Ballroom dancing is an athletic endeavor, like ballet and so many other dance forms. Many of us are competing and looking to inch up a notch in our final standing. While pros may have more of a stake in “winning”, amateurs are just as interested in translating their efforts, dollars, and time spent into recognizable rewards.
So often the prospect of that reward can sabotage our best intentions and become “trying too hard”.
While searching for images that represent this, I found a common denominator. Virtually each and every physical “trying too hard/straining” showed a person tightening their neck.
Guess what? You DO NOT have to do this no matter how difficult your choreography is. Other fallout from neck tightening is stopping breathing. Do this: tighten your neck (your head tips back and spine compresses), and take a breath – now let your neck go and take another breath. Which breath is easier, freer, more comfortable, fuller? Now, wherever you are picture your neck free – it’s ok if there is no dramatic change. By thinking that, did you let go enough to stop the tightening?
So here’s the thing, by stopping the (habitual) tightening you have already invited length into your WHOLE SPINE. If we become accustomed to thinking in this new way, dancing becomes, as above easier, freer, more comfortable, fuller.
Becoming aware of this habit may be difficult because it may be so familiar that it is not recognizable. Does familiar sound good? It does to me – familiar good tasting food, familiar TV shows, familiar routes, and our familiar awesome teacher! But some of these familiars taken to extreme may cause problems. Too much sugar causes tooth decay, weight gain and often pre diabetes. watching TV too much causes lethargy, traveling the same route is boring. (Our awesome teachers cannot be touched!). Familiar spinal compression, not so good.
When I was training to become an Alexander Technique teacher, I had years of professional experience as a ballet dancer and teacher. But whatever had become familiar to me was also the cause of pain in my neck, back and shoulders. I talk more about it here. What I learned in my training was that the habit of tightening, compression, and tension got me by pretty well, but my body was no longer able to withstand it for the long run. Since then, 15 years have passed and I have been able to pass on my own (and Alexander’s) discovery to my students. Their benefits are more ease, more awareness of the condition of their body in the moment, more fluidity and efficiency, and a brighter mood.
I can help you with the habits both on and off the ballroom that are no longer working for you. If you would like to receive my weekly blog via email including tips for better ballroom you may leave your information below. Happy Dancing!