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Tension in Upper Body


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I recently had a private conference with my ballet instructor, and a lot of nice things were said. But one thing that was brought up is that I get very tense and stiff in the upper body when I am working really hard. Sometimes, the stiffness comes from the back of my neck, and my teacher tells me to relax it. The problem is, I'm not really sure how! My question is, how can I relax more in my upper body? :flowers:

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Congratulations on your positive conference! Now on to your question...Breathe deeply through your back and abdominals, not just in your throat and the front of your chest! Seriously, often students/dancers work so hard they forget to breath. It will take extra practice before, during and after class. Did you ask your teacher for separate exercises, afterall, your teacher can see you to judge what it is you are doing to make yourself stiff!

Edited by vrsfanatic
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Thanks for the speedy reply!

No, she didn't mention any exercises, but she did mention that I may get tense because I don't breath enough! :wink: She also mentioned that (and this is true) I get unconfident sometimes and this may be another factor.

I will practice the breathing during class today, thanks! :blushing:

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Knock, knock...ballet mom here:

DD is currently at her studio's SI with guest teacher Jean Phillipe Malaty (AD of Aspen-Santa Fe ballet and a FABULOUS teacher). DD found his explanation about resting your shoulder blades on top of your ribs in back to be a helpful image to keep in mind to relax the upper body. :o

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Thank you all for your advice in this area. You are both right on the mark when it comes to things that can help to release tension in the upper body that is not helpful in ballet. Lowering the shoulders downward ("resting the shoulders") into the waistline or on top of the hips is most definitely good advice, but until a dancer learns to breath correctly, this will not help. A dancer may be able to accomplish it briefly, but eventually the unwanted tension will return. It is a most complicated issue, as with most things in ballet. There is no one, simple answer, unfortunately! :o

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  • 1 year later...

I have the same problem, and what happens to me is that I guess I get "back" on my legs. Where am I supposed to be? I'm pretty sure that it's not an issue of where I'm standing in my feet (I mean, I don't hear "Get off your heels") Also, in arabesque I have a tendency to pull my head/neck back, but I can't even feel myself doing it. How do I fix it?

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*knock knock* Not 13-16, 18 year old here, but with the arabesque and also the way you stand - is it possible to use the mirror more? If you learn what the correct position looks like, then you can fix your position into it. I use the mirror a lot to fix my allegro - as it moves too quickly for me to 'feel' where I am. Are you able to grab the mirror after dance for five minutes or so, if you can't make it in class?

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tutu, dancers are supposed to stand feeling their bodies over their legs and feet. As Adage has suggested using the mirror after class (or before also) to begin can be helpful, but when done during exercises, may become the problem itself.


There are varying ideas on how to stand up in ballet. What may be straight in one school might not be straight enough in another. Or what is straight in one school may be too straight in another. Stand in front of the mirror and begin to examine how you stand (looking in profile). Do you stand with your weight evenly distributed throughout the whole foot or on the ball of your foot? There is a different answer to your question depending upon how you answer the question being asked! :huepfen:

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And if you know that you "rear back" in an arabesque, then you have to think for awhile about the torso pulling diagonally forward and up from where you go now. After awhile, it will become ingrained and a work habit, so that you won't have to think about it anymore.

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*knock knock* - I wonder if lack of strength in the abdominals can lead to this too - attempting to hold the upper body straight using the muscles in the upper body and neck when the abdominals get tired.


Could this be happening?



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  • 2 weeks later...

I have the problem of not standing up with a strong straight spine and this might relate to your topic. I got the advice from a teacher that your spine is like a chain of some sort. You dont have to hold it up and make sure it stays straight, you just need to let it fall into place with one link on top of the other. Each of these "links" would be a vertebrate in your back and you just need to relax your muscles on top of these bones. That might help. I hope you can fix this.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest crayonsdeluxe

i also have many problems with a tense upper body you could also try imagining "lengthening" through your neck while keeping your shoulders at a natural level.

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