Amanda Donahue working with a dance student at Dean College

Dean College will be the home of the first Ruth Solomon Symposium, a multidisciplinary educational event designed for physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, allied health professionals, dance instructors and dancers. The two-day symposium will be held at Dean College in Franklin, MA on June 21 and June 22, 2024. The theme of the event is “The Science Behind the Dancer: Optimizing Dancer Health” and will provide an opportunity to learn and review the fundamentals of care and instruction throughout the dancer’s life.

“Dancers are elite athletes and an important portion of our students’ training here at Dean focuses on prevention, because an injury can have a significant impact on their performance, careers and mental health,” said Marc Arentsen, Dean of the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance. “Empowering teachers, health practitioners and dance professionals in this space with new knowledge and strategies to safeguard well-being and longevity in this demanding art form, makes educational symposiums such as this critically important. We look forward to welcoming everyone to our beautiful campus in June to participate in this tremendous opportunity to learn, exchange knowledge, share experience and support those who live to dance.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network concludes that dance is the most physically demanding job in the country. The research looked at five types of physical activity — dynamic strength, explosive strength, time spent running or walking, stamina and trunk strength. Studies have also shown that 80 percent of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform, compared to a 20 percent injury rate for rugby or football players. Dean is one of only a dozen colleges in the U.S. that has a full-time certified athletic trainer on staff, dedicated to the performing arts.

Boston Children’s Hospital has a long-standing collaboration with both the School of the Arts and the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean that includes a medical affiliate agreement; standing orders for licensed certified athletic trainers to provide onsite injury care and prevention; nutrition talks provided by Boston Children’s registered dietitians; and dance affiliate referral privileges. Additionally, Dean’s dedicated performing arts athletic training facility hosts monthly clinics staffed by Boston Children’s physicians and for even more hands-on support, Boston Children’s clinicians often join Dean’s performing arts athletic training staff backstage during dance concerts.

“Without question, dancers are deserving of high-level medical care and injury prevention support,” said Amanda Donahue, Dean’s Performing Arts Athletic Training Program Coordinator. “Over the past decade, we have been able to expand this assistance for our performing artists through our collaboration with Boston Children’s and this partnership has been instrumental in providing specialized performing arts medical care to our students.”

Upon completion of the symposium, participants will be able to:

  • Identify risk factors and strategies to optimize dancer health and wellness;
  • Translate dance medicine research to clinical practice and dancer training;
  • Understand the multidisciplinary approach to the developing dancer;
  • Incorporate nutrition and mental health in the assessment, treatment, and training of dancers;
  • Understand innovative strategies for evaluating and treating dance related injuries including dynamic MSK ultrasound, EPAT, and orthobiologics; and
  • Discuss and demonstrate various styles of dance and recommendations for injury treatment and prevention.

“There has been a noticeable gap in translating dance medicine research from the clinical practice into the dance studio,” said Bridget Quinn, MD of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine department. “The Ruth Solomon Symposium has been created to try to bridge this gap by bringing together the physicians, athletic trainers, physical therapists and dancers to look at the current research and standard of care and to develop practical tools to improve our dancers’ health and wellness.”

The symposium has been named for Ruth Solomon (1935-2023), who was a recognized professional modern dancer, choreographer and international teacher in academia. The published author of many scientific articles, books and research studies centering on dance medicine, Ruth volunteered for 39 annual three-month residencies under the direction of Dr. Lyle Micheli at the Division of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s. Here she conducted several major dance medicine studies. In 2010 she was named Honorary Fellow of the Division of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s. She was also elected Fellow of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS) and was given an IADMS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Pre-registration for the symposium is required and costs $100 to $300, depending on the participant’s professional accreditation.