The Dance Fitness Indicator (DFI) is a tool for dancers that brings together contemporary dance (art) with fitness (science).
The DFI is a studio-based high intensity dance fitness field test and training tool designed at Middlesex University. It comes as a complete online package consisting of choreographed movement video footage, original music tracks, and an information pack, containing everything required to replicate the DFI in differing environments. It requires no complicated equipment, as it is measurable through heart rate (HR), rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and a movement criteria sheet. The aim is to assist dancers to identify what areas of their fitness need addressing, so that they can train specifically to improve their fitness and physical dance performance.
Dance is not a steady state activity and challenges many aspects of fitness at one time. Like the nature of dance, the DFI aims to address these fitness aspects simultaneously through the choreography, relating dance fitness components to the movement skills required in dance. The choreographed dance movement involves contemporary (modern) dance technique influenced by Cunningham, Graham and Humphrey/Limon based techniques, and includes change of weight, change of direction, floor work, travelling, elevation, and balance work, with a focus on movement quality, precision, co-ordination, use of breath, and postural control. The fitness elements addressed through the choreography include aerobic and anaerobic fitness; muscular endurance, strength and power; flexibility, and motor skills. The DFI does not measure each component individually, but incorporates these in a manner that relates to dance.
There are four levels of intensity; each level lasts 4 minutes 32 seconds. Within each level, four separate but linked sequences (sections), are performed continuously to music, which focus on various aspects of physical fitness. Each section lasts 1 minute, with 4 seconds between each section to re-set. The level finishes with a 16-second balance. At the end of each level there is a 1-minute pause, which allows the dancer to recover and record their HR and RPE. This start-stop process relates to the high intensity intermittent nature of dance. At the end of the 1-minute pause, the DFI increases in intensity and continues with level two, and so on. The full DFI, including all activity and rests, lasts a total of 22 minutes and 12 seconds.
The tempo remains consistent (120 bpm) throughout all levels. Levels of increment have been devised within each section by increasing one (or less) aspect of a “step” at each level, e.g. within section one, the press up: level 1: box kneeling position; level 2: the hands are moved forward to lengthen the lever and increase the resistance to the upper body; level 3: hands moved even further forward/full press up; level 4: full press up/release one foot. Other phrases conform to this principle, sometimes with the addition of arms, or building into jumps as the levels progress. The DFI was designed to observe changes in HR, RPE, and qualitative performance of the movement material as assessed by criteria. Changes in physiological fitness would be demonstrated though the ability to dance with a lower HR; the ability to dance with a lower RPE; the ability to dance at a higher intensity/level/stage; the ability to complete a fuller range of the movement criteria.
To improve physical performance ‘the intensity needs to be between 60% to 85% of an individual’s maximal aerobic power (VO2 max), 70% to 90% HR max or 14 to 17 rate of perceived exertion (RPE) continuously.’ (Wyon, 2005 p.9). The intensity of the DFI is high; at level 4, dancers’ age-predicted HR max results are between 75.25% and 105.3%, and RPE 17, suggesting the DFI could be effective as a dance specific high intensity fitness-training tool. Post DFI performance analysis, dancers could use the movement criteria to note areas of difficulty to understand which area(s) of physical fitness need to be addressed to guide their fitness training to improve their physical dance performance.
The DFI has potential uses as a high intensity fitness test; pre-performance screening tool to measure readiness; a high intensity fitness training tool to monitor fitness and guide supplemental training to improve the dancers’ physical dance performance; a teaching tool to aid understanding of physical fitness components in relation to dance.
For a full introduction presentation, please read here: DFI Introduction
Ref: Wyon, M. (2005) Cardiorespiratory Training for Dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 9(1), pp.7-11.
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