Dance Nova Scotia appoints a new Executive Director - click here for details.

Who Should Be Responsible? (an Op Ed)

A DANS Revue Article


(author's note: This article is currently being used as an information tool for students and parents at Canada's National Ballet School.  My thanks to Mavis Staines (Artistic Director, NBS) 


A few months ago, in the usual morning Facebook posts that arrive at the Dance Nova Scotia office, there was a post announcing a new dance school here in the province. Excited and curious, I went to the school’s website where I came upon a photo of a young dancer and a testimonial from their parent. The photo was of a young student at the school with their leg overstretched and held in what has become recognized as the “side tilt” pose. The parent’s testimonial was praising the school for all the positive self-confidence they had given her child in such a short time. It was of course, great to hear that but not really surprising because we all know the value of dance training to every aspect of a young child’s development. But I wondered if that parent had any idea of the current controversy in the medical community around that pose and the potential danger to their child’s ongoing physical development. It got me questioning, when it comes to information on issues like this, who should be responsible? Is it the school’s responsibility to be aware of the medical professions warnings about this pose? Should they be posting that picture and encouraging the student to go to that length. Even if the child learned the pose on social media, should they condone it? Did the parent who would have seen that picture of their child, really think this was something to base their child’s success on and if so, why?

It can be a very grey area for an organization such as Dance Nova Scotia when it comes to issues around dance training. Ballet of course has examinations, which can be a measure of the strength of the teaching. Highland has a rigid process for advancement and so there is an element that informs ability and progress. Taking a measured approach to growth through the development and mastery of technique is always a safe bet. But even then, is there any assurance that the school’s focus is on the child’s interests? And what about broader dance forms? What is our responsibility as parents, as teachers, as an organization? Is it okay to just let our kids follow any trend within the pursuit of dance training? Shouldn’t we be educating them with regards to boundaries and safe practices while encouraging them? What is the importance of circumventing good training and medical advice to achieve something that for many children is a fleeting moment in their development? Is there a possible dance career in their future and if so, shouldn’t there be even more concern for their healthy physical development? Would it be in their interests to push them beyond what is safe for their body based on developmental restraint?

As someone who had a dance career, I know the sacrifices a dancer makes.  As a male, I started late and to compensate for time lost, I stretched every chance I got. I was flexible and it served an aesthetic view of what a dancer should be able to do. But the race for that flexibility cost me a lot.  My doctor used to worry that because of my dance training, my pain threshold was beyond that of a normal physically active person and warned that I should be careful not to overstretch or push when I think something doesn’t feel right. As my years of training and dancing with the company continued, I began to work on how to take better care of my body but perhaps the race was well on by the time my “ah ha”  moment of realization came. Certainly, all these years later I know that a dance career is based on every move you make to get there and sacrificing good technique or pushing yourself beyond a safe threshold is just not worth it.  At the end of a gruelling day of company dance class .......


For complete article click on link: Who is Responsible? Fall 2016