[中][ENG] 舞蹈訓練中的科學轉變──安全的舞蹈實踐訓練 A Change in the Way Dancers are Trained – Safe Dance Practice

舞動潛能

Optimizing Dancers’ Performance


文:余曉彤


照片由香港演藝學院舞蹈學院提供



想像一下你正步入一間舞蹈教室,年輕的舞者們已經維持過伸的一字馬壓腿有三十分鐘了。老師用力將他們壓得更低,哭泣聲此起彼落,緊接的是近乎於極限幅度和速度的踢腿和拱橋,光是看著就預知到可能會痛好幾天。處於青春期的他們定時量度體重,老師言語間刻意令體重上升的同學感到羞恥,不過學生們似乎習以為常,就像習慣了長時間被坐在膝蓋上或者跪在繃腳的姿勢一樣,為達到那審美標準奮鬥。成為舞者這個美好夢想,背後訓練卻是這樣辛酸,日復一日地被打罵,經歷傷患,躲起來哭泣,似乎看不到前途。舞蹈訓練,或許已成了西西弗斯搬石頭一樣。你可能問,這麼苦的訓練,他們如何能受得住?但若身邊的人都在做同樣的事,誰又會能看到存在的問題?當這些經歷被視為常態,又如何去想像其他的方法呢?


以上是筆者在中國內地接受專業芭蕾舞訓練的經歷。當然那段時光也充滿著表演時的成就感和快感、沉醉在藝術中的片刻、與同輩的相互鼓勵,收穫了長久的友誼。那些年的閱歷成就了今天的我。我們當時都堅信,一分耕耘一分收穫(no pain, no gain)。想請問正在閱讀的你:

  • 你認同為了達到夢想,在生理、心理上都必須遭受一定的痛苦嗎?

  • 身體是舞者唯一的「樂器」,你完全了解、懂得如何照顧,如何發揮其最大潛能嗎?

直到畢業後的十幾年前,我才思考這些問題。我開始從自身經歷反思,審視曾接受的訓練,會否有不一樣的方法,能減低對身心健康產生負面的影響呢?現今國際領先的學校和舞團亦紛紛開始研究、試驗科學化的訓練,為了舞蹈訓練進一步的發展提出並探索不同的改善健康和提升表現的方法。


甚麼是安全的舞蹈實踐訓練?它的重要性為何?


舞蹈科學以科學的角度出發,實證研究為基礎,探索如何改善舞蹈訓練並提出新穎的做法來輔助和改良傳統的訓練。其中一個主要的範疇,就是安全的舞蹈實踐訓練(Safe Dance Practice ,簡稱SDP)。SDP認同傳統的訓練方式對發展技術技巧、藝術感非常重要,同時亦去探究那是否全部都是培育舞者最安全、健康、有效率的方法。SDP的首要目標是預防傷患,傷患不僅會在生理上造成損害,亦會影響心理的健康,無數舞者因此被逼提早結束表演生涯。


儘管我們無法完全地預防、預測傷患,意外總會發生,但SDP可大大減低其風險。近年來,舞蹈科學的進步讓我們能夠緊貼、整合、運用最新的科學知識,提升訓練效率、效能,以及增強舞者全方面的身心健康 ,助他們發揮到極致。


如何應用安全的舞蹈實踐訓練?


SDP關注環境、生理,及心理這三個因素在舞蹈訓練中的互相作用。簡單的可以從考察舞蹈活動的場地配套、如何篩選儀器或道具,包括制定急救、健康和安全的守則開始。老師和舞者對人體運動機能學(人體與動作的考察)和心理學的深入了解必不可少,這些知識與學習、教學、練習息息相關。每人都有獨特的身體結構和運動習慣,處於成長期不同階段的特質和需求都不一,老師若能通曉解剖學、生物力學、身心學(somatics)、動態的身體線條(dynamic alignment)等基本原則,便能為教學上的指導技巧帶來提升,靈活地應對每位舞者的局限和輔助他們發展潛能。


舞蹈活動前的準備和隨後復原的重要性經常被忽視。利用把杆上首幾個動作為暖身(warm-up)並不能滿足舞蹈所需的準備。暖身應視乎課堂的特質,或根據舞者自身需求而預先設計。透過訂製練習和體適能方案,加入休息和復原時間的考量,訓練的質量和效率將有所提升。與只靠過往的經驗或聽聞有別,配合正確營養資訊,不僅能進一步改善健康狀況,同時提高表現、增大訓練效益、減低傷患風險。


心理健康問題常被污名化而不被提及。心理技能訓練(psychological skills training)已被應用到運動和表演藝術多年,心理健康亦是影響表現高低的其中一個重要因素。透過學習和培訓,舞者和老師都可培養彈性(resilient)的心理素質,獲得身心整體的進步,以一個強大的心理狀態應對舞蹈生涯的高低。老師、學校、或舞團的管理層亦應不斷改善給予回饋(feedback)的方式,考慮當刻的情境、採用的語言,以及所施加的期望在舞者身心健康發展背後的不同影響 [1]。


總結


營造一個正面的環境,推廣安全及健康意識,優先考慮身心健康,其實與技術技巧和藝術造詣同樣重要。舞蹈科學為我們提供一系列可改善舞蹈訓練的方法,目標是為傳統的訓練帶來可見的改變,有助培育更優秀、更健康、更強壯的舞者,發展長遠的表演生涯。


[1] 在這裡我們應該提醒的是,根據世界衛生組織的說法,健康是一種身體、精神和社會適應的完整狀態,而不僅僅是沒有疾病或虛弱。



建議閱讀

  1. Safe dance practice. Quin, E., Rafferty, S., & Tomlinson, C. (2015). Human Kinetics.

  2. Dance anatomy and kinesiology. Clippinger, K. S. (2007). Human Kinetics.

  3. Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Taylor, J., & Estanol, E. (2015). Human Kinetics.



==

余曉彤(MSc, MFA)

香港演藝學院講師(舞蹈科學)

余氏擁有豐富的芭蕾舞背景和經驗,近年將重心投放在舞蹈科學研究在舞蹈訓練中的應用和實踐,全方面關注舞者的身心健康,希望透過教育和知識普及,幫助舞者預防傷患並提升表現。


 

A Change in the Way Dancers are Trained – Safe Dance Practice


Text: Heidi Yu


Photo provided by The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts School of Dance



Imagine walking into a dance studio, full of young students in one of their daily classes. They are sitting in oversplit, the same position they have kept for the last 30 minutes. Some of them are crying out loud—others whine more quietly—while the teacher walks around using his body weight to push the students to the floor. Right after, you see the students stand up and rush into fast-paced leg kicking and bridging, of the kind that leaves your hips and back in pain for days. They, however, seem used to this, as well as to practices such as having someone sitting on their knees to flatten them to achieve a certain aesthetic ideal. In addition, they are also weighed every week during puberty, and frequently shamed by their teacher, who will instruct them not to eat at all if their weight has increased, as they may be deemed too heavy to support themselves for jumps or exercises en pointe.


Many of these students, if not all, are used to crying inside—powerless—when they get injured. All too accustomed to being called useless or stupid, many see no progress or future in dance, despite the dreams that drove them initially to pursue dance training. For them, dance has become a Sisyphean routine, where you are supposed to keep dancing no matter what, ignoring pain until even walking becomes impossible. But how can they realize the flaws in this when everyone around them is doing the same? How can they envisage a different way when this behaviour has become so normalized?


These are also some of my past experiences training as a professional ballerina in China, where practices like the ones described above are still mainstream in many dance schools. Of course, there are also joyful memories of successful performances, of beautiful moments where the art of ballet shone bright, as well as many strong friendships with my peers which have lasted until today. All in all, my training years helped me become who I am. However, the dominant mentality at my school was “no pain - no gain.” I would like to ask you, reader, a few questions:

  • As a dancer, teacher, or student, do you believe in this approach? Do you think that we must suffer, both physically and mentally, to reach our dream?

  • The body is the dancer’s only instrument. How much do you know about yours? Do you know how to take care of it, and how to maximize its potential?


It wasn’t until some 10 years ago, well after graduating, that I started to ask myself questions like these, and about my training process. Reflecting on my own experiences, I started to wonder whether some things could be done differently, without taking such a heavy toll on my health and well-being. Furthermore, with traditional training methods being called into question by multiple actors within the dance world—including a number of prominent schools, dancers, and educators across the globe—, the time is ripe to propose and explore alternative ways to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for the continuous betterment of the discipline.


What is Safe Dance Practice and why is it important?


Working with evidence-based research, dance science investigates ways to improve dance training through a scientific approach, proposing novel and refined teaching practices that complement and correct some of the traditional methods of dance training. With a special focus on ensuring the health and safety of dancers—without diminishing their performance—one of the main concepts in this field is that of Safe Dance Practice (SDP).


SDP, while recognizing the necessity for many elements of traditional training methods to cultivate technical skills and artistry in dance, claims there is significant room to reconsider whether all the “inherited” dance practices that have dominated dance training during many decades are the safest, healthiest, and most efficient ways to nurture a dancer. One goal of SDP is injury prevention, as this is an all-too-frequent obstacle that has forced countless dancers to stop their careers much earlier than intended. The damage of injury is not only physical, as its consequences—taking dancers away from their dream roles, permanently damaging their bodies—often leave profound psychological sequels. Furthermore, the ever-increasing presence of social media in the dance world, supplying pictures and videos of “the best” (unrealistic) dance bodies, (extreme) poses, and “perfect” skills, causes dancers to feel pressured and anxious, as their perceived competitors are now far beyond their everyday classmates. Needless to say, not many of them are well-informed on how to safely tackle their goals.


Although total prevention or completely accurate prediction of injury is impossible—accidents happen—SDP can help to greatly reduce risks. With dance science advances, teachers and students can integrate cutting-edge scientific insights in their practice, supplementing and improving traditional training methods. This will increase the efficacy and efficiency of training and the overall health and well-being of dancers, enabling them to thrive fully.


SDP goes beyond implementing basic health and safety procedures, as one would do in a non-dance school or office setting. A comprehensive understanding of kinesiology (the study of the human body and its movement) and psychology in relation to dance is indispensable, as it will inform and allow for pertinent choices to be made regarding the learning, teaching, and practising of dance.


How can Safe Dance Practice be applied?


SDP looks at the interplay of environmental, physiological, and psychological factors in dance. An easy way to start assessing its applications concerns the preparation of appropriate spaces and the selection of equipment for dance activities. First aid and general health and safety protocols are also accounted for. At the individual level, the acquisition of basic knowledge of anatomical and biomechanical principles, the awareness of dynamic alignment, and somatic practices are critical for dance teachers, as they train dancers with bodies that are unique, individualized, and at different stages of growth—with widely different needs and characteristics. This can greatly enhance teaching cues, increasing the effectiveness of corrections and allowing teachers to address and respond to each individual dancer’s potential and limitations.


Physiological preparation for and recovery from dance activities are also usually overlooked. Simply using the first few exercises at the barre or a short core workout as warm-up does not provide the preparation needed for dance activity. Instead, SDP encourages the inclusion of specifically designed warm-up programmes, crafted according to the needs of individual dancers and the tasks they are required to perform. Through the implementation of tailored physical training and fitness programmes, planned rest, and recovery, the quality and effectiveness of outcomes can be maximized. Imagine a group of students who cannot meet the demands of a new choreography, and are not showing the progress their teacher would expect. By understanding the principles detailed above, their teacher will be able to design a specific supplementary training programme targeting the underdeveloped fitness components required for the choreography. At the same time, the best work-to-rest ratio to maximize the returns will be determined. Furthermore, with SDP the teacher will be able to give proper nutrition and hydration support to the students—as opposed to the all-too-common sharing of personal experience and hearsay—thus ensuring the dancers’ health. This will allow for a better performance, increasing the efficiency and results of the training while also reducing risks of injury.


Lastly, the psychological component of dance has often been stigmatized and left greatly underexplored. Dancers’ psychological well-being is an essential factor in any successful performance; therefore, SDP recognizes that psychological skills training plays a crucial role. Focusing on this aspect of dance can enable both teachers and dancers to be resilient, progressing effectively and holistically, maintaining a stronger and better-prepared mind throughout an entire dance career. Teachers and management staff should likewise develop awareness of the effects their feedback has on dancers: the style and language used, the circumstances under which it is given, or the weight that imposed expectations have on physical and mental health [1].


Conclusion


Creating a positive environment for dance training, promoting safety and health, and prioritizing the well-being of dancers and teachers alike, is as important as the technical and artistic components. Believing that only the latter affect performance is a grave mistake, easily debunkable with the right knowledge and skill set. SDP and dance science provide us with powerful tools to improve all aspects of dance training, potentially bringing significant transformations to our conception of dance practice, allowing for better, healthier, and stronger dancers with longer careers. A change in dance training methods has long been overdue. If we want to take dance to the next level, we must move beyond the extrapolation of personal experience, beyond mere anecdotal opinions and an uncritical embrace of tradition, and start applying scientific insights and methods to develop effective, safe, and successful training paths that will ultimately facilitate an even higher level of performance.


[1] We should be reminded here that, according to the WHO, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.



Suggested Reading

  1. Safe dance practice. Quin, E., Rafferty, S., & Tomlinson, C. (2015). Human Kinetics.

  2. Dance anatomy and kinesiology. Clippinger, K. S. (2007). Human Kinetics.

  3. Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Taylor, J., & Estanol, E. (2015). Human Kinetics.



==

Heidi Yu (MSc, MFA)

Lecturer (Dance Science) at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

With an extensive background in ballet training and performance, she currently dedicates her enthusiasm to Dance Science research, advocating for its application to dance training and promoting a holistic approach for performance enhancement, injury prevention, and dancers' health and well-being.



本欄合作伙伴:香港演藝學院舞蹈學院

This column is in collaboration with: School of Dance, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts




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