Alignment is the foundation of [all] good dance technique and fosters a healthy spine, for life! Because it is so fundamental to the healthy dancer (and individual) it is beneficial to begin preschool classes with a posture exercise and focus warmups for higher levels on posture and alignment as well. In programs working with individuals in wheelchairs it is also tremendously beneficial to focus on the alignment of the spine as poor posture in seated positions can hinder the use of the arms and flexibility of the upper torso, as well as promote excessive tension.
In our November Newsletter Monique Lavoie discussed the stereotypical posture of a ballet dancer, demonstrating that poor alignment can hinder our strength and overall balance. Whether teaching the once, twice, three, or six times a week dance student I feel it is our responsibility to build not only train healthy posture, but to foster students understanding and appreciation of the importance of posture and alignment in all aspects of movement. Pilates is an excellent tool for retraining our neuromuscular pathways for overall musculoskeletal health. Monique’s article is a brief discussion, but an important one – click the following link to check out her article.
TEACHING TIP: Use songs (for preschoolers) and visuals to foster both the understanding and the physical implementation of posture. In my opinion, when we ‘see’ alignment and begin to apply it, the muscles begin to hold the correct alignment of the bones. From here the students begin a more organic process of using the muscles to stabilize posture.
Using foam shapes (I use dots or stars) play connect the dots with your students (of all ages)! With the help of an assistant or a student the conversation with the class goes something like this…
Where does the teacher look first when checking your posture? “my feet!” (place a dot – on the side of a child’s ankle)
Next? “my knees!” (place a dot on the side of the demonstrators knee)
And next? ” my hips!” (you get the picture)
And next? ” my ribs!” (Preschoolers have a hard time with that one sometimes)
Then? ” my shoulders!” And then? ” my head!”
This worked wonders with my preschoolers – now all I have to say is “Have you connected your dots? Are they in a line?” And they will begin to physically self correct their alignment.
Older students and even adult students can benefit from this visual as well, incorporating how the use of turnout can impact alignment (demonstrating the need to re-align when turning out) and the adjustments that need to be made when turning out.
Author: Jacqui Davidson
Photo by Bruce Monk.