WVU dancers perform at the Creative Arts Center.

The WVU School of Medicine is creating a dance science program within the exercise physiology major.  

Dr. Jill Descoteaux is being hired by the University to lead the program, and she will begin in her role later this spring.

“Developing a strong dance science program is important to me because it prepares professionals to help dancers in the best evidence-based way possible,” she said. “Dancers and other performing artists, such as musicians and actors, have a very specific experience with their bodies and professions.” 

Descoteaux recently completed her doctoral degree at Ohio University and notably has worked as an athletic trainer for Cirque Du Soleil. Her research focuses on the role of healthcare and mental health in the lives of dancers. 

The dance science program will add 15 credit hours of classes, and the program is anticipated to be reviewed by the faculty senate in the summer of 2022. Pending approval, students could enroll in the emphasis area by fall 2022. 

New classes will be available to exercise physiology majors and will explore dance milieu, performance enhancement, injury prevention and management. Courses will also deal with research practices in dance science and medicine. 

“Sometimes the current medical and insurance system doesn’t support the type of care that’s most beneficial to these individuals,” Descoteaux said. “There’s a growing demand to have well-trained professionals with a background in this field.”

While other areas of emphasis for exercise physiology majors only have minimum GPA’s students need to maintain, the dance area of emphasis requires a 3.0 GPA for acceptance. 

While the initial curriculum plan is being developed and refined, Descoteaux said she is working with other WVU faculty as well as collaborating with peer institutions who have similar dance science classes to learn from their experiences.  

“My goal is to inspire students to consider this unique patient population and incorporate it into their care practice,” Descoteaux said.