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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Books: Psychology of Dance


Dance_Scholar_London

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Dance_Scholar_London

I recently bought "Psychology of Dance" by Jim Taylor. Has anybody read this book? I would be delighted to get some opinions of experts in this field* :-)

 

* Psychology-related subject

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  • 1 month later...
Guest dancing.silhouette.

Thanks for mentioning it, it sounds very interesting. (Of course I'm planning on being a psych major w/ a minor in dance) :P I'll have to check it out!

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Dance_Scholar_London

That sounds like an interesting combination. There are not a lot of experts in this field and I found just a few books, such as "Psychoanalysis and Performance" by Patrick Campbell (ed)..... forgot the other title that I bought recently but the title sounds similar - both books offer a focus on the relationship between performance and psychology. There are not a lot of dance-specific examples but it is meant to address performing arts in general :P

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Taylor and Taylor (Psychology of Dance) have written a book with the idea that people will sit down and take some time to think through their patterns of behavior and attempt to change them. They give exercises and tips and try to cover all dance forms at once, which is a bit of a reach. Linda Hamilton, author of "Advice for Dancers" (and the column in Dance Magazine) goes through select issues that challenge dancers, focuses more on ballet and does not include any 'help yourself' tools or tactics as T&T do.

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its quite a few years since i read this book but here is what i remember that my responses were:

 

overall i was disappointed

 

its not that there's anything 'wrong' with the book - just that it did not 'go' very far, and offered extremely few insights, IMO

 

as i recall it was mostly about motivation (rather than the other common psychological issues which come up for dancers). i think there was a little bit about performance anxiety.

 

that's about all i recall - i wouldn't rush out and buy it.

 

if it has any popularity, i would say that is because there are very few books in this field, so people who are interested (like me) would buy ANYthing that comes out.

 

certainly there is more insightful information around, in other places, but it is far harder to find than going to amazon - because it is scattered across research papers, magazines, books, etc - and guess where else!?! - THIS WEBSITE!

 

i honestly think you get more insight HERE. B)

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Dance_Scholar_London

Grace you are right. The Taylor book does not go very deep. However, as much as I respect the Internet, it does not represent a reliable source for academic research as it is not peer-reviewed. Have you read the Patrick Campbell one?

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It is highly unlikely that any book having to do with the so called “psychology of dance” will go beyond a certain level for the dancer who is somehow looking to use psychology to become a better dancer. Psychology is the study of individual differences (and not a self-help approach). Essentially, the psychological world can be divided into the categories of clinical (psychologists treating patients for some specific reason) and more empirical based areas (psychologists who do research studies).

 

I don’t think there are enough dancers who have sought one psychologist for help to enable that psychologist to write much about the psychology of dance. And besides, clinical psychologists tend to write more case studies and only generalize from those studies at great risk to their professional reputations (generalizing is always dangerous).

 

On the research side, to really learn anything you need lots of cases and lots of repeated studies. Sorry, but I think it’s fair to say that very very very few people care much about anything having to do with the mental characteristics of ballet dancers (other than perhaps why anyone in his or her right mind might pursue such a career—just joking, well sort of). Hence, essentially there is no real solid research base.

 

Now what a psychologist might do is to a priori identify psychological facets that the psychologist believes are related to dance (e.g., performance anxiety in general) and then write about the research that has been done related to those general topics. And if the psychologist wants to be helpful, he or she might create some type of approach to remediate or improve the reader in some way (often not helpful, but almost never harmful either).

 

Personally, I think such a book could be interesting, not because I am somehow going to be a better dancer or performer after I read it, but because I just think it’s good to know whatever evidence there is supporting things we already believe or don’t believe. No matter how useful we perceive the book, it’s likely to at least expand our knowledge base.

 

I know I remember seeing the book in question at my local book store a few years ago. I thumbed through it and though I don’t remember any specifics, I remember thinking that this was just another book like a book written in the 80s called something like Sport Psychology or a variation there of. That book was pretty much pop psychology, though the author did have a good resume.

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Dance_Scholar_London

Garyecht - I do not agree with you. Psychology for dance (I mean in general - not only this specific book title) is aimed for dancers AND teachers. There are several studies about psychology and dance. Just have a look at the academic journal "Research in Dance Education". I think every dancer should do some reading in this field. And I believe there is a real need for it. Or how do you explain that so many ballet students are concerned about their weight, appearance, etc... This falls all in the category of PSYCHOLOGY.

 

I investigate educational dance psychology myself. The fact that there are not many books available on the broad market does not mean that there is no need for this kind of research. I think more and more teachers are aware of the psychological needs/support of dance students beyond teaching technique. The Royal Ballet School, Covent Garden has offered several seminars about ballet psychology in the last year and a lot of teachers have attended and certainly profited from this workshops.

 

Another interesting related topic is motivation in ballet. Once again, motivation theory IS psychology and motivation plays certainly an crucial role in ballet. :unsure:

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i agree with you, dance scholar.

 

it may be of interest to you that the australian ballet school (ABS) has its own resident full-time clinical psychologist, lucinda sharpe, who is an ex-dancer and a graduate of the ABS. obviously, her full-time occupation IS dance psychology...

 

i read recently that she had attended an international conference of people working in the field - i can't actually remember what or where it was (sorry), but i know that her input was very well received by the directors of other top-level ballet schools, who were in attendance.

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Dance_Scholar_London

Grace, thanks for your post. It would be great to find out about this conference... any additional information is helpful. I will email ABS to get in touch with Lucinda B) thanks again for that input.

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Dance_Scholar_London

I checked out the website and ABS does offer performance psychology workshops for teachers. That is really great. Here is the linkPerformance Psychology Workshops

 

There is a growing community of specialists in this field as dance education, especially ballet, has to face new teaching methods. :wacko:

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on that webpage, dance_scholar, lucinda sharp is the woman wearing the glasses in the bottom photo. just thought you might like to put a face to the name... before studying psychology, she was ballet mistress at West Australian Ballet.

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Dance_Scholar_London

Thats cool. Do you know her personally then? I just finished emailing her! Would love to attend one of her workshops, though Australia is a bit far away :wacko:

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Dance Scholar,

 

As a clinical psychologist, psychology professor, and researcher of topics related to health psychology, as well as an adult ballet student and a mother of two company apprentices, I am in complete agreement with you that the psychology of dance is a valid and valuable field of potentially rigorous scientific study. It is unwise at best, and uninformed at worst, to continue a dualistic approach to human behavior that disregards the proven significance of psychological components in all behavior. IMO, the most significant recent advances in clinical psychology, and often in medicine, have served to confirm the intricate and inseparable inluences of mind and body. This integrated approach is no longer in the realm of speculation and mysticism; increasingly, emprical evidence supports this integration. As you point out, motivation is, at least in significant part, a psychological construct. So is anxiety, performance related or not. So is body image, and artistic presentation, and the drive for perfection, and countless other aspects of human behavior that bear some relation to dance.

 

I fully agree that the popularization of psychology, as evidenced in part by the proliferation of self-help books, has distorted the perception of psychology in the public consciousness as an unscientific, anecdotally-based and empirically unfounded discipline. This is highly unfortunate in many respects. Yet it should neither deter serious minded researchers who wish to contribute to the knowledge base, nor intellectually oriented teachers, dancers, and other consumers, from pursuing sound dance psychology literature.

 

I know from previous posts that you intend to advance the discipline of dance psychology in your graduate work. Best of luck to you. I enthusiastically await your contributions.

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