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Department Of Dance

BYU Dance Grads' Research Aimed to Make a Positive Impact on the Dance World

Seven Dance Majors Presented Their Research in End of Year Symposium

BYU students pursuing Bachelors of Arts in Dance are asked to integrate their dance education with a minor or area of outside focus, culminating in a final research project. To finish the winter 2024 semester, seven dance BA graduates presented their research in a final symposium.

While all of the students are dance majors, each minored in something outside of the Department of Dance which inspired their final projects. Each research project addressed a problem in the dance world and proposed a solution. Many projects related to dancer health including nutrition, tendon health, injuries and abuse trauma therapy. The symposium demonstrated the breadth at which BYU dancers are exploring and contributing to related fields.

Read below to learn more about each of the student research projects.

Jillian Jarvis Nelson for BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble
Photo by BYU Photo

Jillian Jarvis Iverson | World Class Clogging 

Jillian Jarvis Iverson currently dances on the International Folk Dance ensemble. She began taking clogging lessons from a young age and fell in love with it over other types of dance. She was inducted into the International Clogging Hall of Fame in May 2021.

Throughout her dance training and college career, Iverson noticed that very few studios offer clogging instruction. As a solution, she created a pedagogy and curriculum for percussive footwork dance styles called “World Class Clogging Curriculum: The Basics of Clogging for Every Studio.”

The curriculum includes lesson plans and instructional videos for all levels and is available for studio owners and teachers to implement in their training. She plans to use the curriculum in her own studio after graduation.

Kaitlin Hatch | The Unlimited Podcast: Managing Dance Injuries 

Kaitlin Hatch never imagined that her college dance career would be interrupted by two serious injuries. Inspired by her experiences and the experiences of her peers, Hatch created a podcast that discusses injuries among dancers. Across multiple episodes, Hatch shares her own insights and invites guests to join her and share advice.

Hatch has found that universities need to improve how they foster belonging for injured dancers. Physical injuries can have psychological effects; making sure injured dancers are still included in the dance process is important for their health and wellbeing.

Ainsley Yarbrough | Nutrition in Dance: Why We Should Care 

Ainsley Yarbrough studied nutrition issues in dance, focusing on collegiate dancers. She explained that dancers and athletes have different nutritional needs from sedentary people but that dancers are not meeting these needs.

Her studies found that nutrition issues in dance stem from lack of education, unhealthy eating habits, disordered eating, eating disorders and food shame. She has found that budget, lack of information and perceived expectations hold collegiate dancers back from nutritional health.

There are no university dance programs in the United States that require a nutrition class as part of their curriculum and the majority of dancers she surveyed had not taken any formal nutrition courses. As part of her project, Yarbrough proposed creating a nutrition class specifically designed for dancers. She has also created a cookbook for collegiate dancers.

Lizzie Pouwer | Tendon Health Research Among Dancers 

Lizzie Pouwer for BYU Theatre Ballet
Photo by Izzy Arrieta/Arrieta Dance Photography

Lizzie Pouwer worked with two life science students who held individual achilles tendon studies on members of BYU Theatre Ballet. For both studies, she was a participant and a research assistant. The first study was titled, “Using Imaging to Understand Achilles Tendon Adaptation and Injury in Female Athletes” and was led out by PhD student Josh Sponbeck. The second was titled, “The Role of Caloric Intake on Tendon Health in Pre-Professional Ballet Dancers” and was led by masters student Annie Smedley.

Her studies used ultrasounds to measure the health and size of the dancers’ achilles tendons. A special ankle device is currently being prototyped by the BYU College of Engineering. Pouwer noticed changes in tendon health were correlated with factors such as increased rehearsal hours, dancing without a proper warm up and dancing on a non-sprung floor. She plans to become a physical therapist and continue to use studies like these to improve dancer health and prevent injuries.

Shelby Simpson and Dexter Ellis | Finding Healing Through Movement 

Shelby Simpson and Dexter Ellis collaborated on a study of Dance/Movement Therapy and Abuse. They studied how Dance/Movement Therapy can positively affect people who have experienced physical, psychological or sexual abuse. Because abuse trauma is often stored in the body, Dance/Movement Therapy can help release the trauma and help the person heal.

Simpson and Ellis finished their presentation with a dance film featuring choreography they created and performed.

Abbi Kelley | Family Processes in Dance 

Abbi Kelley incorporated family systems theory into a dance setting. As she choreographed, she observed how an individual in either a family or, in this case, a dance group, impacts the whole group.

To emphasize the need for unity and oneness in dance, she implemented routines and rituals into the rehearsal process. Kelley noticed that by utilizing Family Theory and focusing on oneness during the choreographic process, she could emulate Christ and bring the Spirit to the process and product.