The physical appearance required in dance, particularly in terms of body weight and fat, is often a demand that hovers over the aspiring and professional dancer's career (Vincent, 1979). This investigation was intended to measure various aspects of body composition in different types of dancers, as well as use various methods. Measurements of percent body fat and lean weight may serve as a means of quantifying appearance in dance so that dancers may be guided towards appropriate body composition goals. This may be more reflective of the dancer's true physique than relying simply on total body weight, which does not take proportions of muscle and fat into account. Kirkendall and Calabrese (1983) have noted that attention must be paid to lean mass in dancers as well as percent fat. A method of evaluating the relationship between height, lean mass (fat free weight), and total weight was developed for this study to address the issue of proportion (i.e., a dancer who perhaps has a low percent fat level but is still considered too “heavy” because of a large muscle mass).
Although hydrostatic weighing has been noted as “the gold standard” in body composition measurements (Nash, 1985), such methods are often unavailable or impractical for professional dancers or university dance departments. Anthropometric (or “skinfold”) methods have greater practicality, but may lack the individual accuracy of hydrostatic methods (Nash, 1985). Recently, electrical impedance has been cited as a convenient alternative to both underwater and skinfold techniques (Harrison & Van Italli, 1982; Presta, et al. 1984).