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lifted upper body


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Last night I took a class from a new teacher and all through the barre she would come over and push up on my lats while telling me to "drop my shoulders". My regular teacher has never brought this up. I'm not getting how to lift my upper torso other than inhaling or lifting through my shoulders. Any insight Mel, Gary?

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Dear Danny,


Having recently gotten this correction, try raising your chest (pecks) while holding your shoulders down ( this will also pulls your upper stomach in!) What this accomplishes is that it rotates or flattens your upper spine and rotates your ribcage up! It give you a better presentation and I'm told will help later in jumps and turns. :clapping:

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Thanks Silvergreydancer, that description makes sense to me. The teacher did say "straighten your spine" several times, but she also told me to keep my ribcage down. Is that part important, or is that just an asthetic preference. This presentation does seem very showy, almost military.

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Ask her what she means by keeping you ribcage down. She may mean pull in the lower ribcage. Although if you do that you don't really have much room to breath there. Yes, Military stance is just what I thought too. Take a look at some male dancers photos in a leap or an arabesque. Their chest is pulled up and the back of the spine at the top third is flat. I think it is impossible to present the chest without pulling up the ribcage. Both of my instructors have complimented me on the improved presentation. So. I must be doing something right!


I'd suggest that you see your teacher after class for a clarification of what she wants.

Shoulders down Ok yes that is good!

Chest up but ribcage down, not possible because the bones of the ribcage are interconnected and don't move independently of one and other.


So, Leave me a note when you talk to her. I would like to know what she's is thinking.

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It's more like isometrics and less like the military position of attention. In the former way of lifting the chest but holding the shoulders in place, you pit two set of muscles against one another. In the position of attention, the shoulders are cast slightly back and the chest rather forward. Different worlds!

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Dear Mel,

I agree with your explaination. Is it possible to raise the chest and not have the ribcage rise up? This may just be a matter of degree. I believe the instructor is trying to prevent the arch the back takes if the chest is pulled way up.

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Yes, that's what I mean about isometrics. The muscles lift up through the upper torso, but the pectoral girdle (the shoulders) stays down, so it's only a slight apparent outward change, but the change inside is considerable. Heavens, that almost sounds like a sacrament - "an outward visible form resulting from inward change!" No wonder ballet gets compared to religion so often!

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Thank you Mel! for confirming my thoughts.

You have proven again that you know everything! :shrug:

Gee what a tough reputation to live up to! :wink:

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That just comes from my checkered resume, and the weird assortment of experiential backgrounds.

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Well, today I took class keeping my ribcage rotated up, shoulders down, pelvis under and back straight, this on top of the 50 other things I have to work on, needless to say I was physically and mentally drained by the end of the barre. I guess it's going to be work until my body gets use to it.


The teacher who brought all this up will be gone for awhile so I have to wait till she gets back to clarify. However, my presentation does look improved.


Mel, is there a good reference for further reading on isometrics?



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There are lots of things on isometrics, it's just that a lot of it doesn't apply to ballet. There are a couple types of it: Using muscle power against an immovable object, and using muscle against muscle. This latter type is the kind most useful in ballet. For example, in rond de jambe à terre, one muscle group on the supporting leg works for rotation and turnout there, while the identical muscle group on the working leg does the same, but in motion. The "pull-up, push-down" of the torso, which we've been discussing, is another type.


Probably the most famous use of extensive isometrics is the "Dynamic Tension" method of body-building devised by Charles Atlas (1893-1972, né Angelo Siciliano). It uses many isometric exercises, and produces a well-proportioned development of muscle without the extreme definition that has become fashionable since after WWII. It further does not produce a muscle-bound human tank. It's almost as good physical exercise as classical ballet! But, since you're already studying ballet, save your money and just think when you get a correction, "Is this an isometric?" A surprising number of times, the answer will be yes.

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In addition to what has been said, you might also try these:


1. In class, try as much as you can to think about what your back is doing while you are doing every exercise. Think of keeping it broad and your arms in front of your body when they are in second position. I used to think of flexing my lats like the body builders do, though I wasn’t really trying to do that. I was just thinking it. If you are broad across the back, it is really hard to lift your shoulders. If you concentrate on your back, if you are like me, you’ll goof up combinations for a while because you are thinking so much about your back, but with time that will improve.


2. I try to think of an invisible person who has a hook attached to my sternum and is pulling it forward and up. I don’t do anything, I just think it.


I think home practice is a good way of working on all of this. Take some time to do some very simple barre or center exercises and just think whatever technical image you choose to think of while doing the exercise. You will have to find what works best for you. Do the exercises slowly without music and just try to feel the image you are trying to create. If you work on something like that say 6 days a week for a month, I believe you will likely show improvement.


Hey, Mel, my understanding is that modern bodybuilders still use “dynamic tension,” though they don’t call it that. For example while standing and doing some upper body exercise, they will contract their leg muscles to increase the intensity of the exercise. And just to make it a little more dance related, in her book Dance Kinesiology, Sally Fitt makes the claim that contracting muscles not directly involved in a movement increases the number of muscle fibers that contract to make the specific movement.

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Yep, that's right, that's one of the principles in the old "Dynamic Tension" method. Atlas argued, convincingly, that it was not only good for strengthening muscles, but improves blood circulation and decreases the incidence of varicose veins. Sounds likely to me!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just wanted to add my thanks... I had not read this thread until tonight,

and I wound up here because I received this exact same correction in

class today! My instructor came over and took hold of my shoulders and

shoulder blades and pushed them into the correct postion. It feels exactly

like you described, and reading this helped me understand what I was doing

wrong, and how to correct it. It's wonderful to have your comments on this

at hand while the feeling is still fresh in my memory.


It's so hard to remember this, especially when I have one or both arms in

third position... ugh!


Thanks again!

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