As dance teachers, we are constantly considering the different ways to communicate alignment to students. Good posture is not only essential for creating beautiful lines -- it’s also crucial for the health and safety of the dancer, preventing injury and promoting excellent technique. Therefore, it is our responsibility as teachers to give students the tools they need to stack their anatomy correctly throughout class and beyond.
In class, a teacher will be there to give reminders, provide corrections, and instruct the students on how to improve their alignment. But once a dancer takes the stage, it is up to him or her to remember all of their corrections from class and apply them to the performance.
Here are the gentle reminders a dancer should consider on stage to ensure proper alignment:
1. Weight distributed across the foot
Each time you take a step, land from a jump, or hold a balance, you want to make sure that your foot is a tripod of support for the rest of the body. There should weight in the ball of the big toe, the ball of the little toe, and the heel, with the arch of the foot lifted from the floor.
2. Ankles and knees aligned over the toes
Whether the skill you’re performing is in turn out or parallel, the knees and the ankles should be tracking directly over the toes to ensure that you’re keeping the joints supported. Not only will this allow you to create clean, clear lines -- it will also help you avoid dangerous injuries!
3. Hips even and supported
Many students struggle to find the sweet spot of pelvic alignment, and get stuck in a swayed back or tucked position. In order to maintain even hips, you want to feel the pubic bone directly underneath the hip bones. In any position with a lifted leg, remind yourself to keep the hips square and the leg pulling back into the hip socket.
4. Spine lengthening
Maintaining proper alignment is not about creating a “straight” or “flat” spine. In fact, the spine’s natural curves are there to absorb shock and prevent injury! Instead, the objective is to create a long, spacious spine by engaging the abdominals and lifting the torso up and out of the hips. Imagine that your hips are an anchor and there are balloons attached to your head. As the balloons lift up and forward, they lengthen the spine up toward the ceiling creating more space between the vertebrae.
5. Rib cage relaxed
On stage, remind yourself to keep the rib cage relaxed, as opposed to letting it protrude to the front. Engage your top most abdominals to ensure that the rib cage stays closed and relaxed into the body.
6. Shoulders held down and back
Under the nerves and excitement of being on stage, many dancers tend to let their shoulders float up toward their ears when they are on stage. This creates the illusion of a short neck and arms, and can cause instability in balances and turns. Remind yourself to use your back muscles to pull your shoulders down and back, allowing the neck to lengthen.
7. Head and neck free
I know that this is a ton to think about! But, don’t let that make you tense. Keep your head and neck free of tension while you’re dancing by breathing from the diaphragm and lifting the eyes.
Enjoy yourself and trust your technique!
Team BoPPA x