Youth ballroom, Irish and Highland dancers sought for study

It takes two to tango — even in the world of research. Brock’s Dance Research Lab is seeking youth ballroom, Irish and Highland dancers to partner up with researchers for interviews about their experiences as competitive dancers.

The lab is recruiting active competitive dancers for a new study, “Convergences and Divergences in Competitive Dance: The Experiences of Youth Dancers Across Styles.”

Dancers between the ages of 12 and 19 are invited to speak with researchers in a virtual interview lasting between 90 and 120 minutes.

The study will focus on “exploring dancers’ experiences in competitive dance, and also on how COVID-19 may have impacts on those experiences,” says Natalie Tacuri, project co-ordinator and Master of Arts in Child and Youth Studies student.

“We are particularly interested in how preferred style of dance may impact dancer experiences, resulting in similar or different experiences across dancers,” Tacuri says. “In this research, we are asking dancers about their dance studio or school experiences, parental support and involvement, competition experience, costuming and attitudes about dance.”

Tacuri also notes the study will fill a gap in literature, which doesn’t often address styles like ballroom, Irish and Highland, let alone compare them with other styles of competitive dance like jazz, contemporary or tap.

Dawn Zinga, Professor of Child and Youth Studies and Director of the Dance Research Lab, says the study has grown out of outstanding community participation with the lab.

When Zinga and Associate Professor Danielle Sirianni Molnar embarked on a study on the impact of COVID-19 on youth dancers and their families last year, they were surprised to hear from families with dancers who engage in Irish, Highland and ballroom dance.

These parts of the dance community had not previously engaged with the lab but wanted to make their voices heard. After a few modifications to the study’s ethics clearance and consultation with experts in those areas of dance, the survey was updated and expanded to include them.

Zinga notes the challenges for ballroom dancers in particular have been higher during the pandemic because of the need for partnered training, one of many issues that came to light in the previous research. And she draws a line from the experience of families reaching out to this new study.

“This work has emerged out of competitive dancers pointing out to us that they come from all kinds of areas,” says Zinga.

Anyone interested in participating in the study is asked to email

Dancers under the age of 18 will need parental permission to participate.

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