Safe Dance: what does it mean and what’s changed over the past 20 years

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The words ‘safe dance’ mean many different things to different parts of the dance community. It could be safe dance practice recommendations for teachers and studio owners, safe physical dance environments, injury prevention and safe return to dance practices, supporting the mental and physical development of dance students, the list goes on.

Important parts of the safe dance puzzle are the Safe Dance survey studies and associated project reports that were launched over 25 years ago. This was the first study of its kind in Australia, and it discovered an alarming prevalence of injuries in Australian dancers, many first sustained early in their careers. These findings led to a variety of initiatives, including the Safe Dance practice recommendations that many will now be familiar with.   

A lot has changed in the dance industry in 20 years, and injury prevention and management is something taken seriously by dance teachers, directors and choreographers. For example, the majority of large company dancers have access to dedicated health professionals such as physiotherapists and exercise physiologists, cross training and recovery strategies are being implemented as standard practice and a culture of injury reporting is being encouraged.

Safe Dance IV Investigating injuries in Australia's professional dancers

Have Safe Dance practices and strategies made a difference?

We need to understand how injury rates have changed over the past 20 years to be able to answer this question. Also, it is widely unknown what supports are available, affordable and accessible by dancers of smaller companies or freelance artists. With recent funding cuts and the rise of the independent artist an understanding of this group of dancers is now more important than ever.

This is where Safe Dance IV comes in. To understand and measure just how far we have come in preventing and managing injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, we need to get an updated snapshot from the dancers themselves. Safe Dance IV aims to better understand current dancer demographics, training load, the prevalence of different injuries and their risk factors, health service access, quality of life, and other health indicators. Due to the range and depth of information required, the questionnaire takes about 1 hour to complete. However this doesn’t need to be done in one sitting, responses can be saved along the way, and participants can return to complete the survey at a later time.

The information coming from Safe Dance IV is intended to be used to help set priority areas for future dance research and action, make updated safe dance practice recommendations and assist with evaluations of current injury prevention initiatives. To achieve this we need high-quality data from a large number and a diverse range of professional dancers in Australia. So far we have received completed questionnaires for just over 40 dancers, but we need much more! 

If you are aged over 18, identify primarily as a professional dancer, and have been paid to work, rehearse or perform as a dancer for more than a combined total of 3 months (this doesn’t have to be all in one block or contract) over the past 12 months, you are eligible to participate in this study. 

To start the questionnaire, please visit tinyurl.com/SafeDanceSurvey. We can also email you a paper copy, or you can pick one up in person from Ausdance National in Canberra.

If you would like to learn more about Safe Dance, or other dance research projects at the University of Sydney, please email Amy Vassallo, or contact Amy at the Facebook Dance Research Collaborative or on Twitter: @amyjvassallo

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