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Ballet Talk for Dancers

SOMETIMES Almost Flawless Spinal Alignment...


gerlonda

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All this week, and the later of last week, I have had glimpses of "perfection" when it comes to my alignment from the bottom of my leotard to the top of my head, yay (I struggle with keeping my weight forward, chest up and forward, shoulders down and back, and- my biggest challenge- no sway lower back with hips vertical)!!!!!

I have found that I can achieve this by concentrating on my abs 80% of the time and peeking in the mirror sideways, keeping my pelvis forward, and stretching in opposition from the floor to the ceiling. There's a problem; however (there always is), sometimes I get tremendous pain from the top of my spine to right underneath my shoulder blades from the strain :)

I then get to the center, continually trying to verytically stretch my whole body as much as humanly possible and (though I'm looking great in the mirror) by the end of class I feel like I'm ready for traction!!!! "Too much tension while dancing!" I hear over and over again from some teachers... gee... I know that, but if I don't then I don't look stretched enough. My balances have even improved!

I've heard, "Take the tension and put it in your abs" many times, but does anyone have any other tips?

 

Greatly Appreciated... :rolleyes:

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Gerlonda, proper alignment should make everything feel better. Pain is not a part of standing correctly. It should make things easier, not harder. If it takes that much strain to do it, then you must be doing something wrong. The work going on in the core and the legs should not be visible in the upper body, head, or arms. Are you breathing? If you are getting pain then you must be really gripping and using way, way too much tension. Excess tension prevents movement, therefore, since ballet is dance, and dance is movement, you are defeating the purpose of what you are trying to do. Yes, muscles have to work, but it's the support muscles that do most of the work. The upper parts must be free to breathe and flow with the breath and the music. :)

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Yes, I'm with Miss Leigh. You are clenching and gripping your muscles rather than enlisting their help. The joints of the body should be able to move freely without constriction, and if the muscles surrounding them are in a constant state of constriction then the energy just gets balled up with no place to go.

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Today in class I attempted to have a more "dynamic" stretching of the body... less of the board-straight, eyeballs-popping-out stretch of the spine. From the side I just look so "curvy" (i.e. rounded shoulders, curved lower back, rear-end kind far behind the rest of my body) regardless of being 5'7'' and x pounds. I know I'm going to have to find a happy medium somehow... if only I could get my pelvis FORWARD I wouldn't keep falling back out of turns!!!!!

I think maybe I need to do more of the Pilates "plank" exercises and perhaps some lunges away from and back to my supporting leg to get the feeling of being ON my leg for turns... It's just too much to think about!!!!!

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Gerlonda, you can't totally change body structure. If you learn to align your body and place your weight properly, use your rotation to your best ability, etc., then that is the best you can do. You cannot make a body that has natural curves totally straight. You can learn to place it correctly, but that is not going to change a basic structure. Trying to do so is going to cause the kind of problems with excess tension that you described in the original post.

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What strikes me is that she mentions curved shoulders and back. I could be wrong since I can't see her but it sounds like poor posture, that could be fixed but it will take a long time because as an adult she's been walking and standing like that for decades. I think the Pilates and sit-ups would help strengthen the core and also perhaps Gerlonda you should consider Alexander technique. I'm not that much a fan of it, but I've always had good posture. I have friends who have done it, and who have benefitted from it.

 

In general I would say that you should work on one issue at a time. And you are going to have to monitor yourself constantly because just fixing it in ballet is not going to be enough--even if you take 90 minutes of class 6 days a week and work on it, you still have 22 hours, 7 days a week for your body to revert back to its habitual stance.

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What strikes me is that she mentions curved shoulders and back. I could be wrong since I can't see her but it sounds like poor posture, that could be fixed but it will take a long time because as an adult she's been walking and standing like that for decades....--even if you take 90 minutes of class 6 days a week and work on it, you still have 22 hours, 7 days a week for your body to revert back to its habitual stance.

I agree with these remarks. I've been dancing seven years now, and have spent most of that time working on alignment. A decades-long career in a swivel chair did not provide me with good posture for dance! That includes regular myofascial massage therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture, along with the aforementioned 90 minutes of class every day. I've made big strides and am very proud of what I've achieved, but I'm sure it's no more than 50-60% of what my bones are capable of - I just hope I'll be able to continue this work another seven years! I recently started taking a pointe class - in flats, please! - just to learn to bend my feet correctly. It's a big help already, but very very difficult. I am re-learning how to walk.

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What strikes me is that she mentions curved shoulders and back. I could be wrong since I can't see her but it sounds like poor posture, that could be fixed but it will take a long time because as an adult she's been walking and standing like that for decades. I think the Pilates and sit-ups would help strengthen the core

 

I think gerlonda mentioned curved lower back though. I know that you can correct the faulty alignment element of a lower back curve to an extent through pilates etc (like I'm doing) but, as Miss Clara points out, there's only so much you can change when it's your basic structure. My lower back simply cannot look the way the Gretchen Ward Warren book suggests as the ideal. One teacher tried, but it meant tucking under to an uncomfortabel and unsustainable degree.

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^ Yes, but if you have curved shoulders often you are going to look like your upper back is rounded and not straight either. I agree that some people will not be able to look like the ideal due to skeletal structure, but I think in many cases, it is not due to their skeleton having been born that way but rather due to poor postural habits--just like you train the legs/hips to turn out as a child, if you slump all the time, you train your muscles to not hold you up as they should. Some parents are not vigilant about this but in this day and age it is probably not something that many parents are fixated on--as they were in early generations with girls especially.

 

I have a male friend who has curved shoulders and a round back--and it came from YEARS of him playing the trumpet.

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I do believe that in this case the original poster most likely has a structural problem. We all know that good posture is critical and relevant to everything, however, it cannot change a structure. Correct alignment can help it, but it will not change bone structure.

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I don't know if this would change anything or not, but I found that if my alignment is off that day, I would just lie on the studio's floor for half an hour, feeling the floor, relaxing, while lengthening with breathing. After half an hour, when I get up I can feel the difference in my spine -- they are lengthened, and the gripping muscles are relaxed...

I know it is simple, but it does the magic for me! Of course, it still can't change your bone structure though~

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With all due respect, based on a short description that the original poster has given, without even SEEING her (let alone doing some kind of physical therapy, chiropractic, or x-ray) you can determine that she has a skeletal issue and not something that has developed through her lack of proper alignment/posture for most of her life?

 

Granted, if she is over 30 then it still might not be possible to fix or it might take a long time, if it is due to habit rather than birth physiology. However, I tend to disagree with the idea that it is structural without having seen the person (and I am not equipped to determine it even if I do see her) and would recommend that she discuss it with her teacher, doctor, chiropractor, or someone else (Alexander or PT)-- someone who can actually see her and test her potential alignment rather than give up based on a diagnosis on the internet that she has a "structural problem."

 

There are just many variables: besides those that I've already mentioned, she is interpreting what she sees in the mirror. She sees curves, while perhaps they are not as curvy as she thinks. Someone familiar with ballet and/or good alignment, and also many body types would be the best to appraise her and see what is possible for her.

 

I speak from experience in that there are a lot of things in the last year that I have done in ballet that I did not think possible at my age of 44. I always came up with some kind of excuse based on body structure, age, etc. to my teacher and EVERY SINGLE TIME, my teacher disagreed with me and gave me exercises, tips, etc. to do. And I must give him/her the credit that he/she was always right and I'm grateful that he/she did not discourage me by agreeing with the age/body type limitations that I had put on myself.

 

I'm not saying that her problem isn't structural, but that there is not enough information to say that, and that she should seek out someone who can evaluate it properly before she gives up on improving her alignment and attributing it to a "structural problem."

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Thanks all for your help.

Yeah, you guys are partially right, I have had a swayback since a little girl. Pilates has helped my abs tremendously, but (like I'm starting to figure out), Pilates won't change the BONES of my lower back.

This year my dance schedule has increased (like going until 8 and 9 PM as opposed to last year when I was finished at 6:30 PM) and it HAS become harder and harder for me to wake up early in the morning for Pilates. I'm pretty much doing Pilates 1-2 times a week as opposed to last year's 3-4 times a week- my day is 7:30 AM- 3:30 PM work and then 4:30 PM- 8/9 PM dance class, usually settle down and eat between 9:30PM-10:30/11:30PM and getting up early in the morning for Pilates has become SO hard!!!!!!!!

I actually don't slump, I get my rounded shoulders from my dad and I am CONSTANTLY trying to push them back (my teachers have told me to be careful to not get my shoulders behind my back and don't stick out my ribs in pursuit of better "looking" shoulders).

At this juncture in my training, gaining more control of my sway lower back is an effort to get my pelvis/weight FORWARD to get ON my leg to do multiple turns -I've been at one and three quarter of a turn for several years now and it's starting to wear at my nerves in the worst way :yucky:

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based on a short description that the original poster has given, without even SEEING her [..] you can determine that she has a skeletal issue and not something that has developed through her lack of proper alignment/posture for most of her life?

 

 

Luceroblanco, if I recall correctly, Gerlonda has posted over the years about her alignment and particularly her tendency to a sway back, and ways of working with this ... so -- as far as it is possible to do so without actually seeing her -- I think maybe Ms Leigh remembers previous discussions and advice she has given Gerlonda?

 

Of course, in general, you're absolutely right about not seeing anyone making it difficult for a definitive answer to be given, I think one of the things I appreciate about really experienced dance teachers' expertise is the way they can recognise fairly common problems and issues, because they've seen and taught so many dancers.

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Hi Gerlonda.

I wonder, since you're really working hard right now correct placement of your pelvis, whether a simplified approach to the upper torso might help ease things up a bit. It's so hard to really focus on very many things - sit bones, pelvic floor, rotators, and all of the other stuff too - at the exact same time.

 

An excellent teacher once to told me to think of the navel being one inch behind the hip bones and the chest being one inch ahead of the hip bones. ("Think" being a key word here. These days especially. :) ) For me this little note worked as the perfect shorthand reminder for a whole bunch of elements that I already knew deep down and just needed help bringing to the front of my mind.

 

And I hope you're allowing your body to be itself. A swayback is definitely worth correcting, but there's nothing wrong with having a backside. I think that as adults we sometimes need to just leave some aspects of ligne to the pros and pre pros.

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