Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Technique Tuesday; Wake Up Your Sense Of Balance. {How's Your Posture? A Post That Made Me Really Think About Mine}.

Wake up your sense of balance.

Below is an exercise I do during the beginning portion of every Balletone class that I teach;

Stand barefoot in parallel (toes forward), feet hip width apart. Ladies, think about where the actual hip bones (anterior superior iliac spine) align over the feet and not where current hormone fluctuations are telling you where your hips are. Am I the only one who has to be reminded of this during PMS?

Now focus on how the weight is displaced through each foot. Strive for a triad through each foot;
padding under the big toe, padding under the fourth toe and pinkie toe and the heel.

Once you feel the triad, next focus on lifting the insteps of each foot. I always find that when I place focus on my insteps while in this stance I automatically feel my core engage, my inner thighs engage as well as my glutes firming up. I find it a pleasant and well balanced feeling.

Now for some balance stimulation. Gently shift your weight to the front, or ball of your foot. Now shift weight towards your heels. Alternate for 10-20 seconds, finding a natural rhythm in your body. Each time you shift your weight forward to the balls of the feet focus on the toes spreading and "catching" your weight as opposed to curling under and gripping.

Re-center over your triads.

Now shift side to side on your feet, without letting the insteps collapse. 10-20 seconds.


Let's combine the two directions. Start by making a sort of square. Shift the weight forward, to the right, towards the heels, to the left. Try a few more squares.

From your "squares" start taking your shifting into little circles (I sometimes refer to this as the Zombie Stance). After a few rounds of circles, start to spiral the little circles inward until you are re-centered on the triads of the feet.

Do everything to the left (or opposite direction). Start with squares that evolve into little circles. Little circles that spiral back to your starting position.

One of the main benefits I find from this little exercise series is how it wakes up and energizes my core. Bringing together the focus of the mind and the body. Simple enough to do just about anytime of day. Just be barefoot and not in a situation that will freak out co-workers.

A post that gave me some enlightened thoughts about my posture.

I have always fancied myself as having very good posture, what with being a 30 + year veteran of dance and all. But alas, that doesn't make me immune to bad habits and room for improvements. Especially as I age and work through chronic trouble spots of pain and tightness.

I came across this post by Mama Sweat. In it there is a link to a simple test. Tried it. Quick and the dirty is that one factor of posture problems is the jutting out of the ribcage. Somewhere along my dancing youth journey I learned how to draw my ribs in and down (an earth-shattering realization since I had already spent almost a decade dancing with a "sway back"). So for about the last 20 years I have been fairly conscious of my ribcage placement, always with an eye for refinement. Seek and ye shall find. I did the simple back against the wall test. Oh yeah, what I expected. Nailed it. Good posture wins again. But wait! After taking a number of steps away from the wall...what the Hell was that? Did my ribcage just slip into a wee bit of a jut? Dammit, I believe it did! Up against the wall again. Ribs in place. Walk away from the wall, ribs in place. A few more steps and I could start to feel the urge to release that cartilage cage into a bit of a jutted out position.

So what's a little jut? It's not like I want to walk around like I have a stick up my ass all day. Well, it can be a big deal. And proper ribcage alignment does not necessarily result in the ramrod stance of a schoolmarm.  But ribcage alignment does effect the alignment of the entire body. Case in point, I noticed that when I was up against the wall I could feel a release of tension in my perpetually tight lower back. What signaled my wayward ribs was the feeling of tension returning when I walked away from the wall.

So this ribcage alignment of mine will definitely be getting a closer look.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the dance that is life!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Technique Tuesday; Maintaining Framework Of The Torso Through Change In Pelvic Angle.

I've missed a Tuesday or two, but here is another installment of Technique Tuesdays.

Today the focus is on maintaining the structure or framework of the torso while the angle of the pelvis changes. The change in the pelvic angle is due to the moving the leg from a front extension, though side and then to an arabesque (straightened leg extending back). In classical ballet terms it would be referred to as a rond de jambe en dehors (circle of the leg, to the outside, or traveling away from the body). Rond de jambes can be done the other direction as well, en dedans ( inside, towards the body). I only show it en dehors for this video, as en dedans comes with it own challenges (a tutorial for another day).

 I show it both with the pointed toes of the foot skimming the ground (a terre) and the leg in the air (grand rond de jambe). Rond de jambes are often done with the standing leg straight, but for this video my standing leg is in pliĆ©, as that is often how I demonstrate it in  Balletone class. Didn't know you were getting a French lesson as well!

A good way to start the practice of this move would be to use the back of a chair to help you to stabilize your balance. Just maintain an awareness of what your "barre" arm is doing. Do not lose awareness of the placement of the shoulder and arm, thus potentially putting your shoulder girdle out of whack, or rather, proper placement. From there, you can progress to not using the chair (wall, or what have you) support. I find this progression ideal in that there will be nothing to cause a wrenching of the arm, and there is a greater reliance on the muscles of the core for stabilization through the movement.

Thanks for watching! Please feel free to ask me any questions if anything was unclear, or you'd like to know more about the moves covered in the video.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

~ Erin

Monday, June 10, 2013

That's A Wrap! Post Show Reflections.

Yesterday was the final performance of Kinetics Academy of Dance's 2013 show, "Rose Red". A fairytale ballet It followed the classic Grimm tale Snow-White and Rose-Red. Not to be confused with the dwarf wrangler of Disney, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Although there is a very mean and grumpy dwarf in Rose Red.

 KAD's show encompasses pretty much all the classes offered at the dance studio, 2 yr. olds to 16 yr. olds, as well as all the styles- ballet, tap, hip hop and lyrical. We've done a storybook ballet format before, having a narration of parts of a story as a voiceover mixed with music. But this year we went bigger and bolder. We had more solos for our dancers on pointe and more elaborate dramatic sequences, bringing in a young male actor who submitted to being in a big bear suit (who then got to show that a handsome prince dwelled within the whole time!), and a young lady to play the part of the angry dwarf. She got the joy of wearing a long fake beard. Our actors used their bodies to tell the story, our dancers brought out their acting skills.

It took a lot of extra time and effort to pull this larger than previous years endeavor. But worth every second. I had forgotten how much I loved working on the dramatic sequences of ballets. Of course, I loved working on the ensemble pieces as well.

As for working on all the solos for the pointe girls, I really enjoyed the transitions between choreographer and dance/ performance coaching. Trying to pull the best out of each dancer and their given roles was an educating experience. Since no two dancers are alike, corrections, suggestions, challenges and the like must, at times, be custom fitted. They stepped up to the challenge. Each one grew. And the ones who had the extra challenges of acting grew in that aspect as well. I feel like we can do anything!

Here are some of the things I worked on the most;

Work those arms from the middle of your back! Don't work them from just the shoulders, but imagine that they are actually attached in the mid back. That way the muscles of the back help support the movements of the arms and give that strength + grace quality of movement (I sense a tutorial on that concept!).

Stay off your heels! Most of ballet work is done on the front to mid part of the foot, even if the dancer is not on releve (perched up and balanced on the ball of the foot or feet). The heels work more as an assisting stabilizer to the rest of the foot. This is true whether you are executing a dance step, walking or running. Even in jumps, while the heels should make contact with the floor to ensure lengthening through the lower leg, ankles and feet, the weight of the body should not sink into the heels. Rather, a lengthening of the lower leg should happen while simultaneously the rest of the body lengthens away from the floor.

Dance past the mirror. The people in the back row spent good money on their tickets too! Plus, as a dancer, it is a wonderful feeling to project your soul into the atmosphere of the universe.

Flirt with your audience. Don't dance at them. Take them on a journey that you have designed (or rather, your choreographer has designed).

Don't dance as if you are anticipating failure. Make success your expected reality. Every dancer has come upon steps they struggle with. And while one of the joys of solo work is that things can be customized to a dancer's strengths, not everything can be made easier. It's just not the dancer way! It's the struggles that we overcome that help us to grow. This doesn't mean that you must become the best turner if turns are something you struggle with. Improving from where you started is where the gold is.

Smile! Smile! Smile! Or at least maintain a pleasant expression if that is in line with your character.

Okay, and I may have said "Ribbon ends and bows are the nipples of ballet slippers and pointe shoes. Best to keep them out of sight!". Hey, bold statements get remembered!

The one down side to the whole production, the whole dance year really, was...

Having to say good-bye to this beautiful young lady.

Helene is a foreign exchange student from Germany, who stayed with one of our dancers family. She wanted to continue her dance studies and it fit perfectly for her join her host "sister's" classes.

She started pointe with us...

...look at those beautiful feet! Helene loved her little bows! They are pretty cute. But tuck them in we must!

I'm so grateful for Facebook.

I love these girls!! I am also so grateful to be able to do what I do! I'm also happy to say that they have some amazing moms and dads, who not only show their kids love and support, but they give us, their dance teachers, plenty as well!

Now what to focus on for summer...

Enjoy the dance that is life!