Complete Irish Dancer: Optimization of Health and Performance in Irish Dancers

Róisín Cahalan, PhD (Editor)
School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Ireland
Lecturer Physiotherapy, Course Director MSc Physiotherapy, Health Sciences Building, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland

Series: Sports and Athletics Preparation, Performance, and Psychology
BISAC: ART060000



Volume 10

Issue 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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Irish dancing has emerged as a leading genre among the pantheon of world dance forms. Few traditional art forms have resonated so deeply with the international community, resulting in the establishment of thousands of Irish dancing schools across the globe. Irish dancing is a unique fusion of the athletic and the aesthetic, stylistically distinctive and constantly evolving. At the elite level, it is a hugely competitive activity, placing enormous physical and psychological demands on the dancer, teacher, parent and healthcare professional. The exponential increase in these demands and the relentless calendar of prestigious Irish dancing competitions internationally has resulted in significant levels of injury and underperformance in these dancer athletes.

Unlike other more established dance forms such as ballet and contemporary dance, there is a lack of clear information and guidance related to the specific nature and demands of Irish dancing. This book will provide this information and guidance by drawing on best evidence and research-based findings and expertise from leading authorities in the world of dance science and anthropology, sport science, medicine, dietetics and psychology. The book is edited and co-authored by Dr. Róisín Cahalan, who is the world’s leading researcher of injury in Irish dancers. Dr. Cahalan is also a chartered physiotherapist with over a decade of experience treating Irish dancers of all levels, the former lead female dancer from “Riverdance: The Show” and an Irish dancing teacher and adjudicator with An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha.

The book will provide historical context for the growth and development of Irish dancing, insights into the etiology and epidemiology of Irish dance injury, and provide information and advice on appropriate preparation and environmental considerations for healthy Irish dancers. Chapters to enhance physical and psychological resilience and preparedness for the very specific demands of Irish dancing are presented. These include bespoke strength, conditioning and flexibility programs, goal-setting, managing competition anxiety, mental imagery and mindfulness, and sleep optimization. Appropriate training load prescription, tapering and the balance between rest and rehearsal will be explored, as will the most suitable diet to support the Irish dancer. Injury prevention, risk minimization and management are additionally discussed in the book. There is consideration given to the specific needs of certain dancer groups, such as the elite adolescent Irish dancer, the professional touring dancer, and the older dancer. The pivotal role of the parent in impacting the health and performance of the younger dancer is also explored.

This book will be an invaluable resource to all those persons involved in the management of Irish dancers including teachers, parents, choreographers, dance company managers, strength and conditioning personnel, clinical professionals and dancers themselves. It will provide scientifically robust, but practical and applicable advice and information to ensure longevity, peak-performance and holistic wellbeing in Irish dancers.
(Imprint: Nova)




Chapter 1. The Evolution of Irish Dancing
(Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain, PhD, and Roisin Cahalan, PhD, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 2. Injury in Irish Dancing: The State of the Art
(Róisín Cahalan, PhD, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 3. Preparation for Dance: Getting the Basics Right
(Edel Quin and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, Department of Dance, University of Chichester, Chichester, England, and others)

Chapter 4. Optimal Training for Dance Performance and Injury Prevention
(Scott Murphy and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 5. Supporting Psychological Wellness for Superior Performance
(Mark Campbell, PhD, Nollaig O’Sullivan and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 6. Periodization, Training Load Prescription and Monitoring
(Brenton Surgenor, Emma Redding, PhD, and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong, China, and others)

Chapter 7. The Importance of Sleep in Dance
(Kieran O’Sullivan, PhD, Róisín Cahalan, PhD, and Bronwyn Lennox Thomson, PhD, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 8. Nutrition for Irish Dancers
(Jasmine Challis, BSc, MRes, RD, Freelance Dietitian, London, England and Roisin Cahalan, PhD)

Chapter 9. Injury Management, Recovery and Return
(Róisín Cahalan, PhD, and Kieran O’Sullivan, PhD, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 10. The Adolescent Dancer: Special Considerations
(Amanda Johnson, PhD, and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, and others)

Chapter 11. Parental Role in Optimizing Dancer Wellness and Performance
(Camilla J. Knight, PhD, Lucie Clements, PhD, and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, and others)

Chapter 12. Challenges and Opportunities in Professional Irish Dancing
(Roisin Cahalan, PhD, and Padraic Moyles, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and others)

Chapter 13. The Older Irish Dancer: Maintaining a Long and Healthy Career
(Breandán de Gallaí, PhD, Thomas Comyns, PhD, and Róisín Cahalan, PhD, Artistic Director, Ériu Dance Company, Dublin, Ireland, and others)

About the Authors and Editors


“This book is both the comprehensive encyclopedia and the rigorous training guide of Irish dancing. Great thought must have been put into choosing its content, because it answers the questions you’ve long had about dancing, and tells you things you hadn’t even considered. It’s well-structured and the content is delivered in an accessible and absorbing manner. Everybody who has an interest or involvement in Irish dancing should read this book.” - Mr Gavin Doherty, Irish dancing teacher, adjudicator, lead dance teacher with Doherty Petri School of Irish Dancing and founder and president of “Eire Designs”

“What a wonderfully researched, thought out and informative book, covering all aspects of the career of a dancer, no matter the age. We rarely hold ourselves accountable for things that go wrong or what we cannot achieve and this book, I believe, is the missing link. It is here in black and white. Read it. Drink it in. This is Irish dancing’s version of 'The Secret'!” - Ms. Ciara Sexton, lead dancer “Riverdance,” “Heartbeat of Home,” and five times World Irish dancing champion

The Complete Irish Dancer is a wonderful resource for dancers, teachers, parents and clinicians. It is an invaluable guide to promote excellence in performance as well for preventive care to sustain optimal health, wellness and longevity throughout one’s Irish dancing journey.” - Mr. Ryan Carroll TCRG/ADCRG/BG, Regional Director Irish dancing teachers association of Canada. Irish dancing teacher, adjudicator, examiner and former professional Irish dancer

“This is clearly a book for Irish dancers written by someone who understands the genre intimately. The insights and advice in this book are ground-breaking for the Irish dancing community. There has been a fundamental shift in how Irish dancers approach their well-being and performance, and this book is an essential resource for anyone involved in our art form.” - Mr. Martin Percival, Irish dancing teacher, adjudicator, and former professional Irish dancer; Host of “The Irish Dance Podcast,” and director of Irish Dance Theatre, Colorado

This book will be the go-to resource for persons involved in the health and performance of Irish dancers. The multi-faceted and holistic approach will appeal to a broad market,

Dance professionals: Teachers, choreographers, company managers. There has been a vacuum for many years for this type of information and it has been sought repeatedly by dance professionals. I would envisage a large international demand from this group.

Clinicians: Medics, orthopedics, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists. As stated, injury levels in Irish dancing are extremely high, but many clinicians are unfamiliar with the technical demands of the dance form and therefore the needs of Irish dancers are frequently under-addressed. This book will provide appropriate information to inform the clinical community about the demands of Irish dancing and what is required to ensure return to health.

Academic dance community: There are a number of full and part-time Irish dance university programs that would find this book attractive. In addition, many dance academics outside of Irish dancing may be interested in exploring comparisons between their genre and Irish dance and applying concepts regarding performance and wellbeing management to their cohorts.

Dance parents: As with dance professionals, parents particularly of elite younger dancers are frustrated by the lack of clear guidelines to support performance, longevity and health in their children. This book would be extremely attractive to this population.

Dancers: This will be the go-to resource for Irish dancers who are serious about their competitive/professional careers.

Irish dancing
Health and wellbeing
Peak performance
Injury prevention
Biopsychosocial management

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