Elon’s Dance Science program was on the move during the fall semester

The Elon Dance Science program had a very active fall semester attending and presenting at dance medicine and science conferences nationally and internationally.

The Elon University Dance Science program had a very active fall semester attending and presenting at dance medicine and science conferences nationally and internationally.

Nineteen dance science students attended the Winston-Salem Dance Medicine (WiSDM) Conference at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine on Sept. 30. Accompanying the students were Associate Professor of Exercise Science Matt Wittstein, Associate Professor of Dance Jen Guy Metcalf, and Professor of Dance and Director of Dance Science Lauren Kearns.

Jen Guy Metcalf (left), Matt Wittstein (center) and Lauren Kearns (right) presenting at the IADMS Annual Conference at the University of Limerick. 

Kearns was an invited presenter and led a workshop on her “Somatics in Action” research. The conference featured several scholars, practitioners and medical professionals from the United States working in the field of dance medicine and science. Anna Iglesias ’25, a dance science major and student of the Elon Doctor of Physical Therapy Accelerated Pathway program, said the two years she has been to the WiSDM conference have been a great experience.

“It’s always so cool to see how many people are interested in the growing field of dance science. Being in a room with such like-minded people really helps motivate me in my future path to a career in physical therapy for dancers. Getting the opportunity to hear Misty Copeland was especially inspiring. I am so grateful for the experience that is offered to us every year,” Iglesias said.

Rosemary Chadick, a first-year dance science major and also a member of the Elon DPT Accelerated Pathway cohort, said, “Attending the WiSDM conference was an enriching experience. As I am just beginning my journey into dance science and dance medicine, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from a variety of medical and dance professionals and learning about this developing field.”

Following the conference, the faculty held a post-conference event with the students to discuss what they learned, what other professional development events they would like to participate in, as well as ideas for future dance science research at Elon.

“It’s great to get so many students to conferences like WiSDM because it allows them to connect with professionals that have similar interests and educational backgrounds while seeing how their training and degrees will lead to specific educational, clinical or research careers. Having a large group of students attend also builds community that leads to thoughtful exploration of both the creative and scholarly opportunities they have at Elon,” Wittstein said.

A highlight of the WiSDM conference for everyone was the keynote speaker, Misty Copeland, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and the first Black woman to be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history. She has performed some of the most iconic classical ballet roles and is also a celebrated author, philanthropist and activist.

Copeland spoke about her journey in dance as well as her experiences dealing with injuries and the importance of educating the medical community about the specific physical and emotional needs of dancers.

“I will always remember this moment! Having the opportunity to meet and share time with someone that has been an inspiration and a prime example of excellence will be something I will never forget,” said Zarz Peterson, a third-year dance science major. “This memory will forever be in my heart and dancing on my mind. Misty Copeland’s grace and elegance can be felt by all who have watched, read, or listened to her journey. It was truly this young Black girl’s pleasure to meet Ms. Copeland. You’ve ignited a fire in me I thought I’d lost!”

Following the WiSDM conference, Kearns was invited back to Dance Ireland, Dublin’s premiere professional dance organization, for a third time in late October. She taught a specialized somatic-based dance workshop to professional dancers.

Following her residency in Dublin, Kearns met with both Wittstein and Metcalf at the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) Annual Conference at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland. IADMS is a global network of medical professionals, educators, dancers and researchers dedicated to dancers’ health and improving health through dance by offering educational events.

This year’s conference featured over 500 medical doctors, physical therapists, dance educators, dance science researchers and thought leaders from across the world. Metcalf presented, “The Effectiveness of Dance Classes Delivered Virtually for Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease,” her collaborative research with Srikant Vallabhajosula, Crystal Ramsey and DPT candidates Andi Crosby and Maryanne Wilson.

Lauren Kearns at Dance Ireland in Dublin in October.

“This was an incredible opportunity to share our findings and discuss how it informed our Move Virtually with Elon (M.O.V.E.) program. This work was supported by a grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation, and we look forward to continuing in the future to serve members of the PD community,” Metcalf said. “Attending IADMS was a pivotal experience and impacted me as an artist, teacher and scholar. I attended sessions and presentations given by the top dance medicine/science minds around the world.”

Wittstein, who serves as a member of the IADMS Program Committee, Hamilton Symposium Awards Committee and the American Society of Biomechanics Education Committee, moderated several dance biomechanics sessions and panels. Kearns presented her research on “Pilates: Upper Body Stability & Mobility Using the TheraBand.”

Kearns also presented undergraduate dance science research from Maddie Spence ‘22, titled “A Balancing Act: Mediating Internal & External Conditions to Create a Holistic Repatterning Approach for Dancers,” in a poster session. Spence was unable to attend the conference because she is currently pursuing her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Columbia University but was extremely appreciative that her honors research was selected by IADMS.

Kearns notes that “both the WiSDM and IADMS conferences are outstanding opportunities to highlight the dance science research that we are doing at Elon as well as to learn from the other leading professionals in the field and to bring that knowledge back to our dance science students. We are building a vibrant community of dance science scholars and practitioners at Elon. It is exciting to see so many of our dance science majors deepen their engagement with the field and learn about the multitude of career pathways that are available to them.”

The 2023 IADMS Annual Conference will be held at Ohio State University and Kearns hopes that Elon dance science research projects will be presented and that the dance science majors will have the experience of participating in this international conference, as well as in the 2023 WiSDM conference.