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Physiological Characteristics of Musical Theatre Performers and the Effect on Cardiorespiratory Demand Whilst Singing and Dancing

N. Stephens, Matthew Wyon
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 35 Number 1: Page 54 (March 2020)

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Abstract: AIMS: Musical theatre (MT) combines acting, singing, and dancing within a performance. The purpose of the current study was two-fold: 1) to report on the cardiorespiratory fitness of pre-professional MT dancers, and 2) to examine the cardiorespiratory demand of singing whilst dancing. METHODS: Twenty-one participants (16 females, 5 males; age 20±1.23 yrs; height 169.1±9.24 cm; weight 62.7±10.56) in their final year of pre-professional training volunteered for the study. All participants performed a maximal aerobic capacity test on a treadmill using a portable breath-by-breath gas analyser. Nine participants completed a 4-minute section from Chorus Line twice, singing and dancing and just dancing, in a randomised order whilst wearing the same portable gas analyser. Blood lactate was measured at the end of each trial. RESULTS: Male participants had significantly greater peak oxygen consumption (M vs F, 67.6±2.30 vs 55.6±4.42 mL/kg/min, p<0.001) and anaerobic threshold (% of peak VO2) (54.6±4.04% vs 43.1±3.68%, p<0.001), whilst maximum heart rate and heart rate at anaerobic threshold were similar. The physiological demands of dancing vs singing + dancing were similar, with the exception of the singing + dancing trial having significantly reduced mean breathing frequency and increased lactate (p<0.01). CONCLUSIONS: MT dancers' aerobic capacity is greater than that observed in other theatre-based dance genres. The observed breathing frequency and lactate differences in the Chorus Line trails could be due to singing reducing breathing frequency, thereby influencing cardiorespiratory recovery mechanics and subsequently blood lactate levels.

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