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The Dancer's Body - Part 1

Posted last July 6, 2010, 10:21 am in Health report article

In this first part of this “The Dancer’s Body” series we will examine abdominal region muscles, “abs” for short (commonly thought of as “the core”), and the critical importance to the dancer and in fact even non-dancers.The four muscles of the abdominal region are the rectus abdominus, the internal oblique, the external oblique, and the serratus anterior. The abdominal muscles are extremely important for good posture and alignment. Why? You may ask. Well this all goes back to our strange evolutionary path that took us from walking on all fours like nearly every other creature on our planet, to somewhat defying gravity and walking upright on two legs. The conflict that little twist of evolution created was to create a situation where our entire upper body is supported (or not) by those abdominal muscles and a very narrow long series of stacked up small bones called the spinal column. Our balance and in fact the condition of the spine and most joints in the body are at the mercy of this odd arrangement.  Interestingly enough, when we are young and active with toned and strong muscles, those wonderful “abs” support the vast majority of our upper body weight, thus taking the load off of the spine, keeping it elongated with a subtle curve (as seen in the image below), and allowing us to run fast, play sports, and dance with amazing balance and agility considering this structure. Unfortunately, with time, inactivity, poor diets, we often lose much of the strength in our abdominal muscle group and as a result our spines start pitching forward on top and hips tilt back, or hips forward and head pitched back. Amongst other things this not only puts extreme stress on the bones of the spine (look at the red and purple lines and you can imagine how this can impact the spine), but also causes our balance and mobility to deteriorate.
Take a look at your spine and next time you dance, imagine your vertebrae aligned in an upright position with your cervical vertebrae lengthened.
When performing your isolations in class using the center of the body, take a look at your obliques and imagine one side of your body stretching while the other side is contracting. Maintain proper alignment throughout without arching the back or tucking pelvis under.
When doing say, a Latin walk, as you push off of your supporting leg and foot (as an example your right leg), your hip should be settled on that side with your Oblique’s compressed on the right side and left side stretched. Additionally, throughout your Rectus Abdominus should be toned and used to help lift your ribcage upwards with your chest slightly inflated, shoulders down and back, and head held erect.What does this all do to your dance? Plenty! It creates the condition of balance and engages these muscles to aid in moving you solidly forward from one walk to the next with balance, strength, firmness, and a look like you really “mean it.” Look at yourself in the mirror. Doesn’t that make you look more like the great dancers we admire.

Ken Broggelwirth Certified Dance Instructor (516) 769-8301 [email protected]www.stephaniesdancewithus.com