HE4DS is a startup, using research and scientific approach to educate the dancers. The foundation for the startup is proven in practice and applies the dance scientific insights of the clinical research with dancers, that the team has been performing from 2014. Today we are meeting Sophie Manuela Lindner, Head of Management in HE4DS to talk about a perfect combination: dance + health + research in dance and how to keep the balance.
act’ble: Hi Sophie, nice to talk to you! We are neighbours from the same region in Germany, with the same mission - to bring a healthy mindset to the dance industry! Tell us a few words about your startup and your background.
Sophie: Thanks for having me! Our start-up is called HE4DS, which stands for Health Education for Dancers, and our mission is to make healthy dancing accessible to everybody. We currently focus on two main fields of expertise: injury prevention and health promotion on the one side, high-performance dancing on the other. Our motto is, train good - dance better'.
act’ble: Your project motto is “Health Education for Dancers”. How did you come up with an idea to combine dance and health into one product?
Sophie: It all started when I discovered breaking. I began pretty intensely and went full out. I was never seriously injured before. Breaking taught me a lesson and showed my very own limits. After a severe shoulder injury I sought help and what I found was … not too much. At that point, I decided that I need to dig into health for dancers myself. I became a physical therapist and met my teammates - Jens and Chau. The first years we did lots of charity projects, but as the need for our services grew over time we decided it was time to put it into a service and that we want to become a business.
act’ble: act’ble core product is act’pointes that is innovation pointe shoes for the dancers, that have a long-term health impact to the overall body and dancer’s health. Basically, we aim to provide a healthier, more sustainable tool for the dancers. We think this is very important to shift the mindset and empower athletes for a healthy and long career. What is your opinion? What factors are important for dancers to have a healthy career?
Sophie: Dancers are super body-conscious and their passion for dance motivates them a lot to research into health topics. But I agree that a huge part of the job of both our companies is indeed educational work - we need to shift the current mindset to a much healthier approach. Us dancers do not treat our bodies well. I won’t say that everybody is like this, but in my very own experience, people will start to dig deeper into dancer health only AFTER they have suffered from injury. What we want people to understand is, that if you want to dance as long as possible, as successful as possible and as healthy as possible, you need to, A, know your body, B, invest in your health and C, seek out for high quality tools. Good shoes are an absolute fundamental!
act’ble: What is the global mission for HE4DS?
Sophie: Fewer injured dancers on the planet. Dance changes your life for the better, gives you purpose, frees your soul, makes you happy. For some, it pays your bills. We want to prevent people from being forced to stop dancing, for example due to an injury. We know that situation from our very own experience, every single one in our team. Our mission is to make people dance forever and to empower them to take good care of themselves.
act’ble: act’ble is working a lot with the traditional ballet environment and it can be challenging to bring technologies and innovations to the classical art. What about you? Is it difficult to translate your mission these days? What is the reaction of the dance community towards your product?
Sophie: We can relate to this challenge very well. For us, it’s not classical ballet, but urban dance. Most urban dancers, especially in the freestyle scene, are self-taught. They did research on their own, they are used to being self-sufficient. On top, injury prevention and health is not particularly a sexy part of the dance life. Dancing freely, being on stage, having fun, winning, all of that is exciting and sometimes, exercising for your health can feel like a chore. Aside from that, we get overwhelmingly positive feedback. Some say we are what they’ve been looking for since forever. We have a great community and many supporters that are just happy we’re there for them.
act’ble: Mental health of dancers is also an important problem, due to the high pressure the dancers are facing, especially in the professional industry. You have a product, focused on the mental health of dancers. What do you think about the mental health of dancers today? How are you helping the dancers with their mental health problems?
Sophie: The mind is probably the most overlooked body part when it comes to dance training. To us, training the mind is equally important than training your body. However, dance is intense for the mind. Cognitive qualities like coordination and spatial awareness are as important as a healthy and creative mind state. All of that comes from the brain. Moreover, we as dancers have to deal with stress, stage fright, and competitive pressure. Mental training should be part of the daily hygiene, like brushing your teeth.
In line with our mission to empower dancers, we give them tools to train their mind, on their very own, on a daily basis. We give them breath work exercises, meditations, visualization techniques, we educate them on brain waves and the infamous flow state, and we give them tools to deal with competition-related stress. Just as everything that’s part of the HE4DS Method, these techniques are based on scientific findings and proven in practice and they work really, really good.
act’ble: Your product combines:dance + health + research in dance. Does it mean that you know the secret, how to keep the balance, especially when you are a professional dancer with big dreams and hours of hard dance exercising and performing?
Sophie: Everybody’s situation is individual and each dancer has their own story. I would say we are the ones who support you, who got your back while you go out there and do your thing, while you go and follow your big dream. There are no secrets in the world of dance health and training science. There is only tons of knowledge, buried in thousands of publications, some is hard to understand when you are not a researcher. We are the decoders, we decipher the papers and studies and put in a language our community to understand. There’s a jungle of knowledge, mixed with opinions and facts based on personal experience. We are the tour guide through that jungle, we show you the path. You still have to walk it yourself, though.
Act’ble: How do you see the Future of Dance in 50 years?
Sophie: Ideally, every dancer is well educated and very conscious about the performance and well-being of their own body. People would be able to dance until the end of their days, because it is such a huge artform with an infinity of professional and artistic possibilities. Therefore, dancing can become a well-renowned career path, just like engineering or being a doctor, if it is done in the right context. You could be a dancer, choreographer or dance teacher without the fear of ending your career suddenly, because there is a huge network of well educated dance and health experts present all around the globe to support you, just like there is for sports. Health education would be a fundamental part of dance courses and dance-scientific know-how would be widely accessible to everybody.
Act’ble: What would be your wish towards the worldwide dance community?
Sophie: I would like the dance scene to understand that a dancer is both an artist and a high performance athlete, and that knowledge about training and health is a necessary component for success. The tools of a dancer are the body, the mind and the soul, and we need to take care of all of these. If this awareness is created in the worldwide dance community, there would be fewer injuries and therefore much more joy in dancing.
We are a new innovative company creating the future of dance and movement. Together with design, research, and high-level athletes, we have reinvented the centuries-old pointe shoe for dancers into the act’pointe. A sustainable, functional, and fully customizable pointe shoe that molds to the dancer’s feet to enhance performance. Our mission is to enable dancers to make a difference, elevating their performance, life, and world.
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