness is related to the mode, frequency, duration, intensity, and rate of progression of exercise. These data suggest that dance as an activity for promoting fitness will improve aerobic and physical working capacity. The commercial classes studied were of short duration and relied on elevated intensity for improvement, whereas the classes for professional dancers were low in intensity and relied on frequency and duration for improvements. Other area studied were body composition and strength.


J Dance Med Sci. 2010;14(2):45-9.

Considerations for integrating fitness into dance training.


In recent years it has frequently been suggested that dancers may not be sufficiently prepared for the physical demands of dance. The majority of researchers have arrived at the conclusion that there are gaps in the structure of dance training programs that could be filled with the type of physical training that has benefited other elite athletes. This article reviews some recommendations in light of current research for the supplementation of dance training and the inclusion of fitness concepts in traditional dance classes.


J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2012 Jun;35(5):381-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.04.014. Epub 2012 May 17.

Effects of aerobic endurance, muscle strength, and motor control exercise on physical fitness and musculoskeletal injury rate in preprofessional dancers: an uncontrolled trial.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate musculoskeletal injury rate and physical fitness before and 6 months after an endurance, strength, and motor control exercise program in preprofessional dancers.


This uncontrolled trial was completed at a college offering a professional bachelor degree in dance. Forty preprofessional dancers underwent a test battery before and after a 6-month lasting exercise program in addition to their regular dance lessons. Physical fitness was evaluated by means of a submaximal exercise test with continuous physiological monitoring and by a field test for explosive strength. Anthropometric measurements were taken to analyze the influence of fitness training on body composition. Musculoskeletal injury incidence and quality of life were recorded during the 6-month lasting intervention. An intention-to-treat analysis (“last observation carried forward” method) was used with a Student t test for normally distributed variables. The Wilcoxon signed rank and Mann-Whitney U tests were used as nonparametric tests.


Physical fitness improved after the 6 months of additional training program (P<.05). The waist:hip ratio (P=.036) and the sum of the measured subcutaneous skin thickness (P=.001) significantly decreased. Twelve dancers developed musculoskeletal complaints, requiring temporary interruption of dancing.


The combination of regular dance lessons with an additional exercise program resulted in improved physical fitness in pre-professional dancers, without affecting the aesthetical appearance. A relatively high injury rate was observed during the intervention period. These results suggest that a randomized, controlled trial should be performed to examine the effectiveness of additional exercise in dancers on physical fitness and musculoskeletal injury rate.


Physiological fitness and professional classical ballet performance: a brief review.

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2732-40. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bc1749.

Twitchett EA1, Koutedakis Y, Wyon MA.

Although classical ballet is an artistic expression through the use of the body, there is a real opportunity to improve and extend the dancer’s career by simply applying sports science principles to dance training and performance. Dance training is a long process of physical, intellectual, and psychological preparation, through physical exercise, often beginning in childhood and continuing until retirement. Fitness programs, supplementary to traditional dance classes, have only recently been considered as a part of this process; it may be suggested that this cross-training has generally been avoided thus far because of tradition and a reluctance to follow principles associated with sport. Classical ballet training, rehearsal, and performance do not elicit significant stimulus to result in increased aerobic fitness levels. Therefore, dancers often demonstrate low levels of aerobic fitness even though a strong aerobic foundation is necessary to meet the required workload. Dancers have greater than average range of motion and strength at the hip joint but weaknesses in the upper body, torso, hamstrings, and quadriceps. In the past, dancers have been wary of strength training because they perceive this leads to aesthetically undesirable hypertrophy. Dancers also have low body weights and low percentage body fat. Given that training does not provide the opportunity to expend enough energy to maintain these aesthetic demands, this aesthetic demand may be met by caloric restriction, which may lead to subsequent increased injury risk. It has been hypothesized that a “fit for purpose” body can help improve performance, reduce the risk of injury, and ensure prolonged dance careers. This review aims to explore the extent to which physical fitness components relate to dance performance, in particular classical ballet.


One thought on “4: Guardian (link to RCS-1)

  1. jmorganltpa says:

    A lot of psychology content here Claire with some very enlightening questions. Good to see continuing engagement in the course from you over the holiday period. Well done!


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