2 Posture, alignment and balance
Posture and alignment are the key to balance and moving through space. It can be tempting to overlook such things when faced with 25 students, of whom a third want to do a routine to their favourite chart song, another third want to have a go at breakdance, and the other third would rather sit and watch everyone else!
Posture and alignment are fundamental to dancing, just as they are to other kinds of physical activities, such as martial arts. Learning how to hold and move the body in alignment is something that is beneficial throughout life, and not just in a dance class.
Students need to become aware of their alignment through feeling and not just through looking, although being able to see the changes in the body through the use of mirrors is helpful to start with.
As teachers, we need to guide the students' alignment through the use of general and individual verbal prompts, imagery and, where appropriate, the use of touch. A light touch, for example using the fingertips to demonstrate lengthening in the lower back or to prevent the shoulders from dropping behind the line of the hip bones, can make all the difference to some students.
Developing this kind of body awareness will help students to balance, to recover safely from off balance, and to move the body through space.
Balance is all about holding the body still and using opposing muscular energies to achieve this. But, if the head, upper torso and pelvis are out of alignment, then this places unequal stress on muscles, ligaments and joints. The body will tire easily and it will become difficult to maintain balance.
The centre of gravity for a dancer is in the pelvis, just below the navel. It is important to try to keep the line of gravity within the base of the support to help the body's stability.
The body is more stable when the centre of gravity is lower and the base of support larger. However, dancers usually want to balance on precariously small supports, such as the ball of one foot, and so the body will be less stable in this position. This is why body awareness is crucial.
When we are maintaining a balanced state we are using our:
eyes for visual clues;
middle ear for our sense of equilibrium;
receptors in our joints and muscles.
Balance is a skill that can be developed and needs body awareness, practice, muscular tension, control, concentration, focus, strength and stamina.
Click ‘view document’ below to read the article ‘Dance Science’ by Rachel Rist (1991). Identify the points that you are familiar with and the developments that you were unaware of. Reflect on whether any of this information will impact upon your practice and, if so, in what way(s).