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Author Topic: Aligned movement  (Read 2916 times)
ZPomeroy
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« on: December 01, 2009, 11:10:55 PM »

Lately I have been reading quite a few technique books related to ballet balance and movement, as well as being trained by an expert in the field, so thought I would share what I have learnt through this time. I am still learning about all this so if I have gotten any of this wrong please let me know. This idea of acquiring a reflexive balance and aligned movement are mainly based upon exercises to correct bad habitual body movements and allow you to feel what a correct balance/movement is. A note: These exercises do contain a lot of visualising and imagery. I will be doing this over quite a number of posts.

Before I start I would like to share a quote from Israeli born ballet teacher Zvi Gotheiner

“Alignment and movement efficiently are intertwined. If your body is not aligned, your tension level increases, and tension by definition makes technique difficult”

Some dancers tense the muscles of their neck and shoulders with every movement, including even a simple gesture of the leg. Since they are not well aligned, they increase the effort needed to achieve their movement initiation. Dancers may in fact think they are developing power, though the reality is that they are developing what hinders their power, the exertion of effort in muscles where there is no influence on the movement. This inefficiency is not only harmful to technique but can also predispose a dancer to injury and early deterioration to joints, muscles, and soft tissues.

Moving a well aligned body allows the legs, arms, and head to find good position in a natural way. Without having a sense of the whole body movement will create mechanistic dancing without a sense of flow and line. This idea of a well aligned body can be classified by the traditional ballet term ‘aplomb’ which denotes the central body and guides us to our centre of gravity. In 1905 Bernhard Klemm wrote "Aplomb is the absolute safety in rising and falling back which results from the perpendicular attitude of the upper body and the artistic placing of the feet. By means of aplomb the dancer acquires a precision and an elegance which insure the successful execution of every foot-movement, however artistic and difficult, and thereby creates a pleasing and a satisfactory impression upon the observer. Aplomb may be compared with the sureness of touch of the pianist." If you are well aligned when not moving, this alignment does not necessarily carry over to your dancing merely by you pulling in the abdominal muscles and buttocks. A posture assumed for alignment while standing is not useful if it does not result in economy of movement. Staying centered throughout movement can be achieved through the balance of forces through the body. Dismiss the notion that there is one muscles in which you can hold to create stability, for stability is not achieved through the restriction of movement but by the efficient balance of forces.

Zac
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ZPomeroy
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2009, 02:45:09 AM »

Before we start looking at the aligned movement we must first acquire a reflexive balance. By definition, balance is a state of equilibrium or equipoise, se we can say that aa reflexive balance can be definied as elicited automatic stability, whereby stability occurs at the beginning and end of a movement. This alignment is key to moving through space. When a dancer is in a centered alignment the muscle activity throughout the body is overall less, therefore when engaging muscles is used as a form of stability and balance the opposite of what occurs during a centered alignment takes place. In general an aligned balance feels like less effort. Balance cannot be improved through conditioning alone; but the increasement of conscious awareness of strength will result in the performance of balanced movement with minimal effort. The following are exercise which will improve balance and confidence, improving your dancing.

The Latissimus Dorsi (pictured left) is the largest expanse of muscles in the body, because of this its position greatly affects balance and stability. Due to its attachment to the lower back and pelvis, tightness in the muscle tends to tilt the pelvis forward when the arms are elevated, making balance and stability difficult to maintain. If the left and right sides of the Latissimus Dorsi can be felt to be lengthened, flexible and equally working, balance and the scope of arm movement possible will greatly improve.

1.  Imagine both sides of the Latissimus Dorsi being equal in expanse and activity. Feel the width of the muscle enveloping the back.
2.  Stretch the arms up over the head and move them behind you. Externally rotate the arms so the palms face to the back and the elbows are pointing forward. Feel the lengthening of the muscle from the pelvis up to the arm. Remain in this position for 30 seconds, then bring your arms down, noticing the feeling of support in the back
3.  Stand on one leg. Notice the balance difference when both sides of the muscle can be felt
4.  The Latissimus Dorsi spirals as it attaches ino the top fromt of the upper arm. Imagine this spiral continuing into the biceps of the arm, wrist and fingers. Think of the muscles creating more support for the arms
5.  Take up hold and imagine curtains sliding out under the arms, creating more width and breadth in the back and arms

Most muscles in the bodywork in pairs, called agonists and antagonists. During a movement, the muscle responsible for moving the body part contracts or shortens; this muscle is called the agonist. The antagonist muscle acts against or in opposition to the agonist muscle, stretching when the agonist contracts. The antagonist muscle is responsible for moving the body part back to its original position. A muscle acts as the agonist in one action and as an antagonist in the opposite action. For example, when bending the elbow and raising the hand toward the shoulder, the biceps muscle contracts and is the agonist; the triceps muscle stretches and is the antagonist. When the movement is reversed and the elbow is extended, the triceps muscle contracts and the biceps muscle lengthens.

1.  Focus the muscles on the front of the upper aarm. Bend the arm and think of these muscles contracting to create the movement
2.  Explore whether the movement feels different if you focus on the action of the antagonistic muscle on the back of the upper arm
3.  Imagine the triceps lengthening to make the elbow bend.
4.  Compare the sensation of shortening the front of the arm to bend the elbow with the sensation of lengthening the muscle at the back of the arm. Does the lengthening imagery of the antagonist make the movement feel esier and smoother? does it help create more flexibilty in the elbow?

This idea of focusing on the antagonist can be used in dancing to allow more flexibility and ease in a movement, and uses less strain towards the body while keeping the movement in a reflexive balanced state.

Zac



« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 03:05:30 AM by ZPomeroy » Logged

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elisedance
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2009, 03:48:25 AM »

Fantastic zax - will come back to this later...
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ZPomeroy
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2009, 05:06:22 AM »

The spine exhibits a double S shape. The first inverted S extends from the bottom of the skull to the end of the thoracic spine. The second encompasses the lumbar spine, sacum, and tail. This shape has the advantage of making the spine resilient and flexable without losing its ability to bear weight. To create a sense of centre and alignment, the curves of the spine need to balance each other. If one curve is exaggered or too flattened, the others, too, will suffer. Balance becomes easy when the spinal S's are haarmonized.

1.  Visualise the double S shape of the spine. At the neck the spine curves forward slightly. The thoracic and sacral spines curing back, which the lumbar, and tail curve forward
2.  Imagine all the curves of the spine balanced on top of each other. Feel them finding their optimal depth and length
3.  Think of the spine as a harmonious wave, and notice the continuation of the wave upward and downward. Above the cervical spine the inaginary spine curves forward, so does the imaginary continuation of the spine below the tail.
4.  In the downward phase of a Plié (a deep bend through the knees) imagine the spinal curves deepening just slightly. Imagine the spinous processes, the bumps on the back of the bones of the spine, floating up. In the upward phase of the Plié imagine the spinal curve lengthening. Drop the spinous processes down to support this action. The spinal curves are in constant dynamic change in response to the limb action.
5.  Notice how it feels to perform a balance with a fabulously balanced, dynamic spine.

An important part of creating balance and stability in dance is the use of the muscles of the two halves of the body equally. The importance of the body wall muscles in relation to this thought is high, they serve to make the torso and pelvis a container forming the core muscular structure. The main body wall muscles are the pelvic floor, the abdominals, the intercostals, the quadratus lumborum, and the scalenes. If we can become aware of the body wall as a primary source of support and movement initiation, the body aligns, and the limbs musculature releases excess tension. Often we dance with too much tension int he limb muscles as we are not aware of the support that the body wall can provide. The levator scapulae and the serratus anterior are body wall muscles that have transformed to help in the movement of the arms. If these muscles are imbaalanced in length and tension, it becomes very difficult for the limbs to function in a balanced way.

I think that's enough for tonight Wink

Zac
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drj
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2009, 06:16:44 AM »

It sounds as though you have encountered Eric Franklin? He has magnificent information and excellent suggestions on this very subject, in his books, Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery, Conditioning for Dancers, Dance Imagery for Technique and Practice. I was fortunate to take a workshop from him on the subject of another of his books, Relax Your Neck, Liberate Your Shoulders. The value of his advice and teaching is enormous. Thank you for reminding me of him; I have not re-visited his books recently and need to do so. Also to check and see if/when he will be returning to my area. I would like to take another workshop. He is an excellent teacher, as you might imagine.
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ancora imparo
ZPomeroy
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2009, 06:26:08 AM »

I am using the explanations from one of his books for the exercises, as they are very similar to what i was taught, and it means that i definately know that the explanation is correct, and not missing anything Cheesy
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 07:06:15 AM by ZPomeroy » Logged

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Some guy
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2009, 12:56:59 PM »

Zac, this stuff is amazing!  Thanks for sharing!
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samina
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2009, 01:33:03 PM »

luv franklin... luv luv...
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SwingWaltz
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2009, 04:22:24 PM »

Wow Zac! You can write a book!
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ZPomeroy
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2009, 05:44:04 PM »

Continuing on from the last post, having a balance of body halves with the use of wall muscles, scalenes and the pelvic floor is crucial to achieving stability in dance. In the following exercise the scalene muscles are enlivened to reduce neck and shoulder tension, and effectively remove the tendency to round the shoulders.

1.    Touch the bone behind the ears, the mastoid. To feel the scalenes slide your finger down the sides of the neck below the mastoid. Do the muscles feel equally thick on both sides of the neck?
2.    Slide your fingers down the sides of the neck one more time, and think of the first rib hanging from the sides of the spine and then dropping a little lower, causing the scalenes to stretch and come alive. Feel the activity of the scalenes equally on both sides of the neck
3.    Imagine the individual ribs suspended from each other by the muscles between the ribs. Think of both sides of the rib cage suspended from the nect in a balanced fashion. Imagine the continuation of the body wall from the ribs through the quadratus lumborum in the bach, from the abdominals at the sides and from of the body, and all the way to the pelvic floor. If this imagery nd touch make the neck feel longer and the soulders lower, you are on the right track. You may also notice a release in tension in the pectoralis major and minor muscles as well as the rhomnoids between the shoulder blades
4.    Imagine the first rib becoming horizontal, and then feel wind blowing up the front of the spine and lifting the ribs from underneath. This image eases the pull of the anterior scalenes and increases the length of the posterior ones.
5.    Practise some turns, and try to feel the first rib hanging equally from the top of the spine. Create a balanced feeling on both sides of the rib caaage as u turn

Zac
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ZPomeroy
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2009, 08:09:52 PM »

Now that i have explained the major exercises in which balance and stability can be achieved, i would like to share some general balancing exercises which will use all that you have learnt through the previous posts. Before commencing these general balancing exercises complete the four above specific muscles exercises for optimum progression in the improvement of balance and stability. As each general exercise becomes easier increase the difficulty by closing your eyes, which will eliminate the optical righting reflex and make you concerntrte on the use of other sensory organs to rely upon. This first general exercise is known as the 'four corner balance drill', which as the name suggests is made up of four movements of the leg.
1.    Start with the feet shoulder width apart, with the planted foot on a 45 degree angle with the knee slightly bent.
2.    Project your other leg forward, locking the knee by pushing the heel forward while extending the toes to create a horizontal line forward
3.    Sit back as much as possible without leaning. Flex your raised quad and planted glute in order to relax the hamstring of the raised leg. Exhale and grip the ground with your toes.
4.    Swing the entire leg parallel to the ground outwards. Exhale and keep the toes pointed. 
5.    Swing around behind and rotate the entire leg as one cylinder. Counterbalance by leaning your torso forward. Extend with your crown in one direction, your toes in the opposite
6.    Bend your knee and swing your leg underneath you as if going to kick a football. Extend into the Frontal Point again.
7.    Bend your knee and bring your ankle comfortably into your lap as you sit down. Stabilize with your planted foot directly in the middle of your frame. Counterbalance by extending   your  arms, as you exhale and sit. Come slowly out of this and use your hands to gently release the leg from your lap. Never let it quickly jerk out of your lap.

The second general exercise is known as the 'balance on balls' though for this we are going to use a tightly rolled up towel.
1.    Place one foot in front of the other, and pout the arch of the fromt foot on the towel
2.    Rock forward and backward, rhythmically transferring your weight on and off the ball. As you shift your weight on the ball,imagine the toes and heel melting downward over it.
3.    Swing the arms forward as you transfer your weight forward, and swing them backward as you rock back again
4.    Exhale as you shift your weight onto the ball. The latter two actions serve to release tension as you learn to balance
5.    After 20 repetitions, take the foot off the towel and place both feet next to each other. Lift one leg, then the other. Balance with the toe of the working leg touching the knee of  the supporting leg (passe). Notice the difference in balance, stability, and relaxation between the sides of the body
6.    Repeat on the other side
7.    Think of thw weight of the body resting on the towel

More general stability exercises will be posted later on...

Zac
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elisedance
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2009, 09:43:35 PM »

[I might just put a cover on the front and back of PDO and sell it as a sort of 21st century ballroom dancers corronation street... Grin ]
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2009, 12:38:06 AM »

Bravo, ZP!!!

I am very familiar w/ this stuff, and am actually writing, or I should say, rewriting about it now. It's great, isn't it? Bernhard Klemm's work on aplomb lines is probably one of the most misunderstood, or misconstured, things in modern ballet. Thanks for writing this. Continue, please. It is all, esp. that in your initial post, so Body School.
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ZPomeroy
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« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2009, 07:49:22 PM »

The following exercise is an extension of the previous exercise involving the use of a towel.
1.    Stand on the Towel and lightly bounce to rhytmically bend and stretch the legs.
2.    Lift the shoulders and inhale; slowly lower the shoulders as you exhale
3.    Place the hands behind the head and send a breath into the neck
4.    Visualise the cervicl spine lengthening, but do not actively try to make a long neck
5.    Drop your arms at the sides, and notice the length of the neck
6.    Place the hands on the neck again
7.    With the hands on the neck, rotate the upper body four times to the right and then to the left
8.    Move the hands up along the neck until they are placed at the bck of the head
9.    Very slowly flex the cervical and upper thoracic spine, allow for a gently lengthening in the opposite directio
10.   Slowly extend the spine, drop the arms at the sides, and get off the towel
11.   Notice the effortless feeling of alignment, stability, and the length of the neck and the whole spine.
12.   Practise a few easy dance positions and feel the difference.

Now that we've got that out of the way we can finally get to the aligned movement senction Cheesy

Zac
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Dance is poetry written for the feet, read by the heart, and destined for the soul.
ZPomeroy
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« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2009, 07:57:51 PM »

I am very familiar w/ this stuff, and am actually writing, or I should say, rewriting about it now. It's great, isn't it? Bernhard Klemm's work on aplomb lines is probably one of the most misunderstood, or misconstured, things in modern ballet. Thanks for writing this. Continue, please. It is all, esp. that in your initial post, so Body School.

Wow! Please do tell me when you've finished writing Smiley This is all still very new to me, espically the work of Klemm so i hope i haven't misconstured any of this Huh I definately will be continuing Smiley
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Dance is poetry written for the feet, read by the heart, and destined for the soul.
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