Public talk to explore pandemic’s impact on youth dancers and their families

From trying to learn effectively during online lessons to grappling with the uncertainty of whether competitions would proceed because of public health restrictions, adolescents in the competitive dance community, and their families, have faced a number of challenges created by the pandemic.

At a free public webinar Thursday, April 8, Professor Dawn Zinga and graduate student Natalie Tacuri (BA ’19) of the Department of Child and Youth Studies, along with Research Assistant and Sport Management student Victoria Dewar, will speak on “Experiences of Youth Dancers and their Families” as part of the Lifespan Development Research Institute’s community Speaker Series.

Held from 6 to 7 p.m., the talk is aimed at dancers, parents, studio owners and dance teachers as well as researchers and will cover a large body of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded research from the Dance Research Lab, which is led by Zinga in collaboration with Associate Professor Danielle Sirianni Molnar in the Department of Child and Youth Studies.

The event will examine how participation in competitive dance may contribute to health and well-being, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth dancers and their families, based on the results of a study undertaken last spring.

“We will be sharing qualitative results about how dancers feel about the pandemic, its impacts on their dancing and what is helping them get through these challenging times,” says Zinga.

Tacuri, a second-year master’s student, says the recent study results reflect a particular challenge for youth dancers related to goal-setting and motivation.

“In our qualitative interviews, we discovered the importance of dancers having a consistent goal to work towards throughout their competitive season,” she says. “With all of the uncertainty surrounding how, when and if competitions will be running this season, some dancers have expressed their feelings of frustration and disappointment, lack of motivation and difficulty navigating sudden changes in routine.”

Zinga says this finding tracks with her team’s previous research, which shows that participation in dance has potential to create both positive and negative outcomes among dancers.

“In the data both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, our preliminary analyses suggest that for many dancers, dance positively contributes to health and well-being, and may be a protective factor both in general and during pandemic conditions,” says Zinga. “However, in some dancers who show particular patterns, there are elements of dance that need to be carefully monitored as they can contribute more negatively to health and well-being.”

Zinga hopes that people attending the talk will come away with a better understanding of dancers’ experiences, both before and during the pandemic.

She also plans to offer strategies that parents and teachers can implement to help youth dancers get the most out of the protective elements of dance and best support their health and well-being.

The webinar is free and open to the public but does require advance registration. Please sign up to participate in the livestream.

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