The Safe Dance Report IV: Investigating injuries in Australia’s professional dancers, published today on the Ausdance National website, examines the Australian context and occurrence of injury in professional dancers and makes recommendations to support sustainable, healthy, and productive dancing careers.
A collaboration between The University of Sydney and Ausdance National, Safe Dance IV is the fourth in a series of Safe Dance research projects. It continues the important work started by Ausdance National almost 30 years ago.
The survey of 195 Australian professional dancers found 97% experienced at least one significant injury in their dance career, compared with 89% in 1999. And 73% of dancers reported experiencing a dance-related injury in the past 12 months.
Author and lead researcher Amy Jo Vassallo, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Sydney, said the consequences of these injuries can be quite substantial and include missed performance opportunities and income, ongoing pain and disability, and expensive treatment including surgery. Serious injuries can even lead to early retirement from dance careers and lifelong disability.
‘The proportion of dancers reporting fatigue as a contributing factor to their injury has increased from 26% in 1990 and 33% in 1999 to 48% in 2017’ she said.
‘However, compared with previous Safe Dance survey results, fewer dancers reported poor technique or environment as a contributor to their injury. This demonstrates the benefits of education, policies and interventions regarding safe dancing practice for dancers and teachers at all stages of a dance career, including early teaching and pre-professional training’.
Ausdance National President, Professor Gene Moyle, said the Safe Dance Report IV continues an important lineage for the Australian dance community. Hearing the words “safe dance practice” being so much a part of our language and approach within the dance sector today is a testament to the impact and contribution of the collective Safe Dance reports within our industry.
Recommendations have outlined that access to dance-educated or dance-specialised healthcare services is essential; addressing the cultural aspects of injury reporting is critical; and that a better acknowledgement of the psychological and psychosocial aspects of injury is required.
Survey respondents’ employment as a dance performer was most commonly with a dance company (66%) or as an independent dance artist (38%).
Injuries remain common in professional dance, with 73% of professional dancers reporting experiencing an injury in the past 12 months. The most common site of injury was the ankle (26%), followed by the knee (11%) and hip (10%).
The most common injury type was a strain (25%), followed by chronic inflammation (19%) and a sprain (18%).
There was one accidental or traumatic injury for every two overuse or gradual injuries. The most common responses regarding the self-reported contributor to injury were fatigue (48%), followed by new or difficult choreography (39%) and ignoring early warning signs (31%).
Despite 62% of respondents reporting belief that there is still stigma associated with sustaining injuries as a professional dancer, 75% of dancers did say they would seek professional opinion if they suspected an injury. However, only 50% stated they would tell someone within their dance employment and 49% said they would also take their own preventative steps to manage their injury.
Despite seeing a clinician for treatment of their injury, 40% of dancers whose injury was currently unresolved were unsure if their injury would resolve in the foreseeable future. This indicates that many dancers need to be provided with improved and realistic expectations of their injury, capacity to dance during their injury and likely return to full dance ability.
For interview contact:
Amy Vassallo | PhD Candidate
Faculty of Health Sciences
The University of Sydney
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 02 9351 9010 and 02 9351 9108
Professor Gene Moyle ARAD MAPS MCSEP GAICD SFHEA
Ausdance National Council – Ausdance Inc.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +61 7 3138 3616
Download Safe Dance Report IV media release
Ausdance National has a long history of researching dancer health and well-being, and Safe Dance IV is the latest in a series that looks at how professional dancers manage injuries and sustain their careers. Safe Dance IV is a little different to I, II and III, as it is being conducted online by PhD student Amy-Jo Vassalo under the auspices of the University of Sydney.
What do we hope to learn from Safe Dance IV? For starters, the survey will update the authoritative findings from the previous surveys that helped to improve the management of injuries. One of those findings was the importance of the warm-up, especially a warm-up with a cardiovascular component for rehearsals.
And the definition of a professional dancer is probably wider than for the previous surveys as the range and style of professional practice has expanded, so the potentially wider data pool may bring in new information.
In the past few months, information about the survey has been widely circulated through our e-news and on Facebook. Ausdance staff have sent hundreds of emails to dance companies and individual dancers requesting them to share and take the survey. Hard copies have been printed and sent to The Australian Ballet, the West Australian Ballet, and the Queensland Ballet. Don’t be shy about sharing it further!
But we still need more responses to create the size of data pool Safe Dance IV deserves, to allow for the authoritative findings that can help to sustain careers. If you are a professional dancer—and the very first question is a filter question to help answer this—please do the survey. It will take a little time but it is completely worth doing to help sustain your career.
Read more about Safe Dance IV.
1 March 2016
Statement regarding hearings by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Public hearing into Centres for the Performing Arts
2 March 2016
Ausdance holds the position that any abuse of a child—sexual, physical or emotional—is abhorrent. A dance studio or class is not isolated from the rest of society, no matter how special it may appear or feel. Studio owners and class teachers, like teachers and activity leaders across the whole of our community, have a special responsibility for the welfare of children in their charge. This holds whether it is a small community dance class or a large commercially-oriented studio.
A dance class or studio is first and foremost a business and as such should be subject to regulatory requirements as any business providing recreational services for children. Dance is also a key art form, which in the view of Ausdance makes any abuse of the trust placed by children in their class leaders or studio principals especially serious.
Ausdance notes that the Royal Commission is not enquiring into abuse in dance studios or the entertainment industry. Rather, the Royal Commission is hearing evidence about two specific centres for the performing arts, one of which was for dance. However, Ausdance supports the invitation for anyone who believes they have a direct and substantial interest in the scope and purpose of the public hearing to contact the Royal Commission directly.
Ausdance has a series of guides and fact sheets to assist dance teachers and dance studios. Where relevant, these guides and fact sheets have links to external authorities. The guides include:
- Child safe dance, with links to the Mandatory Reporting Guide, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and state and territory Child Protection Services and Advice.
- Australian guidelines for teaching dance developed in collaboration with dance studios and dance curriculum organisations
- Code of ethics for dance teachers
- Parents’ code of behaviour
- Professional business practice for studio teachers
- Safe Dance ® practice
- How to choose a dance school for your child
- Work health & safety for the dance industry
- Eating disorders and dancers
Ausdance re-affirms its statement of 15 December 2014 Teaching dance, supporting children.
Neil Roach, A/g CEO Ausdance National
- When: 21–22 November 2015
- Where: Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove Campus,
- For more information and to register, visit the Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare website.
The Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) recognises that all performing artists, young and old, amateur and professional, have unique needs that may not be met by standard models of healthcare.
The 2015 conference theme is 'A Career in the Spotlight: Enhancing Performance Health and Wellbeing'.
This year’s theme will inspire attendees to consider the health and well-being of the whole artist through evidence-informed practice, whether this is in the private teaching studio or the rooms of a healthcare professional.
Keynote speakers include international and national experts in performing arts healthcare: Dr Kate Hays, Associate Professor Rae de Lisle and Dr Cate Madill.
Researchers and clinicians in the fields of dance, drama, voice and music health will present their latest research and discuss possible strategies to overcome the health challenges associated with being a performing artist.
There will also be themed workshops about dance, music, voice and performing arts medicine research.
Working with Children in performing arts? Innovation and Business Skills Australia, in conjunction with Focus on Skills and Ausdance, is developing a working with children skill set and units of competency in performing arts.
This project will involve working with AUSDANCE to address identified gaps in the current Dance qualifications and units:
- Safe dance environments and equipment
- Dances appropriate to age groups
- Student health and wellbeing
- Regulated environment for good teaching practice and code of conduct.
The first round of industry consultation has been completed and revised drafts of the Working with Children in Performing Arts skill sets and units have been updated to reflect stakeholder feedback. A new draft unit applicable to all people working with children in performing arts environments and an additional skill set were developed in response to feedback. All materials are now available for final validation and stakeholder input. Responses are required by close of business Monday 19 October.
Draft materials f or feedback
IBSA invites final comment on the following new materials:
- CUASS00054 Working With Children in Performing Arts Skill Set
- CUASS00055 Assistant dance teaching skill set
Units of competency (and their assessment requirements):
- CUADTM412 Promote the physical and emotional wellbeing of children in performing arts
- CUAWHS405 Provide a safe performing arts environment for children
- CUAWHS406 Interact appropriately with children in performing arts environments
To read the draft materials for feedback, visit the Working with Children in performing arts web page on the IBSA website.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would like to hear from anyone who has experienced, or has information regarding, child sexual abuse in institutions in the entertainment industry.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said that the Royal Commission is calling for people with information about child sexual abuse in the entertainment industry to contact the Royal Commission.
For almost thirty years Ausdance has been working with dance teaching societies, organisations and teachers looking for the best approach to support the industry and students. Ausdance continues to compile and distribute information and guidelines about dance training, focusing particularly on issues of quality and safety. The Australian Guidelines for Teaching Dance suggests minimum standards for dance teaching and ways teachers can maintain or upgrade their teaching skills. You can also access the code of ethics for dance teachers and for parents, information about child safe dance practice and choosing a dance studio for your child.
We remain committed to providing resources which help to facilitate the highest possible quality of dance education and training in this country. We continue to work with studio teachers, the broader dance sector and the wider community in reviewing and investigating additional strategies to ensure positive dance experiences within a dance-training environment.
Children have a fundamental right to be safe from any form of abuse while involved in dance, sport or any activities. This is a legal requirement as well as a moral obligation. Child protection requires a commitment from everyone, including individuals teaching or leading dance and movement activities, to ensure the dance environment is safe for all children.
We welcome your thoughts and feedback on these resources and the broader discussion on dance for young people. Please join the discussion and leave your thoughts below or contact us directly.
This interview with Dr Boni Rietveld of the Netherlands Medical Centre for Dancers and Musicans discusses advice for younger dancers on how to prevent injuries, prevent current injuries from getting worse and provides encouragement for dancers recovering from injury.
One of the key supporters of the Australian Dance Awards is Harlequin Dance Floors. Established in 1979, Harlequin supply dance floors around the world, so it was great to meet with them at the Harlequin HQ in Kent, England.
Mark Rasmussen, Global Group Marketing Manager, took the time to show me the main workshop and a presentation on how Harlequin are continually refining their knowledge and processes with the aim of ensuring dancers get the best support they can from a Harlequin dance floor. Harlequin supply a range of different floor types including portable and permanent floors. They have recently redone the stages at the Bolshi Ballet in Russia, and supply the floors for Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Ballet. Riverdance performances for the last ten years have been on a portable Harlequin floor.
Harlequin have been interested in research (being undertaken in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and in Australia) looking at the scientific benefits and different impacts of floors on the dancers body. A lot has changed in the last few decades as dancers, teachers and choreographers have become more aware of safe dance practices. A good floor is just as vital to a dancer's wellbeing as a good diet and well-trained technique. Ten years ago research was based on sports floor models, but now we know what a basketballer is looking for out of a floor is significantly different to what a contemporary, classical or ballroom dancer needs. We have known for years that sports floors aren't ideal but research is still underway looking at what is right for dancers. And, of course one of the ongoing challenges is that what a classical dancer requires in a floor is different to what a hip-hop or tap dancer needs. While Harlequin have a growing range of floors available, studio owners, community dancers, performance facility directors and companies need to make an individual assessment about what will work best for their dancers.
Over the coming months DanceUK and Ausdance will be reviewing the recent research on dance floors and updating our dance floor information sheets.