We spend a lot of time here and in our classes talking about good posture and helping people become aware of their posture and where they should focus to improve it. We work extensively on individual movement and posture because when you step on the dance floor, your posture and movement are what you bring with you. But that is only the beginning.
Maintaining good posture and movement is not always easy. In life, we can lose good posture to a cold wind, a stressful day, an uncomfortable chair, washing the dishes, or driving a car. In the dance, we can also lose our good posture as we enter the embrace, and it’s not always for the better. There are, no doubt, things we must do to enter an embrace and be comfortable. But often, people are far too accommodating and their posture deteriorates as they embrace their partner, which is not an ideal way to start any dance.
Be true to yourself and your posture when entering the embrace.
I really like to watch people enter into their embrace. It is a crucial moment that decides so many things about the dance that is about to happen. Often what I see is an instant deterioration of posture. I see men with good posture hunch over, or stick their chest out while also creating lumbar lordosis. I see many women put themselves into extreme lumbar lordosis as if it is a normal posture. Losing your posture to the embrace does not help you, the connection with your partner, or your dance. Any one problem with posture affects your overall posture and movement in many ways. At the very least, it can create instability by changing the location of your axis and how your weight is distributed through your feet to the ground. As we saw in our ‘Fine tune your posture’ exercise, any change in your posture has a ripple effect which causes other changes throughout your body.
Even someone with good individual posture and movement could find themselves off balance and feeling awkward when dancing in the embrace. A major reason could be that they aren’t being true to themselves and standing up. If you are having trouble getting into close embrace, this is probably a big part of the problem.
Be true to yourself when entering into the embrace. Keep your posture, your confidence, and confront the world head on. Meet your partner, let your spines meet where ever they meet, make your arm and hand positions comfortable. Be nice and be accommodating, but do not compromise your posture. Take a nice deep breath, play with the connection of your partner in the embrace, get to know them a little. Let the music move you.
Standing up straight will give our partner far more room to move.
You can lose your posture in more than one way. Once we are dancing, we see accommodations of another sort. We see people contorting their posture as they move. Maybe it’s a leader bending sideways at the hip when leading a cross because he thinks he needs to make room for his partner. Or we might see a follower doing the same as she steps forward around her partner. It could be anyone bending over through a turn. Maybe they are contorting their spine and dropping a shoulder instead opening space with a nice spiral up through their body. These accommodations actually compromise the connection, communication, and clarity of movement.
Standing up straight will give our partner far more room to move than anything else we could possibly do with our bodies. Moving our hip out of the way actually crowds our partner and pushes them off axis while compromising our own axis. Slowly, these compromises invade our posture. Maybe there is a slight bend at the hip that wasn’t there in the beginning, a little bit or a lot of lumbar lordosis, or maybe our head is slightly forward or tilted. The worst is probably a steady decline into forward head posture. If you get to the end of the dance and walk off the floor working out the kinks, then you lost your posture during the dance.
Find the imagery that works for you and use it throughout your day to correct your posture, outside of the dance.
Often, the bad posture we find in the dance has echoes of the posture we have carried with us through our life. Losing your posture can take many forms, since there are so many ways posture can go bad. Head forward posture, lumbar lordosis, posterior pelvic tilt, and winged scapula are just a few.
Since often, these things happen outside of the dance, that is where our work begins. We must recognize these habits and correct them. Find the imagery that works for you and use it throughout your day. If you are noticing lumbar lordosis, lengthen your tailbone toward the ground and follow the adjustments up from your tailbone through your shoulders and head. If you are battling a caved chest or winged scapula, flatten and lower your shoulder blades. Always stretch your spine and balance your head. Use the ‘Fine tune your posture’ exercise to find other imagery that may help you.
Use this imagery throughout your day as a reminder. You can visualize yourself correcting your posture even while you sit or when you are lying down. Imagining the adjustment adds to the mental repetition needed for your body to learn and can do just as much good as physically repeating an exercise. A good time to imagine these adjustments is when you lie down to sleep or while you lie awake in bed before rising for the day. The repeated use of imagery while at rest will greatly reinforce good posture and movement throughout your days.
How can we keep our posture through the dance?
Simply keeping our good posture during the day is hard enough. Add in the contortions created by the desire to connect and invite or respond to movement with a partner, and things can get really strange. The first step is to be aware of it, the second is to notice when it happens, and the third is to correct it. Find the imagery that will help you correct your posture, use that imagery in the dance, and use it throughout your day when walking standing, or resting. Slowly, over time, bad posture and contortion habits can be eliminated.
How can we keep our posture through the dance? You might say, “I want to be close to my partner,” or “I like it when our cheeks touch.” Probably the best thing to do is breathe. Breathe with your partner and breathe with the music. Let your breath inform your posture, stretch your spine, and connect with your partner in the music. You can still touch cheeks now and then, but you might find that breath creates a sweeter connection than trying to keep your faces glued to one another.
Another thing is to step precisely. Touch your partner’s feet when walking forward or backward. Allow your lower legs to touch where they cross if your feet cannot. Do not step wide. Step forward or back with accuracy, in a line, straight from your hips. Use the spiral in your body to keep the connection with your partner and create new directions in movement.
Good posture and movement starts with every moment of every day.
Good posture and movement starts with every moment of every day. Use the ‘Fine tune your posture’ exercise as a way of identifying your personal imagery that will help you attain good posture. Use that positive imagery throughout your day while standing, walking, and lying at rest. The repetition of the imagery, especially at rest, will help your body incorporate those adjustments and overcome habits that may have had years of reinforcement. Use breath with your imagery to bring your focus inward.
Breathe with the music and your partner in your movement.
Start your dance by entering the embrace with a confident image of who you are. Take a few nice breaths with your partner as you settle into a comfortable embrace without losing your posture. Breathe again, stretching your spine and settling into the ground. Let the music move you, and breathe with the music and your partner in your movement. Movement and breath enhance one another and increase your connection and communication in the dance. Let your breath remind your posture. Finally, remember that everyone has better balance and more space if everyone stands tall.