I used to think that conditioning only referred to activities such as exercise, body work, and all manner of movement in support of competitive ballroom dancing. We talk a lot about forming a strong and flexible back, lats that are willing to be activated in Latin and Rhythm, and upper backs that bend as the head tilts to one side or the other in Smooth or Standard.
Ballroom is an athletic endeavor as well as an art form. So, the idea is to best use ourselves in a way where we can elicit both.
Conditioning exercises offer weight work, stretching, cardio and a multitude of workout expressions (think The Barre Method, Pilates, Yoga, Gyrokinesis/tonics, biking, running, swimming, the list goes on and let’s not forget Pole dancing -I hear another great workout, although I have never tried it!).
Any of these assist our dancing in a way that gives us more physical fitness. All good.
But I am also thinking about conditioning in a new way. Here is a definition via Merriam Webster:
A simple form of learning involving the formation, strengthening, or weakening of an association
between a stimulus and a response
Ha! Amazing, Merriam Webster must have known about FM Alexander’s troubles trying to find out how to stop contracting his neck muscles before reciting Shakespeare!!
To cut to the chase, so much of the dancing we do is governed by our learning and our conditioning within that learning.
Here’s an example:
You are approaching a telespin. As the woman, you step forward and your partner spins around you as you pivot while closing your feet. We may be conditioned to tighten our neck, hold our breath or stiffen our backs unknowingly as a habitual association between a stimulus and a response.
The stimulus is the telespin, the response are habits as above cloaked in ‘this is right, I know this’. ‘It is familiar’.
BUT, maybe NOT efficient.
Our conditioning, or habitual reaction is strong and ingrained. We react all day long, but in a split second, unconsciously. It is a very useful approach to recognize the familiar, right feeling thing that isn’t working for us anymore, and then take a pause and think about doing something different, however new and unfamiliar.
Another way of practicing change and recognizing conditioned habits is to sit and meditate in unconditioned awareness. In this way, we are in the present, not the past, not the future but being just now, in the moment. I have become acclimated to this simple yet supremely powerful way of being. If you meditate, you already know the value of pausing.
The work of dancing is not only sweat born out of hard work, but being curious about the habits that get in the way. I always do better when I remove something that interferes rather than adding something.
I can help you to identify and troubleshoot interferences that make dancing a lot harder than it should be.
Happy Dancing! If you know other dancers who may benefit from reading my blog, please forward.
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