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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet in the Scientific Literature


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In searching for articles on the effects of early pointework on ballet students later in their life I came across a number of other potentially interesting studies. (Didn't find anything yet on the original topic - doesn't mean it isn't out there... just means perhaps I haven't found it yet).


In case anyone else is interested... here is a listing of a couple including an abbreviated abstract and the source. Many of these journals can be found at University libraries. *note* I don't intend this to be an exhaustive list... just wanted to give some examples of the kind of studies that are being done out there in case anyone is interested in reading them and/or perhaps interested in conducting this kind of research as career path. *disclaimer* I haven't read through the whole articles - just the abstracts.




"Physical-Activity, Body-Composition and Bone-Density in Ballet Dancers" Lichtenbelt, W.D.V.; Fogelholm, M., Ottenheijm, R.; Westerterp, K.R. British Journal of Nutrition 1995, 74(4), 439-451.


Conclusion: The present study showed that, despite the factors that have a negative effect on BMD (Bone Mass Density), such as low body mass and late menarche, BMD in female ballet dancers was relatively high. These high values were probably caused by high levels of weight-bearing physical activity.




"Ballet dancer's turnout and its relationship to self-reported injury" Coplan, J.A. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 2002, 32(11), 579-584.


Objectives: To compare the relationship between the degrees of turnout, passive hip external rotation range of motion, and self-reported history of low back and lower extremity injury in ballet dancers.


Background: Ballet dancers are encouraged to externally rotate their lower extremities (turnout) as far as possible. This may cause stress on the dancers' low back and lower extremities, putting them at risk for injury.


Methods and Measures: Thirty college-level ballet dancers and instructors were evaluated. Each participant completed an injury questionnaire that placed the participant either in a group with a self-reported history of low back and lower extremity injury or in a group without a self-reported history of low back and lower extremity injury. Each dancer's first-position turnout and passive external rotation range of motion for both hips were measured. The comparison between each dancer's first-position turnout and the measured hip external rotation range of motion was called "compensated turnout." A 2-sample t test was used to determine if the average compensated turnout was significantly different in the injured and noninjured groups.


Results: The mean (+/-SD) compensated turnout values for the injured and noninjured groups were 25.4degrees (+/-21.3degrees) and 4.7degrees (+/-16.3degrees), respectively. This difference was significant at P = 0.006.


Conclusion: Based on a self-reported history of low back and lower extremity injuries, ballet dancers have a greater risk of injury if they reach a turnout position that is greater than their available bilateral passive hip external rotation range of motion.




"Self-reported hamstring injuries in student-dancers" Askling, C.; Lund, H; Saartok, T.; Thorstensson, A. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports 2002, 12(4), 230-235.


Dancing involves powerful movements as well as flexibility exercises, both of which may be related to specific injuries to the musculo-tendinosus tissue, e.g., the hamstring muscle complex. In this study, the occurrence of acute and overuse injuries to the rear thigh in dancers was investigated retrospectively by means of a questionnaire. All but one (n = 98) of the student-dancers (age 17-25 years) at the Ballet Academy in Stockholm participated. The results demonstrated that, during the past 10 years, every third dancer (34%) reported that they had acute injuries and every sixth dancer (17%) had overuse injuries to the rear thigh. Most (91%) of the acute injuries were subjectively located to an area close to tuber ischiadicum. The majority (88%) stated that the acute injury occurred during slow activities in flexibility training, e.g., splits, and only a few (12%) in powerful movements. Continuing problems were reported by 70% of the acutely injured dancers. Many of the dancers neglected their acute injury (14 did not even stop the ongoing dance activity) and they also greatly underestimated the recovery time. Only 4 dancers (12%) received acute medical assistance. Thus the results, based on the recollection of the subjects, indicated that stretching could induce severe strain injuries to the proximal hamstrings in dancers. Extrapolating these results to the practice, it can be recommended that stretching exercises be executed with caution in connection with dancing sessions and training, and that, information about the seriousness and acute treatment of such injuries be added to the student-dancers' curriculum.




"Pedobarographic and musculoskeletal examination of collegiate dancers in releve" Schon, L.C.; Edwards, W.H.B.; McGuigan, F.X.; Hoffman, J. Foot and Ankle International 2002, 23(7), 641-646.


Twenty-one collegiate ballet pupils were evaluated via history/questionnaire, musculoskeletal assessment, and pedobarographs, focusing on factors (e.g., alignment of hip, knee, and foot) thought to affect the important and common second-position releve in dance. In a blinded manner, three observers classified the pedobarographs (obtained by an independent examiner) according to force distribution through the foot. Most dancers bore weight through the toes and transmitted force on both the medial and central metatarsal heads, and some transmitted force through only one of these rays, but none transmitted force through the lateral ray alone. This analysis provides a baseline for future assessment of normal or abnormal dance maneuvers.




"The effects of repetitive physiologic loading on bone turnover and mechanical properties in adult female and male rats" Yingling, V.R.; Davies, S.; Silva, M.J. Calcified Tissue International 2001, 68(4), 235-239.


Repetitive physiologic loading is widely believed to be beneficial in maintaining skeletal integrity. However, repetitive loading is also associated with bone injuries, including stress fractures and osteoporotic fractures, indicating that under certain conditions repetitive physiologic loading decreases the functional capacity of bone. Our objective was to identify the response of bone to excessive repetitive loading in adult rats. Male and female rats (8-9 months old) were exposed to 2 hours of treadmill running each day for 10 or 30 consecutive days. We examined bone response using biochemical, densitometric, and monotonic, relaxation, and cyclic mechanical outcomes. Urinary deoxypyridinoline, a marker of bone resorption, was not significantly affected by running nor were tibial or femoral bone mineral density (BMD) (P > 0.05). Tibial mechanical properties following running were not decreased (P > 0.05). We did observe a slight decrease in displacement to failure (P > 0.05) and energy to failure (P = 0.10) of the proximal femur. These findings indicate that 14,000 physiologic loading cycles per day did not increase systemic bone resorption levels or substantially degrade the mechanical properties of long bones in adult rats. The lack of response to low magnitude, high cycle number physiologic loading is consistent with the view that a metabolic bone disturbance, in addition to repetitive loading, may be necessary for the development of a stress injury in the adult skeleton.


Perhaps they will start putting rats in pointe shoes soon...:)



Anyhow, better get back to the work I'm supposed to be doing now. I didn't make an attempt to write the abstracts in non-scientific language... just copied and pasted. I could when I have more time if anyone is interested...

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Thank you for taking the time to post all of that valuable information, garnet! You win the research award of the moment on Ballet Alert! :)

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Guest grace

garnet - good finds. good for you. if you check at amazon, you should also find two very well-known books which are compilations of dance research studies (well, i guess they are only 'well-known' within the small circle of dance research devotees) - authors listed will be watkins, skrinar, clarkson et al. those were a few years ago now, so maybe they have even released more such collections. :) when i said 'they' i was thinking of these particular editors/writers, but perhaps i should also mention human kinetics books (which i THINK was the publisher) - they are one of the good sources for such stuff.


if anyone is interested in ONLINE stuff, this link, which i found courtesy of mel's suggestion, is also a good source:



there would appear to be a marvellous mine of information there, for the teachers to discuss. as is usually the case, though, often such studies turn out to be rather disappointing and uninformative, when you read through them to the end......which, i suppose, just makes us appreciate the GOOD ones all the more. :rolleyes:




later edit: i have started some threads based on some articles published online. if interested, here's where you'll find them:





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As I actually check the scientific literature quite frequently for work I will be happy to post on any papers of interest that come out in the future.


These articles are available for viewing/photocopying at the libraries of many universities. The abstracts can often be viewed online as well as the addresses of the authors. I will provide links to these. I cannot speak for everyone but authors may be willing/able to give out copies of their papers if contacted. As an author, I think sometimes it's nice to hear that people are interested in your work!



P.S. Thanks Grace for the book suggestions - I'll have to look for them... just what I need - more books!:)

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Guest grace

that would be wonderful if you could keep looking, intermittently, garnet, as it IS so much easier when one is doing similar searches anyway. i look forward to reading of your finds. btw, i checked amazon and couldn't find those edited compliations of research that i recommended. is there a Princeton Books? if so, that might be where they came from. (the other reason i mentioned the books, is that the universities where those particular pieces of research were done, are likely to be the places continuing to produce more dance research...)

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Guest grace

here you go, garnet...i'm browsing at a thread about a book called 'Ballet for Parents' in the Moms & Dads section, and there i find Princeton Books website:




this is one of the books, even though the description there doesn't quite fit with mine :-



A Dancer's Guide to Improving Technique and Preventing Injury

by Andrea Watkins and Priscilla Clarkson


on this page: http://www.dancehorizons.com/health.html


the earlier (first) book is not there.

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Thanks so much Grace for continuing to look. I think the earlier book you are thinking of is "Science of Dance Training"? It only seems to be available through used book dealers and is a little out of my price range at the moment... but I'll keep my eye on it - perhaps if I'm patient it will come up somewhere for a lower price. It sounds interesting.

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Guest grace

garnet - initially i skimmed through your abstracts, intending to actually READ them, later. 'later' has come!

Our objective was to identify the response of bone to excessive repetitive loading in adult rats. Male and female rats (8-9 months old) were exposed to 2 hours of treadmill running each day for 10 or 30 consecutive days. We examined bone response using  ....
oh, for heavens sake - the poor rats. i thought you were joking, with that comment about rats in pointe shoes. :eek: thanks again for your searching.
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  • 2 weeks later...

A recent article appearing in the literature:



"Corps de Ballet: the case of the injured ballet dancer" Turner, B.S.; Wainwright, S.P. Sociology of Health and Illness 2003, 25(4), 269-288.



This paper contributes to debate on social constructionism in the sociology of health and illness through a study of injury among ballet dancers. In this empirical study of classical ballet dancers, we outline a phenomenology of the injured and ageing body in terms of a critical commentary on constructionism. We explore dancers' experiences of embodiment to illustrate our critique of recent interpretations of dance as a textual practice. Those forms of social constructionism that define the body as a text provide a forceful attack on discourses of authority and legitimation, but we argue that they are problematic as epistemologies and ontologies of embodiment. Through a phenomenological understanding of the experiences of embodiment, we observe how injury and ageing disrupt the practical accomplishments that underpin the

ballet habitus and the dancer's identity. Although ballet injuries can terminate a dancing career, they are accepted as an inevitable part of the vocation of ballet.


Our aim is to understand the interaction between injuries, dancers' experiences of discomfort and the social support that emerges from the ballet dancers as a social group. We draw on the concepts of social solidarity and collective consciousness in Emile Durkheim to show that injury is mediated through the social bonding of dancers into a professional ballet company, where injury is accepted as a sign of vocational commitment, and suggest that this 'collective effervescence' gives a novel meaning to the idea of a corps de ballet.




To be honest, I have never taken a sociology course so I haven't a clue of what many of the terms mean in this abstract... but if anyone is interested, the article can be purchased online at:





...or if you know someone at a university that has this journal in its library, it may be better to get it through them - it's kind of pricy!

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Thanks! A couple of months ago, I tried to search for scientific papers about ballet too. Didn't succed nearly as well as you did! (At that time I did a course in how to search for information, and mainly technical papers.)


Thanks again!!

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Guest grace

i'm sure you'll understand, garnet, that i mean no offence at all when i say that i think i'll give THAT one a big miss. ;) - but thanks anyway!

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No problem Grace :D ...although I think this one may be interesting... if only I could understand how a body can be a "text" and other such foreign terms... is there anyone out there with a background in sociology???


Susanne - you're welcome! I'm glad someone's interested. Do you have access to 'Web of Science' ? I found a lot through that. I also used some medical searches as well... but most of these require that your university/company has a subscription.

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In the history museum business, we are often given the 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit sociology." However, we are expected to know a little something about it. Constructionism is a relatively recent theory of the establishment of the self, and is closely linked to epistemology, the study of knowledge bases. It likewise uses ontology, the study of the relationship between nature and being. A lot of it seems to have been influenced by digital technology, and the ways in which computers and humans learn, if learn can be applied to computers. Oh, and phenomenology is the study of the way things appear, rather than as they actually are.

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Thanks Mjr. Johnson! It's been said before many times but wow - your knowledge base is impressive. :)


...I have to admit, however, that even when I substituted your definitions into the first paragraph of the abstract... its meaning was still rather unclear. The second paragraph, in my opinion gives a much clearer picture of what the authors were studying... but perhaps I should try to look up the full paper.


I like the use of the term 'collective effervescence'! :D

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It's Sociology - it's supposed to be unclear.;)

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