Effect of Visualization on Muscular Activation for Stability in Adolescent Ballet Students


  • Emily Zhang Princeton High School
  • Jacqueline Katz Mentor, Princeton High School




ballet, dance, motor control, visualization, EMG, muscle, imagery


The purpose of this study is to determine whether commonly used visualization techniques, whose results have been solely anecdotal, produce tangible, scientific results in muscular activation and improvement to ballet balances.  Ballet training methods include imagery techniques however, much of this practice is solely based on the experience of the instructor and its results are anecdotal so that there are many gaps between research on imagery and dance instruction. Few published studies focus on the effect of the imagery training for dance students on either motor and nonmotor outcomes (Abraham, 2019). A survey will be administered to ballet instructors to determine the most used visualization cues for stability. Three adolescent female ballet students studying under said instructors will be asked to perform three balances. Surface electromyography data will be taken on the gluteus maximus, hip adductors, and abdominal oblique. The length of balance will also be taken. The dancers will then be exposed to a short visualization session or stimulus of anatomical images with arrows showing bodily adjustments and targeted muscles accompanied by verbal cues developed based on the instructor techniques from the survey. The same balances and data will be taken following the session. Results will be compared to the control data taken prior to the session to reveal whether the visualization training had significant results by determining statistically significant changes in balance times and changes in neuron spikes following spike analysis.  Dancers will also be asked for qualitative feedback.  Subject 2 yielded a significant increase in length of balance in all three types and the most consistent increase in neuron spikes in all of their muscles. This suggests a positive correlation between an increase in the degree of neuron activation or recruitment of those stability muscles and the ability for an individual to balance. This was also supported by increased confidence they felt in their balances after the visualization session. Subject 1 yielded no significant change in balance time before and after the visualization stimulus and the number of neuron spikes decreased after the session. This suggests that decreased activity in the tested muscles for stability resulted in lower balance times. This lack of muscular activation could be attributed to fatigue as reported by the dancer. The rest of the balances yielded significant increases in lengths of balance which were accompanied by increases in neuron spikes in the gluteus maximus and hip adductors for Degage a la Seconde and in the gluteus maximus for Releve en Retire. Subject 3 yielded insignificant changes in balance times for the first two types of balances but produced increases in the number of neuron spikes in most of the tested muscles in all of the balances. Reports from the dancer of being “less wobbly” the unexpected data to be attributed to an allocation to quality of the balance. The results on length of balances, number of neuron spikes, and confidence/reflection feedback obtained by this study supports the scientific validity of commonly-used visualization techniques in ballet by showcasing a higher degree of activation in the targeted stability muscles and longer average balance lengths should ensue following visualization training. Results also suggest that visualization techniques and stimuli for stability are the most effective when applied to learning unfamiliar movements.  Further research could apply such visualization techniques to other movements, and even outside of dance.


Download data is not yet available.

References or Bibliography

Abraham, Amit, et al. “Dynamic Neuro-Cognitive Imagery (DNITM) Improves Developpé Performance, Kinematics, and Mental Imagery Ability in University-Level Dance Students.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 7 Feb. 2019, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00382/full.

Ahonen, Jarmo. “Biomechanics of the Foot in Dance.” Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, vol. 12, 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19618585.

Gamboa, Jennifer M., et al. “Injury Patterns in Elite Preprofessional Ballet Dancers and the Utility of Screening Programs to Identify Risk Characteristics.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 38, no. 3, 2008, pp. 126–136., doi:10.2519/jospt.2008.2390.

Mayes, Susan, et al. “Obturator Externus Was Larger, While Obturator Internus Size Was Similar in Ballet Dancers Compared to Nondancing Athletes.” Physical Therapy in Sport, vol. 33, 2018, pp. 1–6., doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2018.06.001.

McCormack, Moira, et al. “The Physical Attributes Most Required in Professional Ballet: A Delphi Study.” Sports Medicine International Open, vol. 03, no. 01, 2018, doi:10.1055/a-0798-3570.

Paris-Alemany, Alba, et al. “Comparison of Lumbopelvic and Dynamic Stability between Dancers and Non-Dancers.” Physical Therapy in Sport : Official Journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine, U.S.



How to Cite

Zhang, E., & Katz, J. (2021). Effect of Visualization on Muscular Activation for Stability in Adolescent Ballet Students. Journal of Student Research, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v10i3.2131



HS Research Projects