The CAT Research Project

The Department of Education and The Leverhulme Trust jointly funded this ground-breaking three-year longitudinal dance science project at Laban. The study used scientific methods to examine the processes of developing talent in dancers aged 10-18 years.

Over 800 young people training at the government funded Centres for Advanced Training (CATs) in dance around the country took part. The research was interdisciplinary, measuring the physiological, biomechanical and psychological characteristics of talent in dance and exploring the factors that may contribute to its optimal development.

Qualitative interview-based research also explored how these factors relate to both creativity and commitment. The project's findings contributed to the development of the CAT programme, ensuring that the dance training scheme is developed in a rigorous and consistent way. The findings also informed pedagogic practice with young people across the wider sphere of dance education.

This is the first time a longitudinal study has examined young dancers in depth from a scientific perspective. Never before have dancers of any age or dance genre been studied in an interdisciplinary project that measures the characteristics of dance talent and their interrelationships and potential links to performance and creativity. It is also the first time an organisation has been in the position to follow a population of young people already identified as talented across a period of three years, thus enabling the notion of talent to be studied in depth.

The project measured a wide range of talent characteristics through quantitative and qualitative methods. The following variables were measured twice a year for two and a half years:

Aerobic fitness
Lower leg muscular power
Upper body muscular strength
External hip rotation (turn out)
Passive and active hamstring flexibility
Anthropometry (arm span; height and sitting height; leg and arm lengths; calf, thigh and upper arm circumferences)
General health
Eating attitudes
Motivational climate (psychological atmosphere in the studio)
Passion for dance 
In addition, interviews were conducted regarding:
Commitment to training