Sport Psychology and Resilience Applied to Dancers

Sport Psychology and Resilience Applied to Dancers

Camila Cristina Fonseca Bicalho
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4261-3.ch005
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This chapter addresses general aspects of applied sports psychology in dance performance with a focus on resilience development. Initially, the general context of sports psychology and the adaptations to the dance universe are addressed. Then the concepts and models of sports resilience are presented and a reflection on the aspects of dance performance is brought after each theory. Psychological aspects that are associated in high performance with resilience are also discussed, such as personality theory, motivation, stress, burnout, and coping. At the end, the authors present three case studies that show the relationship of the resilience component with the performance and mental health of the dancers.
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To prepare for the concert, the dancer uses mental resources, such as memorisation, controlled breathing, concentration, and emotion, that contribute to the complete surrender of the body to the dance. Likewise physical capabilities, all these mental processes need to be trained. This chapter aims to aid in understanding how and why the resilience concept may affect dance performance.

Sport Psychology is the science that studies the mental variables applied in daily training and competitions; therefore, its application in the dance context (a new area called Dance Psychology) is fundamental for the formation of the dancer. Sport Psychology was defined as the scientific study of people and their behaviours in sport and exercise contexts and the practical applications of such knowledge (Gill, 1979). As a subarea of the knowledge of Sport Sciences, its main object of study the human motor behaviour (sport and physical exercise) and sport contexts as places of the practical application of knowledge (Vieira, Nascimento Jr. & Vieira, 2013). Recently, the dance context is also requesting the application of the expertise coming from this area.

How to optimise the performance of the dancer from the mental performance? There are several ways to answer this question, and the beginning of this answer resides in the articulated work between the different areas of knowledge that performance sports, among them, psychology.

Sport Psychology is composed of anthropology, philosophy, and sociology of sport regarding the socio-cultural area, including medicine, physiology, and biomechanics of sport, demonstrating a trend - and a necessity - to interdisciplinarity (Rubio, 1999). Weinberg and Gould (2001) believed that most people study sports psychology with two aims in mind: (a) understand how psychological factors affect an individual's physical performance and (b) understand how participation in sports and exercise affects a person's psychological development, health and well-being. Recently incorporated into the dance context, the focus would be no different.

This chapter aims to discuss Sport Psychology in the dance field and henceforth the terminology: Dance Psychology. Dance Psychology was born as a study topic to include interventions to increase health and performance for dancers, programs for stimulating creativity, dance movement therapy, eating disorders and emotional responses. It will also be discussed in the chapter that dancers want to excel each day more like athletes. Therefore, some of the leading dance companies are already betting on this new area.



Dance Psychology studies and acts in situations that involve several psychological constructs applied in the context of training to professional performance; characterised as a space in which the social, educational and clinical focus complement each other. In this context, the formation of the dancer has required the study and performance of professionals in psychology, as the individual and collective professional technical level is increasingly equal. The differential factor for success is emotional preparation, pointed to as the differential factor in many sports.

Van Assche (2017) showed that the future for dance professionals is a precarious scenario in society. The financial evaluation of the dance professional to the detriment of more profitable areas, especially in countries experiencing an economic crisis, increases the work demand of this professional, searching for better living and working conditions. Among the points that the author highlights, a crucial one is that it is becoming more difficult to delineate where working time ends and private life begins. What does that mean? That the professional dancer demands do not end at the end of a workday or after a performance. Being a dancer requires a dedication that occupies much of the individual's life, and in this spiral, social relations and leisure activities are deeply affected. Thus, excessive dedication to training and performance has increasingly impacted the mental health of dancers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dance Psychology: Field of research to include interventions to increase health and performance for dancers, programs for stimulating creativity, dance movement therapy, eating disorders, and emotional responses.

Sport Psychology: Field of research and action of sport psychologists who study people and their behaviours in sport and exercise contexts.

Stress: A physical response of our body to an external stimulus.

Psychological Assessment: A set of procedures that aim to collect data to test clinical hypotheses, make diagnoses, describe the functioning of individuals or groups, and make predictions about behaviour or performance in specific situations.

Psychological Resilience: A personal strategy capable of producing a positive response to the stressful situations experienced throughout life.

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