Ballroom Dance > Improving Topline?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by waltzgirl, Oct 30, 2007.

  1. reb

    reb Active Member

    'back' is helpful, but don't forget UP!:D
  2. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    yes... my instructor is always telling me to lift my occipital lobe up and back, bringing my chin in and then slightly up...
  3. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    Up - crucially important for danc eposture, but its back thats necessary to cure the dreaded hunch-neck syndrome...
  4. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    I've been debating with myself whether or not to get into this...I lost. There is much to do, unfortunately, and it isn't easy.

    Firstly, become aware of your CPA (Corrective Posture Arc). This is the distance between where your body is when standing straight up and against a wall, for example, and when it is straight but slightly forward over the center of your feet.

    Secondly, learn how to roll the shoulders up and back,'s the trick but also the difficult part..lower the upper trapezius so that a flatness may be formed atop and/or in front of the shoulders. Lift the head up and onto the spine (naturally raising the chin slightly). Do not allow it to move from this place.

    Next, become aware of your 3 body lines, (right/left shoulder/chest/hip/knee/foot and center), and learn how to "rotate up and rightwards, NOT BEND BACKWARD" to form the correct dance position over the left line. While rotating, the head, being careful not to slip it into the "orbit" (that circle now created by your topline...inclusive of the arms) should counterbalance slightly to the left.

    The topline, weight over the left side, and consequently, the dance position, is now perfect. You will feel a tension in the obliques. This is good. Now that you have found them, learn to strengthen them.

    Lastly, breathe, smile, and dance....but, don't lose that topline!
  5. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Yes elise, but if it goes all the way up, then it will be back! :) A common mistake, especially for leaders, is to think "back" so much that they take an incorrect neutral or even back poise (tango is different, I'm talking about other dances). Not to pick on your picture elise, but the gentleman in your picture looks just this way--a bit too far back, instead of forward toward the lady, which he should be. This could just be the way it appears as the picture is small and I'm only seeing a small part of the body, however.

    For so long I kept my head back, and this was almost necessary to correct my bad posture. But then as my posture improved, I had to make sure my head and upper body was forward towards my partner, without letting the head hang out however. So I had overcorrected, but again, it was almost necessary in order to correct the initial problem. But the end result should not have the head back at all. Having the head back is a very weak stance and will result in an immediate lack of power on the power step.
  6. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    gotta say...IMO ..."back" is a consequence of "up and forward"...not a thing to be deliberately attempted in a backward way...
  7. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    I agree with what you say, Josh, but it could be misconstrued.
    First, we were talking about a problem with the head being normally hunched forward and how to cure this. Second, one of the worse flaws for women with topline is to push the chin up thinking that this is giving hem a great head position - you will do better with your head pointing up rahter than with that ugly crook slung back. As I understand it, the object in head position is to ensure that the spine is straight - a head position that is a natural curve back from the shoulders is a totao winner - its not a competition for neck flexibility but for graceful curves.

    Which brings us back to the original question again. If your spine is now normall curved - think the beginnings of a hunchback - then you can not even try to achieve the above shape and, an orthopaedic approach is essential (q.v. Angel Hi's excellent post above). No one is questioning that head up is essential for a lovely look but, in my opinion, the straight spine is even more important.
  8. newdancer113

    newdancer113 New Member

    Thanks, y''ve given me hope that my posture issues can be corrected. I've been working seriously on it for about 2 months and haven't seen any major difference as you folks describe yet. THe difference is that I am more aware and find myself straightening up more often, whether dancing or not. (however, when I'm thinking about footwork, frame, connection....sometimes I can't keep posture in the brain). I've also noticed I notice other people's posture a lot more. Look around..there's a lot of bad posture out there in the world!

    One source that I recently a short sequence of exercises (easy and quick to do)...posture From that site I picked up the most basic philosphy which makes total sense...stretch your front, strengthen your back.
  9. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Check out this post newdancer:

    And as for noticing the bad posture of others, it's almost a curse--years ago when I became aware of my bad posture, I never noticed posture... it was like I couldn't see it, because I knew nothing of it. But now it's all around, and it can be distracting--but it's a good thing to be aware of it despite being distracted by it!
  10. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    agree...posture is such a priority for us that I simply can't get past it even when a dancer has some other fine qualities, if their back is poor...well...I have trouble watching
  11. VTDancer

    VTDancer Member

    In some of Luca Baricci's instructional videos he goes to some length making the point that muscles can only shorten and that the way to achieve a stretched look in the front of your body is to shorten the muscles in the upper back along the spine. Doing this has the effect of flattening the forward curve in the upper back and lengthening the front. This really worked for me. It also seems to have the effect lessening the tendancy to get back weighted. I also found that it made keeping the head over the spine much easier. For me it made the proper head position (as far as fore and aft goes) something that did not require tension in my neck muscles.

    Stretching the front sometimes gets misunderstood. You will see dancers who push their chest out and pinch their shoulders together. This often goes along with being back-weighted.
  12. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Thanks for all the advice! It's good to know that it's something that can still improve.

    I don't think osteoporosis is involved--I've got excellent bone density--just ingrained habit. I do have an old neck injury that acts up if I do drastic things with my neck and I've been told that it's caused a bit of arthritis in the neck vertebrae, so there may be some structural limitation to what I can achieve, but I'm sure it can still get better than it is.

    elise, I don't think I'm as young as you think I am (or, if you are twice my age, you're *remarkably* well-preserved :p). Let's just say that the "girl" part of my username is pretty much honorary by now!

    I think I'm at the point where I also need more technical information about how to get all the parts of the upper back, shoulders, neck, and head in the right place. May be time for a coaching with a good female pro . . . as soon as I can afford it.
  13. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Humbly, I ask to reread . When not practicing, follow the same steps less the realigning of the body lines and rotation of the topline. It was a very effective beginning exercize when I was giving dance therapy to a physical therapist's patients several years ago.
  14. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Angel, you are right in line with the way I do it, and the way I teach it. The lady should be stretched up, especially her left side, and FORWARD to the man. Not back, or just left. My mentor's methodology which I pass on is to have a clockwise rotation, a "vertical swirl," which better joins the hips, and puts the lady very forward to the man, although it appears as though she is back.

    So when I get into dance position, what I do is as follows. After forming the cradle with a strong right side, the lady must get into it, and I should feel her stretch into my right hand. What I'm about to describe happens over the course of about a second, mind you, so reading it slowly may be confusing, sorry. With the right knee flexed, I use my ankle to push my hip forward to her, and carry this slight rightward rotation on through the hip, to the torso, which rotates the entire frame. This will cause the lady to strongly bring her left side around, up, and forward to me. This gives the illusion of her being back, but in actuality she is anything but that.

    Dancing squarely is what 90% of couples out there actually dance, even if the lady is still stretched very far to the left. They fail to add rotation to their closed position. This is aesthetically not as pleasing, and functionally it makes rotating figures more difficult as one partner blocks the other more completely than if there is vertical swirl. I'm tempted to post a picture to describe what I mean, as all this explanation can be tough to visualize.
  15. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    THANK YOU!!!! :rocker:

    I am so happy to hear someone else promoting this. I was recently coaching at a FADS, and was at odds with another teacher/coach who taught all of the ladies to lean way back into the man's hand, actually breaking the line at the back of the waist almost creating an L shape. When she taught ahead of me, I had to keep undoing this. Needless to say, she and I did not get along.

    I do not believe it to be tough to visualize. In the *ahem* old days, we called it "the flower stance". I believe because it resembles a tulip opening / blooming.
  16. Reyesuela

    Reyesuela New Member

    Nope. I actually thought of this because I went to a Halloween dance last week where a guy dressed as a pimp and insisted on carrying his cane with him. I got tired of his knuckles digging into my back, so during a whisk, I grabbed it and stuck it across my frame since I'd seen people practicing with it. We were doing waltz with mostly gold/silver steps and some open choreography thrown in. I don't think we were moving really big or anything, but still, it wasn't tiny, and the only time it slid appreciably was a picture line. Natural, reverse, spin turns, pivots--it was fine.

    Oh, and a note on pressing your back against the wall--you head will be nearly an inch too far forward still and not entirely balanced on your spine and should be moved back more after you step away. *g*

    --euchoreo's partner with her own user name, now!
  17. Reyesuela

    Reyesuela New Member

    I still hear that now and again... I have no idea, but that terminology worked for me.

    Other things to think about: I used to mentally envision myself looking *around* at the back of my partner's head.

    Another trick: Your width is determined by the left elbows of the couple, which should be stretched out and forward always.

    And other: When you go "into" your partner's hand, don't think about going BACK but AROUND to get out.

    And a final thought: Woman's left side should always stay "up." Tie your side, lats, and shoulder together. It is very easy to let it drop on the guy when it's at the inside of a turn and this will kill your head position, too, bring it in and down and hunching the back.
  18. reb

    reb Active Member

    not an issue when standing up straight / walking with little/no swing/sway momentum/shaping

    Topline (and posture) becomes harder to maintain properly under these conditions

    imagine competitive champ shaping, pics of top dancers . . . avatars which quickly come to mind include skwiggy, Elise, Laura for imagery
  19. Reyesuela

    Reyesuela New Member

    Like I said, for picture lines and the like--yes, it would/did slide then!

    I should probably add that my arms were bare, so that added a lot of friction, and since a particular position was only maintained for a short period, it could only slide so far before we were swaying the other way.

    Edited to add:

    So the moral is, if you try this, you should either be slow and have little to no sway OR you should be fast AND have sway. *ggg*

    Also, even with a BIG sway on natural and reverse, centripetal force means that sway *keeps* it on since its natural tendency would be to fly off the other side. Without the sway, it probably would have hit someone. *g*
  20. reb

    reb Active Member

    Didn't mention picture lines - just thinking about normal (advanced) dancing elements which progress down the floor - in addition to the half natural I mentioned, there's impetus turn, vienesse cross, tumble turn - it wouldn't stay while dancing at advanced level. Not that it couldn't stay in some cases, just that moving down the floor in a typical sequence one uses/experiences - pick your term - flight/swing/sway/momentum.

    The broom handle could remain balanced while doing a hover cross at the early levels of experience, but at the advanced levels it has the opportunity to slip - if not in the hover cross itself, wait until you get to an exit like three fallaways!
    I agree 100%:)

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