Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Get This Book! {Dang it! I gotta change my favorite cue}.


I first came upon Dr. Kelly Starrett a couple of years ago from a link to his blog, MobilityWod. The post had to do with the first part of a Kettlebell Turkish Get Up (this is not the video. I can never find it. This clip is a good demo of what the exercise is though). I had never even heard of the exercise, but I instantly fell in love with the Turkish Get Up and kettlebells.

Over the next couple of years I would check in with Starrett's MWod site, but I've never been a religious follower. Now he has written a book, Becoming A Supple Leopard:The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. A book I highly recommend everyone get.

Is it a book for just the athlete or athletic coach? Nope. It's a book for anyone in possession of a body. Which is to say, everyone. It is not necessarily a book that you set aside an afternoon and read cover to cover in one sitting. You could if you wanted to though. I myself haven't completed it. Although I have thumbed through it in its entirety a few times as I continue on my journey of reading it cover to cover.

Filled with wisdoms and clear and helpful photos, Supple Leopard addresses the basics of human movement. The basics of how one stands, sits, bends or squats and its implications for the mechanical health of the body of the office worker to the elite athlete. Starrett works a great deal on the basics with the full spectrum of human movement in mind. He has worked with all kinds of athletes, including dancers and MMA fighters, as well as fire fighters, military personnel and law enforcement officers. His book is written for the movements that humans must do to function as well as the amazing physical feats humans are capable of. Given that, it is a book that I think critical for trainers and coaches. But again, it's not solely for those in the Phys. Ed. Dept. Starrett spends a lot of time describing ways that we all can diagnose flaws in our functional movement technique, and then set about trying to correct them.

One aspect that I have found amazing, enlightening and helpful is his cue of the vertical shin in the basic squat. The vertical shin refers to the alignment of the knee over the ankle during a squat. The chain of the hips, knees and ankle are aligned so the shin remains vertical throughout the squat. Starett claims that this revelation is worth the price of the book, and I concur. But don't let my paltry explanation be a substitute for what is contained in Supple Leopard. There is so much more. Get the book! The book doesn't just focus on squats, but the whole body, and chains of movement that affect the whole body.

Vertical shins and squats brings me to how I must now change one of my favorite cues. For quite a while I have cued shifting weight towards the heels during a squat, especially an unweighted squat (using only one's body weight as resistance).  Not necessarily completely shifting weight to the heels, but a considerable amount. From reading Dr. Starrett's book, I now understand that I need to move away from that and shift the focus to centering the weight through the ankles and down through the floor. It is not a complete shift to the front, or balls of the feet, but rather "screwing" the weight down through the floor via the more central section of each foot. Which of course makes perfect sense when one must execute a movement on one leg (think pistol squat) or is doing a weighted squat (back, front or overhead). He has a great three-squat series of unweighted squats that each have a different position for the arms, which in turn affects the alignment of the upper body in relation to the lower body during squats. The back squat, front squat and overhead squat are each represented. Wanna see it? Get the book. Ha!

Live, learn, improve and pass it on.

Get the book already, will ya!

Thanks for hanging out.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How To Tie Pointe Shoe Ribbons.

Those ribbons and elastics sewn on yet? Here's the post from last week with the how tos; click here.

Here is a tutorial for how to tie on your pointe shoe ribbons.

Don't worry if your first few tries feel awkward. You'll get it!

Don't be in a rush to trim your ribbon ends. Make sure you get comfortable with tying them first. Some dancers, for various reasons, will switch their shoes back and forth from each foot. So make sure you are happy with how each individual shoe fits on each foot.

To help with fraying of ribbon ends it is recommended to lightly burn them. This should be done under adult supervision or by an adult. Using a match, lighter or lit candle, quickly run the very end of the ribbon across the flame. It doesn't take much to get the desired result. Burn too much and you will have a big, hard, jagged piece to contend with.

Once you have the ribbons and elastics sewn on go ahead and practice tying. Remember, do not try to go onto full pointe in your pre-pointe or demi-pointe shoes. This can result in serious injury.

Happy tying!

Please feel free to ask me any questions.

Enjoy the dance that is life!

~Miss Erin

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How To Sew On Pointe Shoe Ribbons and Elastics.

Here is a guide to sewing on pointe shoe ribbons and elastics for our new batch of pre-pointe students. Congrats! This is a special next step in your dance training. One that you have earned.

The method for sewing on ribbons and elastics is basically the same for both pre-pointe or demi-pointe shoes and pointe shoes. So once you have the basics down for your pre-pointe shoes you can use them on pointe shoes.

As I've gone through a number of You Tube tutorials I am reminded that there are variations from studio to studio as to the proper way to sew on ribbons and elastics. But like lasagna recipes that have been passed down for generations, you know which is the best. Your family's recipe! I kid. Sort of. For the initial learning and grooming period for our students pre-pointe and pointe shoe education it is important that everyone follow a similar technique. As a dancer becomes more familiar with how they work in pointe shoes (we're talking years here), then variations can be employed.

Let's begin!

A few notes first.

Your finished product, from the outside of the shoes, should look something like this:

No visible stitches from the outside. You will find that there are two layers of fabric where ribbons and elastics are sewn. The satin outside layer and the muslin inside layer. Stitches are to go through the muslin inside layer. What about using a sewing machine? (Gasp! Sacrilege!). It is important to learn how to sew ribbons and elastics on by hand. I have seen tutorials that recommend using a sewing machine, but sewing machines will make the stitches visible on the outside. Just like underwear, stitches, strings and knots are best kept hidden.

Don't sew through the drawstring casing. The drawstring casing is around the opening of the shoe. Some tutorials show running a few stitches through the casing, While being careful not to go through the drawstring itself. Why bother? Just don't stitch through the casing at all. I danced for years on pointe and never once stitched through the casing.

Tools needed:

Pointe shoe ribbons (they may come with a particular brand of pointe shoe, or they maybe sold separately. Be sure to get them before you leave the store!).

                                                 image credit

Elastic. You should get it at the same time you get your ribbons and shoes.

Strong thread. Any strong thread will do. Make it pink.

Sewing needle and scissors.

A pencil for marking.

The dancer who will be wearing the shoes!

Optional; pins or safety pins.

Sewing on the elastics:

                                              image credit

1. Prepare your thread and needle.

2. Next, you will need to measure and cut your elastic. Take your long piece of elastic and cut it in half.

3. Then, take one elastic piece and one of the shoes. Take one end of the elastic piece and sew it to the back of the shoe's heel, on the inside. Be sure to stay to the side of the center seam, as shown in the above picture.

4. Next, put the shoe on and measure how much elastic you will need for the loop that goes over the top of dancer's ankle. It should be snug without being painfully tight. Mark or pin the amount of length you will need.

5. Now sew the other end of the elastic to the shoe (right side of picture is your finished product).

Sewing on the ribbons.

The ribbons will come as one long piece. Cut in half, then cut each piece in half again. You will have 4 pieces when you are done.

To reinforce the end you will be sewing to the shoe, I recommend this technique for folding the end;
 The ribbon has shiny side and a dull side.


With the dull side facing you, fold the end over about 3/4 to 1 inch.

Fold again.
 This is the tri-fold pocket that you will sew to the shoe. You want to make sure the shiny side of the ribbons are on the outside.
Now onto how to find the placement of the ribbon!

I really like this video tutorial.

Don't be dismayed if you find you need to redo your ribbons and elastics. You can do everything "perfect" but find that you need to do additional tweaking to make it work for YOU.

Happy sewing!

Please feel free to ask me any questions.

Coming soon- How to tie your pointe shoe ribbons!

Enjoy the dance that is life!

~Miss Erin.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Technique On A Tuesday; Stabilizing The "Standing" Hip {and a really good hip warm-up}.

So instead of Technique Tuesdays I'm adopting the name "Technique On A Tuesday" due to the fact that I seem to manage every other Tuesday, or so. Perhaps if I can manage to get a post up more consistently I'll go back to the former and drop the latter. But for now, I like it.

On to today's post.

 Stabilizing The Standing Hip. First, a quick and basic primer on what parts of the glutes do. The gluteus maximus gives us that booty popping shape (when trained to do so) and it works to bring the torso back into an erect position (coming from stooping or leaning forward). The gluteus medius has a hand in the outward rotation of the hip (turn-out). The glutes, in all their parts, are much more complex. But that is a basic overview.

In this photo I am letting the hip of the "working" or "gesture" leg (the one lifted in passe), namely the gluteus maximus, do most of the lifting. This causes the hip of the "standing" or support leg to essentially disengage, or not fire up in a way to stay stable. I can certainly hang out and find some semblance of balancing. But if I were to add any type of challenge, rising onto the ball of the standing foot, a jump, pivot of the heel or a turn, I would most likely fall out of the position.

In this picture I have engaged the supporting hip. The difference is subtle but vital. Here I have "quieted" the gluteus maximus of the passe leg and fired up the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius of the support leg. The gluteus medius of the passe leg is also more engaged than in the previous photo. Of course, all the muscles of the both legs are working. Each doing their specific job.

Some of the ways I have described this is to think of the hips as a type writer roller (yeah, I know not all age groups will know what I'm talking about). If your type writer roller is at an angle then your type writer is busted. To fix it it you must keep your roll level.

I have also jokingly asked what a student would do with their glutes on their supporting side if they knew I was coming in with a punch right to that area. That usually increases the engagement of the muscles.

A couple of good exercises to practice this, and some great hip warm-ups;

Here are a couple of exercises that emphasize pinning and stabilizing the supporting hip as well as the supporting side of the body.

I use these when I teach mat Pilates as a warm-up for both the hips and the concept of firing up the supporting side.

Passe Hip Circles.

Start with legs parallel, knees facing ceiling and toes pointed. Arms are alongside the body.

Engage the core as you draw the right knee up.

Pin the supporting side, or base side, of the body to the floor or mat. This requires an effort along the entire side of the supporting side of the body, especially in the core region (I like to call this area "nipple to kneecap").

Then lengthen the leg to its start position.

Do about 5 sets. Inhale as you draw the knee up and out. Exhale as you lengthen.

Do 5 sets in reverse.

Inhale as the knee draws to passe. Exhale as the leg lengthens.

Be sure to do the other side in equal amounts.

Table-Top Leg, Across and Side.

Bring the right leg to a table-top position.

Inhale as the leg crosses the mid-line of the body. Keep the back of the pelvis pinned to the mat. Don't loose control and fall over to the left.

Exhale as the leg opens to the right side. Keep the left, or base side, of the body pinned to the floor or mat. Don't let the body fall with the leg.

Do about 5 sets. Be sure and do the other side in equal amounts.

I love these exercise as they illustrated the importance of the supporting side, and they are great warm-ups for the hips.

Let's hear it for my crack-shot photographer! ( My 12 year old son, Neil).

Thank for hanging out! If you like what you see, subscribe at the top!

Enjoy the dance that is life!

~ Erin