Reflections on International Association for Dance Medicine and Science 28th Annual Conference, Finland, October 2018.

I often get a raised eyebrow that says ‘Come again?’ when I tell people I’m a dance psychologist. So imagine my joy at spending five days with over 400 kindred spirits at the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, this year hosted by Dance Health Finland. I’m going to share with you some personal psychology highlights (FYI: IADMS has a whopper of a programme including physiology, biomechanics, nutrition and education).

Here’s Siobhan and I, exploring Helsinki by bike!

Here’s Siobhan and I, exploring Helsinki by bike!

I flew to Helsinki with my friend Dr Siobhan Mitchell, who I met at IADMS 2014 in Basel, both in the early stages of our PhDs, mildly terrified and in need of moral support.

After a beautiful but chilly day sightseeing, it was time to get learning. Day One kicked off with a keynote on sleep and recovery, followed by colleagues from Chichester Uni Dance Science presenting on training load and injury. My Thursday highlight was hearing about the work Brenton Surgenor (another awesome person who has massively influenced my career) is doing at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, using an app to monitor training load. Extra love to Brenton for measuring stress, motivation and burnout in the app not just physical load. I spent the afternoon catching up with fellow dance psychologist Dr Sanna Nordin-Bates. This summer I was a guest researcher at Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences with Sanna, so we were long overdue a catch up on life and the project we’re working on.

The evening was spent representing Early Career Academics at the Student Events. I love giving advice to enthusiastic students, especially passing on the pearls of wisdom I have learned from many female academics about work life balance. I was also invited to speak on a panel about social media in dance science. I set up the Trinity Laban Dance Science social media accounts back in 2014 and it was great to also chat about my new venture for the dance psychologist. To say thank you, I was invited to join the IADMS students on a backstage tour of the Finnish National Ballet – what a dream!

Day Two was pretty much a whole day of dance psych presentations 😍. My Friday highlight was Peta Blevins, who shared her work on the discrepancy between student and teachers’ attitudes to stress and recovery. For my turn on stage, I presented a study published earlier this year, but also included some data which isn’t in the paper. This was to do with how experts and non experts understand (or don’t!) contemporary dance. I was expecting a subtle giggle or two, but wasn’t quite prepared for roaring laughter from the audience! See below for an insight into the reason behind that response...


Next up I shared something rather more serious, a study I have been conducting with Dr Helen Clegg from the University of Buckingham. Helen and I have been working together for the past year, hoping to make sense of performance anxiety in young dancers. Its a fantastic project to be part of and I cant wait to share more of the findings and next steps over the coming year or so. Watch this space! Another highlight was Heidi Haraldsen, PhD student at Norwegian School of Sport & Health Sciences. I met Heidi this summer in Sweden, and love her research into the dark side of perfectionism. In dance we seem to encourage the idea of being ‘perfect’, but Heidi’s work (amongst others) shows that this is not so healthy and we are better off supporting dancers to strive for excellence, rather than perfection.

Next up was my Saturday highlight, as Derrick Brown and Jatin Ambegaonkar shared their work on bibliometric analyses of published papers in dance science. I can’t do their work justice here, but basically they showed how well received dance science is becoming in non-dance journals (dance psych being the fourth most published area -YES!). I wasn’t the only one cheering when they shared that our field is slightly in favour of female first authors (clearly not the case in science more generally!!!). Saturday night ended with the infamous IADMS dance party. This year Trinity Laban took on Wolverhampton in the ultimate dance (science) battle and I am delighted to say that we won!

Bleary eyed on Sunday, I was excited to see Dr Meghan Brown discuss Relative Energy Deficiency in dancers. I have been following Meghan’s work for a few years- she is a phenomenal researcher and equally good presenter. My ultimate highlight; seeing two students I supervised the past two years getting a well-deserved moment to present their research. Elizabeth and Lauren are part of the first ever cohort of students to graduate with an MFA Dance Science from Trinity Laban. Both have challenged my thinking, helped me view dance in a new way and taught me so much about collaboration. I’m gutted they’ll be heading back to the USA and Canada after they graduate, but can’t wait to see what they get up to next.


All in all, an inspiring week of thought provoking research and conversation, and the saunas weren’t too bad either!