How do I pursue a career in Dance Medicine and Science?

Currently, dance medicine and science is only defined by the actions and ideas of various health professionals, dance educators, alternative practitioners, and researchers that practice in the area of dancer health. Each discipline brings a unique perspective and body of knowledge to the health concerns of dancers. This diversity of perspectives is rightly perceived as a strength. However, this diversity prevents a simple answer to the question, “How can I learn about dance medicine and science?” The short answer is, “It depends.” Students should be asked, “What unique skills, abilities, and knowledge do you currently possess and which ones do you want to acquire? Precisely how do you see yourself contributing to dancer health?” Focusing on the students learning objectives will clarify which discipline associated with dance medicine and science they should pursue.

Although there is no single existing education pathway that defines the required objectives for an education in dance medicine and science, there is much to be learned and multiple opportunities appropriate for every discipline. Not surprisingly, potential students will discover that their previous training and education objectives determine the format(s) of learning they can and should pursue. The existing formats of education of dance medicine and science are grouped as follows: 1. University/Academic Setting, 2. Conferences/Workshops, 3. Clinical Affiliations.

  • Generally, University/Academic formats are provided by an institution that has been reviewed by an accrediting body to insure that it meets certain criteria. Satisfactory completion of the program earns the student a “degree” (e.g. BFA, MA, PhD). Entry into these programs is highly regulated and requires various levels of previous education.
  • Workshops or conferences typically operate without an external body providing a review of the content or pedagogical design. Workshops and conferences generally provide proof of attendance, most often in the form of a certificate. Typically, entry into these programs is not regulated in any way, although some are explicitly aimed at particular disciplines.
  • Clinical affiliations (mentorships) are generally aimed at the practice of a specific discipline and occur within a treatment facility. These learning experiences vary widely in their time course and the formality of their structure. Examples in this category include the affiliations of the physical therapist student as part of the professional phase of an academic (college or university) education and the affiliation of the aspiring Pilates practitioner as part of an independent, commercial, education provider.

A few limitations in the current educational offering should be considered.

  • The majority of academic education in dance medicine and science is aimed primarily at students whose first discipline is dance. This suggests that there is currently no clear pathway for a student whose primary discipline is in health care or research to obtain an academic degree in dance medicine and science.
  • Generally, those academic programs that offer education in dance medicine and science offer it only as a “minor” or “emphasis” within a larger dance-oriented education.
  • The majority of the Clinical Affiliations for which information could be obtained are aimed at physical therapy students. This fact should not deter practitioners or students of other disciplines from contacting known leaders in the dance medicine and science community to inquire about potential affiliations at their treatment facilities.

Text cited from the Dance Medicine Resource Guide, Second Edition, J. Michael Ryan Publishing, Inc. Written and edited by Marshall Hagins, PhD, PT.