Engaging in sports is a great way to manage stress and have fun! But at what point does sport become the stressor?
Is it the influence of external factors? Perhaps early training to make it in sport? The root of this is unknown but what we do know is that the awareness of mental health is increasing within the sports sector, and so does the need for the funding for support.
In a survey funded by Dance UK, it was found that over half of 658 respondents experience external stress, general anxiety and tension with others (Laws, 2005). It was also found that 84% of contemporary dancers experienced at least one injury in 12 months. Some perceived the causes to be down to being overworked and fatigue. However, 44% have no access to psychological support. This demonstrates a need for funding to address these issues so the appropriate support is provided to dancers, to prevent severe injury and psychological distress.
Lack of funding within sport is a topic featured within the Introduction to Sports Psychotherapy course which is available for purchase on October 29th. If you’d like to find out more about how the lack of funding can impact the psychological well-being of sportsmen and women within the world of Dance and other sports, click here to find out more.
We can only assume that the lack of funding can be due to different reasons. Firstly, the stigma in disclosing injuries within the dance industry is apparent (Vassallo et al., 2019). Research has found that some dancers fear telling their employers that they are injured as it can result in losing professional work. Therefore, dancers may feel like they cannot reach out for support which suggests that this can be seen when asking for emotional support. As a result, dancers may feel that they cannot approach teachers, parents, choreographers about any issues due to the stigma that is seen within the industry.
Secondly, the appreciation of seeing dance as a sport and dancers as athletes is absent (Guarino, 2015). Whilst there is overlap between sport and the performing arts, dancers are ultimately creative athletes who have similar physical demands, but with an element of subjectivity. Let’s take football as an example. Both sports are competitive, they both have a need to be physically fit to execute skills and they both serve a purpose to entertain viewers.
Dancers are seen at concerts, films, music videos, theatres. Dance is seen everywhere even if it may not be obvious. At a more amateur level, of course anyone can dance, all you have to do is stick some music on and move! Equally, in football finding some grass and kicking a ball. Understanding the hard work both physically and mentally that dancers engage in to become professional, needs further awareness which could perhaps lead to its appreciation of it being a sport.
Not only does dance provide entertainment, but it also makes us feel good! Dance can be used as a therapeutic tool, as practitioners are beginning to use dance movement psychotherapy (DMP). Cunningham (2014) found that infertile couples benefited from DMP as they felt connected with others when moving as it created social and emotional bonds, particularly when they felt isolated.
Dance serves many different purposes and yet the government have cut arts courses by 50% which can have a huge impact (Guardian, 2021). This can increase competitiveness of dance, but also limits the resources available for DMP. Community Dance Artist, Jennifer Hale, shares her thoughts:
‘It just shows an astounding unawareness of what a basic building block they play in all our lives and the makeup of society. When we went into lockdown, many people turned to art in some form to help support them through, dispel fears, say what was on their minds or just play, proving that it is needed now more than ever – both professionally and within the community’.
Funding is needed to allow dancers to access the mental health resources available whether that’s in dance schools or private practitioners who can draw on similar experiences. Furthermore, the funding for anyone who may engage with DMP who can find great benefit in movement.
- Vassallo, A. J., Pappas, E., Stamatakis, E., & Hiller, C. E. (2019). Injury fear, stigma, and reporting in professional dancers. Safety and health at work, 10(3), 260-264.
- Guarino, L. (2015). Is dance a sport?: A twenty-first-century debate. Journal of Dance Education, 15(2), 77-80.
- Cunningham, J. (2014). Potential benefits of dance movement psychotherapy with couples experiencing infertility. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 9(4), 237-252.
- Laws, H. & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national inquiry into dancers’ health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.
22nd October, 2021