Preparing to Perform: Periodization and Dance (Fragment)

Matthew Wyon, Ph.D.


This article reviews the historical and current literature on periodization in sport before applying the concept to dance from scientific and anecdotal points of view. Preparing the dancer through the use of a periodization model, in a professional or vocational setting, will potentially help prevent overtraining and its link to injury, while improving the dancer’s readiness to perform optimally. Practical examples of tapering and periodization of training are discussed for companies and vocational schools.

The field of dance is approaching a potentially defining moment with regard to how dancers are trained and prepared for performance. Choreography is becoming more complex and arduous, and the gender divide that used to exist has been eroded, while performance schedules have either remained constant or increased in intensity. The result is an injury rate that is not replicated in the most strenuous of full contact sports.- Dancers have reported that they perceive this to be due to fatigue or overwork, repetitive movements, new or difficult choreography, and demanding rehearsal schedules. Therefore it has become more important to provide suggestions for ideal dance preparation using principles of periodization based on current evidence and clinical experience. The majority of published research into periodization has been conducted in sports. According to periodization theory and practice, the most essential aspects of an athlete’s training process are education, upbringing, teaching, and the growth of the athlete’s functional potential.»’

The main principle of periodization training is to improve the athlete as a whole person and is developed on a psycho-physiological basis that includes physiological, psychological, biomechanical, and skill elements. The improvement of the athlete is approached in a systematic and methodological manner that was initially developed by Soviet physicians Matveev’* and Ozolin^ and supplemented by Verkhoshansky.» Matveev proposed that periodization’s main objective is to reach a high level of performance and «athletic shape» at a given time.’* To achieve this goal, Matveev suggests that the entire training program be organized so that the development of skill. biomotor abilities, and psychological traits progresses in a logical and sequential manner and peaks just prior to competition. Verkhoshansky noted that the athlete’s reaction to the training load can be measured via metabolic adaptations,’ such as aerobic capacity and anaerobic threshold, and metabolites, for instance creatine kinase, blood lactate, serum testosterone concentration, and cortisol.*'»

The main condition that needs to be satisfied is that the training loads must have specific aims—i.e., be specifically addressed to physiological or energy systems and functional capabilities that are appropriate to the performance demands. A number of studies have found that athletes who trained using periodized models attained levels of performance superior to those who did not.»‘^ Fundamental to both Matveev’s and Verkhoshansky’s theories is the concept that when a new stress is placed on the body it adapts, and if allowed, overcompensates. It is during the unloading phase that adaptation, or supercompensation, and regeneration occur.^»*»

The frequency and increase in the training load must be determined by the individual’s needs and rate of adaptation. If the training load is too great the increase may surpass the body’s ability to adapt, potentially resulting in overtraining symptoms such as decreased performance and increased susceptibility to injury.»» Ozolin^ suggests that the increase in load should be between 3% and 6% but that different fitness components have differing adaptation rates: flexibility, day to day; strength, week to week; endurance, year to year.