University of Calgary

Sarah Kenny

  • Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Research Interests:


Sarah Kenny graduated with her BA in Dance Studies from the University of Calgary in 2001. She entered her career as an Independent Artist, performing and collaborating in various projects throughout Alberta. In 2003, Sarah moved to London, UK to pursue graduate studies. Upon completing her MSc in Dance Science with distinction, Sarah continued her work at TrinityLaban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, lecturing and researching in the Department of Dance Science. Subjects taught on BA and M-level courses included Dance Fitness, Dance Kinesiology, Dance Science, and Movement and Somatics. Prior to leaving London, Sarah was also a Dance Science Lecturer at Roehampton University and External Examiner for the MSc Dance Science at Wolverhampton University for four years.

In 2009, Sarah relocated to Houston, TX where she worked with the Houston Ballet Academy and Hope Stone Dance Company as a Dance Fitness Consultant, delivering classes and training programs to pre-professional ballet students and contemporary dance professionals. 2012 brought Sarah home to Calgary to begin a PhD in Kinesiology under the supervision of Dr. Carolyn Emery. In July 2017, she accepted the position of Assistant Professor (Dance Science), a joint appointment between the Faculties of Art and Kinesiology.


Dr. Kenny is a dance science research who investigates areas described as: 'health for dance' and 'dance for health'. Her primary research interests include reducing the prevalence and incidence of dance-related injury, thus optimizing dancer performance and mitigating the long-term consequences of musculoskeletal injury in the dance population. Through scientific inquiry, Dr. Kenny’s work strives for a paradigm shift – away from the ‘fear and avoidance’ culture of dance injury and towards preventing and/or delaying the onset of musculoskeletal injury through primary and secondary prevention strategies. Secondary research interests include enhancing the physical and social well-being of non-dance populations, exploring the impact of recreation and community dance as a form of activity for the general population across the age spectrum.  

From its inception as a scientific discipline, dance science has acknowledged the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives to examine the health and wellbeing of the dance population, and contributions of participaiton in dance for non-dance populations. The integration of multiple perspectives such as health psychology, pedagogy, biomechanics, exercise physiology, nutrition, and sociocultural perspectives, brings a holistic approach to the field of dance science, which is essential to Dr. Kenny's research. 

Peer Reviewed Publications

Please see CV for full list of publications. 


“Training with positive reinforcement appears to have wide-ranging application for training dancers. At first glance it seems like a primitive means of training, but in reality, it is incredibly elegant. It takes ego out of the equation in a way that is liberating. Fear of failure, guilt, shame, and frustration are allowed to wither, and creativity and enthusiasm are encouraged to flourish as happy side effects.”
– Gabrielle Williams, MFA Candidate, Dancer, Oakland Ballet.

As a teacher, I perceive myself to be a facilitator of learning, rather than one who knows all the answers and simply tells information to students. I encourage students to participate in class as contributing colleagues, rather than just as recipients of knowledge because it is my belief that teachers and students carry equal responsibility for learning. Being an alumnus of the very degree that my students are undertaking puts me in an exceptional position to relate to their experiences. When preparing my classes, I am always conscious of what the students have already learned and what they need (and want) to learn further while pursuing their undergraduate degree in dance.

My goals in teaching include instilling a sense of intellectual curiosity and appreciation for dance science, and empowering students to take ownership of their own learning and dance practice. I strive to create a positive learning environment that is collaborative, motivating and supportive; that actively engages students in their own learning process; and where students feel respected and comfortable to share their opinions in group discussions and assignments.

I believe that learning encompasses a variety of experiences. It involves hard work, fun, challenge, accomplishment, creativity, frustration, intuition, disbelief, and wonder. Each student brings uniqueness to class (i.e. learning styles, assumptions, ideals, confidence levels, and aspirations). As such, students are encouraged to draw connections between course materials and their own lived dance experiences because I feel this is where learning best occurs. I often use my own experiences and critical reflections as a dancer to provide examples during my classes. I feel more effective as a facilitator if I can demonstrate that I am a life-long learner as well, open to new ideas and possibilities. This approach fosters an encouraging and open learning environment, cultivating positive experiences overall. In my twelve years of teaching internationally, I have had the opportunity to apply this philosophy, fine tune it, and observe how it works to create the learning atmosphere that I am aiming for. In addition, I bring an immense passion and enthusiasm for the topics that I teach to each and every one of my classes. This has been infectious and creates a group dynamic that is a joy for all to work in. It is my overall hope that this passion translates into growing my students’ interest in dance science.

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”
– Confucius, Chinese philosopher and reformer.

One of the building blocks of my teaching philosophy is to facilitate learning by encouraging students to think independently and to help them apply their newfound knowledge to their own dance practice. Throughout the semester, classroom management flows organically between formal lectures and experiential practice in the dance studio (i.e. active student participation), targeting a variety of teaching modalities. I first provide students with the necessary prerequisites for critical thinking (i.e. definitions, theory, concepts). Then opportunities are made to apply these concepts to their own dancing (i.e. self and partner movement observation tasks, field-based measurement protocols). By advocating pain-free dancing, it is my ultimate hope that students learn to treat their bodies with respect, to incorporate fundamental injury prevention strategies into their dance practice, and to take time to heal when recovering from an injury.

My overall approach to the facilitation of learning is continuously evolving. It is a reflective and purposeful process, informed by outcomes from my own research and learning, by recent publications in the area of dance science, but most notably, by feedback from students. At the end of each semester, it is very important for me to read through my evaluations so that I can adapt and modify areas where improvement has been suggested, and also to have confidence in my abilities where praise has been given.

“Teaching is about making some kind of dent in the world so that the world is different than it was before you practiced your craft. Knowing clearly what kind of dent you want to make in the world means that you must continually ask yourself the most fundamental evaluative question of all — What effect am I having on students and on their learning?”
– Stephen Brookfield, author, The Skillful Teacher.


Dr. Kenny currently serves on the Board of Directors (Secretary) and is Co-chair of the Dancer Screening Committee for Canada’s National Dance Health Alliance, Healthy Dancer Canada (HDC). She also is a member of the Program Committee for the International Association for Dance Medicine (IADMS).


Powered by UNITIS. More features.