December 2nd 2018

Review and Reflection on the South Asian Dance Medicine and Science Association (SADMSA) Health Day

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance

By Akkshitha Suresh (MSc)

As a bharatanatyam dancer and a Dance Science graduate, anything South Asian juxtaposed on anything Dance Science would have me buzzing for days and for the same reason, the SADMSA Health Day seemed like a blessing! Just the idea of a room full of bharatanatyam and kathak dancers, passionate and intrigued by the human body filled me with optimism.

On the day, the workshops kicked off with a short introduction from Professor Emma Redding, Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban and Seema De-Jorge Chopra, co-founder of SADMSA, Strength & Conditioning Specialist and Project Supervisor at Laban. Emma introduced us to the wide range of opportunities that Dance Science had to offer to South Asian dancers as well as the various courses available for practitioners at Laban, including the newly introduced BSc Dance Science programme. While Seema elaborated on the paucity of research in the South Asian dance medicine domain and emphasised the need to bridge this gap in order to optimise dance training and performance.

After the initial introductions, the dancers gathered in the studios for the first workshop of the day – Iyengar Yoga by Marion Sinclair from IYISL. Her calm and soothing demeanour as she led us through the asanas was a perfect way to ease into the day’s physical activities. She provided various useful insights regarding posture, alignment and breath, leaving the dancers hungry for more.

This was followed by consecutive sessions of Strength and Conditioning as well as High Intensity Interval Training (HiiT) independently for the kathak and bharatanatyam dancers, led by Seema De Jorge-Chopra and Strength & Conditioning coach Claire Farmer. Claire, who led the BNHiiT that I attended was so infectiously cheerful and full of energy that she made four minutes of press-ups seem like a piece of cake! Most of all, it was nothing but rewarding to be breaking a sweat with fellow dancers - performing all those squats, lifting weights, thinking out loud about the movement demands of Bharatanatyam, the physiology behind it and introspecting about the implementation of these into regular practise.   

Followed by the conditioning sessions was a Physio talk – ‘Let’s talk about stamping’, led by Almas Sirguroh. It was a great way to share ideas and muse about the future of dance education. Almas led us through a presentation on physical health and provided us with some hands-on exercises focusing on the prevention of foot related musculoskeletal issues, which are highly prevalent among Indian classical dancers. This was a particularly vital topic for the cohort because it is said that repetitive stamping occurring in most South Asian genres leads to high impact loading and a high occurrence of foot and ankle related injuries, accounting for 80% of the total dance injuries in South Asian genres. To add to all the rich information we were receiving, the open Dance Science laboratory helped the dancers to receive some hands-on experience to physical testing and also play with some of the latest testing equipment.

The highlight of the day for me was the last session of the day - Iyengar restorative yoga again led by the wonderful Marion Sinclair. Highlighting the effectiveness of active cool-down, it was a truly relaxing and mindful experience. It crystallised the proceedings of the day and opened the mind to the possibilities of the future. The day was concluded by the teachers providing us with some useful take home advice, addressing questions and discussing the future opportunities made available for dancers by SADSMA.

Through my time at Laban for my masters, I came across some very interesting studies that helped me coagulate the current physiological status of genres like bharatanatyam. The stylistic and temporal arrangement of bharatanatyam is so unique that it demands a unique and discrete skill set from the dancers. With its demand for high impact percussive movements, complex narrative phrases, combined with globalisation and the ever-increasing demand in choreography, a rather high physiological stress is placed on dancers today. Research has highlighted that a majority of bharatanatyam dancers lack the physical fitness and energy utilisation required to perform it. In addition, an average of 70% of dancers sustain at least one dance injury or musculoskeletal pain, with the predominant cause perceived to be overwork, lack of physical fitness and irregular monitoring leading to premature fatigue, stress and falls. In the present day, my personal observation is that dancers need to be as athletic as expressive, as musical as sharp and most importantly, as aware as artistic. To achieve this, maybe the present dance pedagogy needs to be placed under scrutiny. Maybe it is time for well-informed concepts of dance medicine to be incorporated into traditional Indian classical dance training. In this flow of thought, the silver lining of the Health Day for me was that Seema collected heart rate data from the day’s high intensity sessions in order to investigate dancers’ physiological response to such activity, a topic very close to my heart! This would not only provide some very interesting data but would also be of great value for the South Asian dance research community.

At the end of the day, as I left the studios of Laban, I was filled with a sense of hope for the future of this new but consistently developing field of South Asian dance science and medicine. Considering this was just a taster of SADMSA’s many visions, I look forward to their more focused and detailed workshops and activities in the future. I cannot thank them enough for this great start!


South Asian Dance Medicine & Science Association (SADMSA)

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance

Dance Science

Seema De Jorge-Chopra

Strength & Conditioning specialist

Marion Sinclair

Iyengar Yoga Institute South London:

Claire Farmer

Strength & Conditioning coach

Almas Sirgoroh


Halsa Care Group - Windsor


#SADMSA #SouthAsianDanceMSA #trinitylabandancescience #fit4apurpose