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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Shoulder rising

Jaana Heino

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I seem to have developed a new problem, which is that doing fast or otherwise tricky combinations my supporting side shoulder starts to rise until I look utterly funny and my neck goes stiff. This happens mostly, currently, in grande battements at the barre, and before a pirouette from fourth in a center combination, but I don't think it's related so much to the steps themselves, but how I feel about them (worried that I mess them up).


I asked my teacher what to do about it, but she only said "well, I can't really think of anything specific; since you know where the problem is just don't do it". I guess she's right, and I can correct the problem as soon as I notice it, but I thought I'd ask here if anyone has any ideas about what specifically to think or do to stop it before it happens. :P

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Hi there Jaana :P


I think you have answered your own question. You say that you are worried about messing the step up, and hence you become tense, which is exaggerated in your shoulder rising. Most stress or tension goes straight to the shoulders/neck, thats where we carry around our problems.

One thing you can do is just before starting an exercise, just roll your shoulders back, keeping your arms by your side..if you know what I mean?? this should just release any stress. Also notice if you are doing this during your normal working day. Pay attention to how you sit, especially if you sit down all day, or drive alot. Keep doing the shoulder rolling, rather than thinking only of sitting up straight. By adjusting your shoulders, your posture will improve alot, and it will ease the tension.


You can also think of your shoulder blades like hot knives on butter, i.e. they should slide easily down your back. Hmm its very hard to explain in words...


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In addition to Xena's excellent suggestions:


Do you carry a bag on one shoulder? This can affect things.

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I've found that for the en haut position, it helps to envision reaching for a box on a very high shelf in order to elicit the two opposing pulls -- you can really feel the back muscles in the thoracic area engage.


I also agree with the idea of practicing proper carriage of the back and shoulders while not in class (as well as in class) so that this becomes natural. It makes such a difference in how we look. And of course, the more the shoulders rise up, the shorter the neck looks, so that's another incentive to work on this with vigilance.

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I noticed last night in class that my opposite shoulder goes up a lot in grand battement with the left leg. My teacher has corrected me on this numerous times and I thought I was pressing it down but, sure enough, when I watch myself face on in the mirror, I was shocked to see how much it goes up, even though it feels like I'm pressing it down.


I watched myself in the mirror and realized that I need to shift a lot onto my standing hip when I do the grand battement to the side. Make sure you're not pulling away from the barre when you do the grande battement. If you let your hips go out, your shoulder may be going up to over compensate. I think you should watch yourself in the mirror at the barre and put your shoulders into the correct position, and get a feeling for how it should really feel if done correctly. I found that I have to push my shoulders down a bunch more than I thought. And really shift onto the supporting hip.

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Thanks for comments, everyone! (And keep them coming, if someone still has something to suggest.)

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Jaana, in addition to the good things above, check WHERE you are holding the barre. If the arm is not far enough forward on the barre it causes the supporting shoulder to rise. Also, if you are too close to the barre it can do that.

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A while back Lampwick posted about the choulder-blade in PIROUETTES in a way that has helped me in ALL my dancing -- that was a wonderful thread, period --


in the preparation for the turn, the shoulder blades slide down and become strongly engaged in he back (without pulling your back into an arch) -- so try seating the shoulder blade as part of what PRECEDES the grand battement.... she's also REALLY right about shifting over hte supporting hip -- you need to use the pelvis as a counterweight to the leg -- and it's ALSO really true about the arm on hte barre being far enough forward.



Gee, it feels so easy giving advice, I feel kind of foolish... Better go t oclass and try to do this myself....

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I used to have a problem with my shoulders creeping up when I did pretty much anything, and oddly enough what fixed it was doing port de bras exercises with a theraband:


arms in 1st, pull slowly open toward 2nd (not all the way, just 4 or 5 inches) slowly resist to come back into 1st, bring the arms into 5th high, pull slowly open, slowly resist to go back.


Somehow all that concentration really makes a difference even when I'm not (actively) concentrating on my arms and shoulders.

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I just re-read your original post, and I see it's when there's something fast or tricky involved -- and of course.... THing is, there's a natural response to alarm that affects not just human beings, but many other animals as well, that causes the shoulders to rise towards the ears -- some think it's a "fight or flight" response, others a fear-related thing -- but anything alarming or sudden will tend to trigger it.


I distinctly remember being able to read my mother's mood by watching her shoulders -- she was "high-strung," Southern -- and her shoulders could really jump.


SO one thing that might help would be taking deliberate stress-reducing steps when a teacher introduces somethng unfamiliar or hard.


I tried this the other day with a combination of Sally's; I hate pique ballonnes, and every time she gives them -- she cycles them through -- my shoulders go crazy.... so I went and practiced them at the barre when it wasn't my group, made sure I had the rhythm right, go he picture in my head, and THOUGHT about keeping my shoulders calm, and lo! it went surprisingly well. THe worst was when hte combination started over on the other side, after a pirouette that closed coupe back -- I felt my shoulders jump a little on that one, and went and prepared my self and next time I had the second side better too....


then she gave a sissonne ballonne in the next (changements) combination, and my shoulders seized up.... but I couldn't have everything....


Good luck....

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Guest BBNButterscotch

I do this too, I do it when I am turning fast or doing a hard turn... my teacher constantly tells me to push my shoulders down. Once I get the hang of the turn, I seem to stop, but it's annoying when I do it, becuase sometimes I don't even know that.

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Guest MissInga

I'm another one who is corrected with "shoulders down." I actually have to remind myself to push them down. It actually helps relieve tension! It just needs to be your second nature I think........

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