A lot of times I’ll be in the lesson, and the first thing I notice is that people have a difficulty with their posture. Most times, when students come in for a dance class posture is one of the last things that they’re thinking about, especially in Latin dancing. While Laura and I have danced on the line between a more ballroom style/street style, we also see the value in formal training and how it applies to whatever kind of dancing that we’re doing. You see, posture is an integral part of most classical dance styles and with good reason. If you’re not standing upright and you don’t have alignment, then you’re never really on your feet or have all of your balance.
To illustrate that point further, I often refer to the game of Jenga. Have you heard of this game? Jenga is a game that I’ve never played myself, but I’ve seen plenty of commercials for. Apparently you stack a bunch of blocks, and you have to make sure they are all on top of one another. If one is out of place, the whole tower will collapse, and the game is over. Think of your body as several sets of building blocks that have to be stacked on top of one another. The main points that I usually focus on are the head, the rib cage, the pelvis, the knees, and the feet. All of these parts have to be stacked on top of one another in such a way that you feel secure and whatever foot you’re deciding to stand on at any given moment.
As you can imagine, having your body weight and keeping your balance is crucial to partner dancing. You don’t want to be that guy or girl that just hugs and tugs away and relying on your partner to complete your movements, do you? Of course not! You want to see yourself as someone who is always in control of everything that they’re doing. Think of posture as the missing link in addressing issues such as balance, the ability to spin and even body movement!
While the topic of balance and posture is long and in-depth, I am going to give some general tips about the placement of a significant part of our body. I’m talking about the rib cage! Yes, that big sexy mass of bones that cover all of your vital organs like your heart and lungs.
The following four tips are going to help you understand ways to hold your rib cage, other parts that affect your bones, and more. You’ll hopefully leave with a better way to hold yourself that’s going to affect your dancing positively. Even better, postural attention will also improve your overall presence. Ladies love a man with good poise and posture and men, well we just love women regardless I suppose. Nonetheless, I’ve heard it time and again that whenever I walk into a room women appreciate the way I stand with my posture as it emits confidence. Coming from a kid growing up with an ugly duckling syndrome, I’ll take it!
As an aside, when I get angry or pissed off at something, I’ll take a note from my friend Tony Robbins. Well, Tony and I aren’t really friends in real life but he’s given me a lot of tips that I’ve been able to apply in my life so Tony, if you’re reading this, big shout out! 🙂 Mr. Robbins recommends that when you’re pissed off, just stop and plaster a big and ridiculous smile across your face for five seconds. Soon enough, you’ll feel silly for being upset and you change what he refers to as your ‘state.’ As dancers, addressing our posture also changes our state of physical presence so keep that in mind as we discussed the following four tips. Trust that people will see you differently and you’ll FEEL different as well. Let’s get to it!
1) Don’t confuse RIB movement with SPINE movement – This point is a bit of a pet peeve. You see, many times in some dance warm up a teacher will say: “Now let’s move our ribcage!” Then he/she will proceed to sway side to side ‘moving the ribcage.’ What’s happening as we’re moving our spine. Our ribcage is attached to our spine. We should be mindful of this fact as we move our bodies. Awareness is key!
2) Keep the front of your ribcage CLOSED – Often in dance, things are not what they seem to be. As young dancers, especially as young Latin dancers, we see lines of other dance styles that we think we can recreate. The thing is, most young dancers just mimic what they think they’re seeing in such a way that they begin arching their backs and sticking their butts out. Even worse is they then expand the ribcage to a point where they can barely hold themselves. We should think of the area below are sternum and keep that part of my ribcage nice and closed while still allowing space to breathe and move.
3) Don’t pull your shoulder blades back – I often come into contact with new dancers who think of good posture as pulling the shoulders back and having their shoulder blades practically touching. As we know, dance is an illusion and what we see is not exactly what appears to be. That being said, we have to have our arms relaxed and the shoulder blades back and down to liberate our arms so they can move freely. A positive effect of this is that we can then keep a rib cage closed instead of forcing it to open to accommodate such a crazy position.
4) Take this with you – supposing you slouch at a desk or a Cafe as you type away on your laptop of sipping on a cappuccino. If you spend a considerable amount of time compromising your posture, and only an hour or so working on your dancing, the odds are that your posture will kinda stink. Think of your posture while you’re doing your daily and mundane things and it will soon become part of the way you hold your carriage. Engage parts of your body that you don’t usually use. Your core muscles, in particular, to strengthen them, and you’ll soon find that the postural improvements will be long-lasting.
To have posture shows discipline and practice. Always remember: where focus goes, energy flows. A lot of times social Latin dancers see someone with good posture and think it’s either to snooty, or two formal. Personally, that’s a load of rubbish. If you want to call yourself a dancer one of the first and foremost things you should consider is the way you’re holding yourself. If you walk around looking like your knuckle dragging the floor, no one is going to take you for a dancer. But, if you want to make this dancing thing and do something good with it, you should start to think of posture in all aspects of your dancing. Don’t even get me started on how alignment plays an absolutely crucial role in partnering as well! I suppose, we’ll talk about that at a later date. 😉
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As always, to your dancing…..