PhD, MSc, BSc, CPsychol, FHEA
At the age of three, I tiptoed apprehensively into my first ballet class. By eight, I was in love. I spent weekends scraping my hair into a bun, practicing and at competitions. The little spare time involved putting on shows in the living room with my big sister, Sophie. At 10, my parents took us to a ‘better’ dance school, and my teenage years involved running out of school, dinner in the car, rushing to the studio and then straight to bed. Life revolved around dance; my mum the hair and make up artist/costume department, my dad the taxi service.
My dance rollercoaster began at 13, after too much time staring at my hypermobile, misaligned body in the mirrored studio. I was less than ‘perfect’ for dance. When I sustained a chronic dance injury, the NHS didn't understand the dance-specific nature and the teachers were used to students complaining so the straightforward answer was to put me at the back. I carried on dancing through pain. Sophie headed to London to study ballet education, and only then, after numerous surgeries, I accepted I wasn't physically or emotionally built for a career in dance.
From my very first lecture on my BSc Psychology, dancers popped up as interesting for psychologists to study. Dancers’ abilities in musicality and movement, and the unique social and environmental attributes of dance training offer scientists insights into the human brain and behaviour in an elite and demanding performance context. After a year working in the neuroscience of dance, I found my way onto a Master’s in Dance Science, then a PhD and my career in dance psychology kicked off.
Now a Chartered Psychologist (British Psychological Society) and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Chichester, I have experience teaching psychology, research methods and statistics in the UK and internationally. I have give dance psychology lectures and workshops across Higher Education, vocational dance, independent ballet schools and professional dance companies. My expertise includes helping dancers to understand and reframe performance anxiety, manage stress, and respond optimally to injury prevention and management.
As an academic psychologist, I research the psychosocial underpinnings of optimal performance, including the training environment and significant individuals (such as the teachers/ parents) in nurturing healthy dance engagement. Some of my recent research focusses on creativity in the life of a dancer, understanding what it means to achieve not only technical excellence in dance but also to flourish creatively.
One final thing… I’m still pretty nifty at a ballet bun!