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High School Research Student Aria Creates a Blog Showcasing the Importance of Dance Science
Aria is a sophomore from Morago, California who researched the relationship between dance and dance science with the help of her Polygence mentor, Sarah. As she studied with Polygence, Aria collected information from scientific articles as well as conducted her own set of interviews to curate a beautiful set of blog posts. Her hope is to spread the importance of dance science to both dancers and non-dancers alike. You can read more about Aria’s Polygence experience in the interview below.
What attracted you to Polygence’s research program?
I was actually introduced to it from a college counselor. They said it was a really good way to spend the summer and stay engaged in education. I was originally going to attend a medical summer camp program, but that got cancelled because of COVID-19, so I still wanted to do something on that route. Polygence allowed me to pick a topic that I really liked and pursue it. So, I thought it was a good way to spend my time. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to catch colleges’ eyes.
What led you to choose the specific project you did?
I knew the general direction I wanted to go in, which was the sciences, such as sports medicine. I'm a dancer, so I decided to pursue dance medicine and dance science more specifically. It's a very small field, so I really wanted to help grow it, especially because a lot of dancers are not familiar with the science of the art they perform.
I also wanted a way that I could better communicate with dancers, one that was very low-key and not-too-formal. So, I don't think an essay would have been a great choice to communicate with them. That's why I chose to do a blog. It was a little more interactive since people can comment, favorite, and ask questions. Plus, it's easier to get a message across, which was my biggest thing: spreading the knowledge.
What was the most challenging part of doing High School research?
When we were trying to find sources that were both credible and specifically for dance science, we found that a lot of information has changed over time. There's been information in the past that says, “Oh, this is the way to go. This is the right thing to do.” However, there's research coming up now that contradicts that. So, it was difficult to pick out what was accurate and solid information.
How is Polygence’s program different from a typical class or tutoring?
It's definitely a lot more self-driven. I felt that if I wanted to go in a certain direction, I could just bring it up with my mentor, to which they’d say, “Okay cool. Let's do it!” It's very individualized and you can tailor it to yourself. In school, it's all pretty much the same. You can't really individualize what you learn, but in Polygence, if I wanted to learn something, I could go after it.
Is there anything you learned during this program that you couldn't learn at school?
Definitely. I learned a lot of information about dance science along the way that I couldn't have learned in school because again, dance science isn't really a broad field. There's sports med classes and there's anatomy and biology, but none of them went as deep into the specific anatomy of a dancer, which is what I really was able to learn through Polygence.
In terms of my experience in dance, I'm really grateful to have grown up in a dance school that was already pretty educated in the dance science field. Yet, it's still a dance class, so obviously, we're more focused on the physical aspect of things, rather than the knowledge aspect of it. Polygence allowed me to dive deeper into the science side of dance, which really helped.
None of [my school classes] went as deep into the specific anatomy of a dancer, which is what I really was able to learn through Polygence.
That's really nice. How did your mentor help you throughout the program?
She mainly helped me find articles and tools that were great for research. Also, she helped me set up the blog. And when writing blog posts, I would make a draft and then during our meetings, we would go through it and edit. It was really helpful having a second set of eyes.
What did a typical session look like between you two?
Other than going through drafts, making edits, and sometimes posting an article, our sessions got a little more different towards the end because I did some interviews with people in the science and dance fields. So, we also went through notes from those and
brainstormed how I could go about writing a draft for a blog post.
That's really cool. Why did you decide to conduct interviews?
Because a lot of people have limited knowledge about dance and dance science, I wanted to talk to people in the science and dance field about their views on dance science. I interviewed my dance teacher, physical therapist, biology teacher from high school, a professor who focuses on the biomechanics of dance movement, and a personal trainer. I asked them a few questions about science, like what is the importance of stretching or why do you think the science in dance is important. Then, I compiled their list of questions and responses and did a compare and contrast blog post.
What would you say was the most interesting thing you heard?
I talked to a lot of people about the importance of stretching, which to me, is a very common idea. I do it all the time because I'm a dancer and it's very important, but a lot of people had contrasting ideas on it, especially in terms of when to stretch, how to stretch, what kind of stretching is good, and what kind is bad. It was really cool to think about it in a different perspective.
I can only imagine. How did you go about finding people to interview that weren’t in your immediate circle?
The personal trainer was my mentor’s personal trainer, so she put me in contact with him. Yet, the professor was actually such a good find. I drafted an email and sent it to both a professor down in UCLA and a professor from the University of British Columbia. Both of the professors were based in kinesiology, movement, and physical science. The professor down in UCLA got back to me and told me this is a really cool project, but he felt like this professor in a neighboring University could be of better help. So, that's how I got introduced to Dr. Danielle Jarvis, who focuses on the biomechanics of dance movement and kinesiology.
Going more into the interview process, what was the process of drafting questions for the interview?
I thought about what I would be curious about if I was a non-dancing person, such as what the important parts of dance are. I thought about what other people should know or what many people don't know, but would like to know. For example, stretching physics and the psychological part of dance, how it has a lot to do with the way your brain works and how you think.
Outside of the interviews, what would you say is the most interesting thing you learned about dance science?
I learned a lot about muscle fibers since I really like jumps and huge explosive leaps, which takes a lot of strength in your legs. So, learning about the fibers in your legs and
why those fibers can determine whether you're more flexible or strong was super interesting. Also, I went into the psychology of dance, which was very new to me. A lot of how well you perform has to do with your mindset. There's obsessive passion and there’s harmonious passion, whether you're obsessing over perfection or simply enjoying what you're doing. All of that can affect how you move and how you perform.
There's obsessive passion and there’s harmonious passion, whether you're obsessing over perfection or simply enjoying what you're doing.
All of your posts are super interesting! We talked a bit about what inspired you to do the interviews, but what inspired you to choose the specific topics you did for the other blog posts?
I talked a bit about why I centered on muscles already, but you need complete control over every single muscle in your body. There is a specific place for everything. Yet, in order to be able to control and manipulate something, you need to know what it is. So, that inspired me to talk about muscles because they're our main source of power for dancing and any other physical activity. And from there, I went into the psychology of it because my mentor shared an article with me that was really interesting because I don’t think many dancers are familiar with it, not even me at first.
However, a lot of the information and topics that I talked about were kind of spontaneous and weren't really planned out before. I mostly read articles and found topics that I thought were interesting and wanted to write about.
For students who want to learn more about dance or dance science, what would you recommend that they do, read, or watch right now?
There's a lot of information out there. For instance, on Google Scholars, you can type up dance science and you’ll find so much good information. There's also YouTube videos everywhere, it's such a huge platform and it can be so informative. I've watched so many videos just about dancing. There was one video that was particularly interesting about the fouetté and the physics of it (you can find it here). Dance science is a small field, but there is no lack of research or access to it. You could also check out my blog here.
That's good to know. What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a Blog?
Stick with it. When you first post, no one is going to look at it because as a new blogger, it's not that well-known. It might be kind of disappointing to see that, but definitely stick with it. It's also really good to share the blogs with people since that's the main purpose after all.
When you first post, no one is going to look at it because as a new blogger, it's not that well-known. It might be kind of disappointing to see that, but definitely stick with it.
Do you think you'll continue with dance science or a related field in the future?
I really hope so because dance science is such a small field. There's not much that I'm aware of that I can do, but I definitely do want to go into sports medicine if not specifically dance science since I love learning about the human body and motion and kinesiology. Also, I’ve been dancing since I was three years old and dedicated the majority of my life to it, so weaving it into my career in some way just makes sense to me.
What would you want high school students to know about dance or dance science?
If you want to study dance specifically, you're never too young. It's such a beautiful art and a great source of physical activity. As for dance science, it's so important to know as a dancer. If you are one, it should be something that you really pay attention to and educate yourself on because there's so many ways you can prevent injuries. Educating yourself on dance science will also help improve your dancing altogether because knowing how your body works helps the way your body moves.
That’s really good advice. What advice do you have for other high schoolers thinking about signing up for Polygence’s research opportunities?
Do it. It's such a great opportunity. Like I said earlier, it's very individualized. Plus, it really helps you when it comes to deciding what you want to do with your future, even if it's something as simple as “I enjoy science.” You can explore topics and it's a really great way to pursue what you're interested in. I definitely feel way more confident in wanting to pursue sports medicine and dance science than I did before Polygence since this project really helped me understand that this is what I love.