Spinal Roll Downs

Choreographer and Dance Studio Owner Shannon Thomas

port orange choreographerSpinal roll downs are one of the first movements performed in contemporary dance class to get the body warmed up. Not only is this a popular warm up for dancers, but is a favorite for actors and vocalists too.

Why? The spinal roll down helps to release tension in the entire body and increase blood flow. Check out some pointers below to ensure you are warming up your spine safely.

How to do a Spinal Roll Down

Start in a parallel, neutral stance. Be sure the spine is aligned and your weight is balanced. The head will initiate the roll down by dropping forward with your chin toward the chest. Imagine the top of your head is leading each vertebrae to curve over one at a time. The shoulders, upper and middle back will follow the curve over. As your head is lowering toward the ground, soften the knees and plié – being sure to hollow out the abdominal muscles and elongate the tailbone toward the floor. You can stay there and stretch or recover immediately. As the plié recovers, roll back up the spine reversing the roll down and pressing the abdominal muscles in. The head will be the last thing that lands back up right.

Common Mistakes

      Tension- Dancers new to this movement will most likely carry tension in their neck, arms, and bottom half. To help get the tension out, have them bounce like a rag doll to get the body to relax before starting roll downs. Imagine there is sand that is pouring from your body starting at your hands, fingertips, the top of your head- creating tiny little piles of sand in front of your feet and between your toes. as you recover, imagine the sand is being sucked back up the exact way it went down. Again, the end finishes the movement.

      Relaxed Core- It is super important that a roll down has support from the core. If you are not using your core to anchor the movement it can contribute to the tension in other body parts. Engaging the core takes a lot of practice and is the meat of many movements in all styles of dance. Imagine you are scooping out the abdominal muscles and hollowing out the curve, dropping the tailbone toward the floor to release lower back tension to complete the curve.

      Weight Shifting- Often times dancers have their weight too far over the heels. This is due to the pelvis shifting backward. If this is the situation it can help to imagine there is a wall close behind you (not directly behind) to help you to counterbalance your weight into the right place. In class you may hear your teacher say “weight over the balls of your feet dancers.” But, if you push your weight too far over the balls of your feet it can cause you to grip your toes that can cause tension and injury to the sole or arch of the foot.

      Releasing Hips too Soon- The pelvis should stay where it started for as long as possible during a roll down. A common mistake is dancers will activate the hip flexor muscles as the upper body bends forward. This creates a flat lower back with little to no curve in the lower spine. Think of elongating the tailbone through the floor and scooping out the tension to create a smooth connected roll.

The spinal roll down is an important part of dance technique, but sometimes it is seen as beginner step and is not approached or practiced with care or technique. This step is often done BEFORE plies if that tells you how important it is. Incorporating roll downs into dance technique classes will help students to warm up properly, engage numerous muscles and enhance their body mechanics to improve their dancing.

Dance Team Building Excercises

Kids Ballet Classes

Kids Ballet Classes

Team building exercises are a great way to build trust and camaraderie. If your team or group seems to not be meshing well together, a few team building exercises might be what they need to learn to trust each other and work better as a team.

Human Knot: Have the dancers stand in a circle. Cross their hands, right over left in front of their body. Starting with the right hand, grab the hand of a dancer across the circle. Repeat this step with the left hand, with a different dancer across from you. Make sure to have the hands of two different people in order for this to work. At this point, have the dancers slowly try to unravel the knot by climbing and moving through the knot to straighten it out. DO NOT let go of your hands at any time, otherwise it will break the chain. The end result should be everyone in a circle untied, holding hands. This game is a lot of fun and is sure to break the ice and get your team laughing and working together.

Positive Affirmations: Hand out a half sheet of paper and writing utensil to each dancer. Have them put their name on the piece of paper at the top. Next, pass the paper to left and whoever the name is on top, write one nice thing about them. Continue to pass the papers around until each student has had everyone write on their sheet. Read the words of encouragement quietly to your self and save them for a day you need a pick me up. This helps to build confidence and respect for one another.

2 X 4: Assemble students into even-numbered groups of 4-8 and stand on a 2×4. Make sure to have them all standing facing the same direction. The goal is to reverse the line order without stepping off of the wood. This game can help with problem solving and show them exactly how important team work is.

Birthday Rearrange: Divide the team into smaller groups, with no more than 10. Staying silent, each member must put them into their birth order according to the month, day and year of their birth. Have each team go up against each other and the fastest time to complete the exercise will win the prize. Working together and communicating with out talking will teach them how important non verbal communication can be in dance and life.

Trust Walk: Pair up your students and blindfold one person in the pair. Set up obstacles in your dance space. For example, a hula hoop to climb through, jump ropes, or a bridge to climb over. The goal is for the blind folded member of the pair to navigate the course with verbal instructions ONLY from their partner. Once the course is completed, reverse the roles and try to get through the obstacles again.

Team building exercises are a great way to pump up your team and get them ready for a new season.

Do you have any other favorites you like to do with your team?

Dance Class First Day Jitters

Port Orange Dance News

Port Orange Dance NewsIt’s almost the first day of dance class and your student may be experiencing butterflies in their tummies. As they are preparing to participate in a more structured environment, this could be the
first time they have separated from you for an activity on their own.

Many parents are not familiar with the procedures of dance class. Whether you have experience or not, you will have expectations for your child, the class and the teacher.

Leaping In

For a child that is brand new to dance the first few days and weeks can be quite challenging. Especially for a very young student who has not had any schooling. The new environment and unknown faces can be frightening at first. Some kids “leap” right into the groove while others take a more cautious approach. In that case, they may watch and participate in some of the movement but, participation can be minimal.

It is very common for children to take some time to warm up to the situation. Many children can take several weeks to warm up to the teacher and a class room setting. They can still learn a lot from observing and forcing participation is not needed, they will eventually join in.

Being gentle and encouraging will help the shy or frightened children adjust to the class room setting and slowly begin to participate. Very few children will miss out on the fun for very long.

Don’t Go!!

When young children are feeling insecure, they may show signs through their words, body language or tears to insist they are safer with their parent in the room. However, as hard as it is, try to resist giving in to this behavior for long periods of time before entering the classroom. The good-bye itself is usually the worst part, and most of the time the kids who are crying recover quickly and join the class activities.

It is very important for the parents to have the opportunity to observe dance class. However, the first few weeks are not a good time. This time is spent establishing routines, expectations and developing a relationship between the teacher and students. Scheduling watch times throughout the year allows for the teacher, students and parents to prepare for this special event so that the students can be on their best behavior and show what they have been learning.

What Can You Do?

Arrive a little bit early to the first day of classes to show your child around and say hello to the teacher. This can ease their minds and help them settle into their class environment. Parent involvement reassures your dancer and shows them that your role is an important one at dance class too.

Here are a few more ideas to help ease your dancer into dance class:

  • Have them bring a “stand in” favorite toy or stuffed animal from home that can sit quietly with their things and watch them dance.
  • Have special hugs and kisses before and after every dance class.
  • Give them something special to wear in their hair that gives them brave powers.

As They Grow…

As your dancer grows, they will start to benefit from the time apart from parents. They will start to gain confidence in their own abilities to learn new things, make choices and have ideas that they will want to share. Watching your child grow to dance on their own is where the true gift of dance will be seen.

A good dance school will take great care in making sure your little ones are in the best possible educational environment to build a strong foundation to build upon as they grow into lovely dancers and young people. Parents and teachers working together will ensure a great start to a long and positive dance future.

The Science of an Art Form

port orange hip hop classes

Dance Science and Its Practical Applications to a Beginner Dancer

Dancing is largely regarded as an art. For years, and even recently, it was rare to hear the words dance and science used in the same sentence. But as scientists have continued to study the graceful and sometimes seemingly impossible movements of dancers, it has become clear that there is more to dancing than simple artful movement.

The Science in Dancing

Data researchers have looked how psychology, physiology, nutrition and biomechanics of dance can be measured. The study of the science in dancing, is something that is now common in many higher learning institutions, and has several important benefits;

• By understanding the physics associated with various motions, dancers can become more advanced and develop better quality of movement.
• Understanding and applying dance biomechanics helps to avoid injury.
• Dancers can be in their best physical form by applying recommended fitness and nutritional practices.
• Studying psychology helps researchers understand the mental aspects that can help keep dancers motivated and most importantly, happy.

A beginner dancer has plenty to learn from dance science. By combining the art of dancing with the inherent scientific aspects in it, a beginner will be able to grow quickly and safely.

port orange hip hop classes
Port Orange Dance Lessons
Port Orange dance
Daytona Hip Hop Dance Classes

This Video is a Little Old, But Nicely Describes Some of The Sciences of Dance.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=mX7GLBE94-8%26vq%3D1080

1. Biomechanics

Biomechanics is a field in which engineering principles are applied to biological systems such as that of humans. The aim is to understand structure and function of a specific system. In dancing, biomechanics is extremely important in studying simple and complex dance movements and understanding how muscles and joints function during the whole experience.

One area where biomechanics can help improve is balance and stability. When starting out, a novice dancer will have trouble executing moves that require a lot of balancing. Biomechanics solves this problem by studying the relationship between the body structure and gravity. By making certain changes, such as placing body alignment, a dancer can greatly improve turn stability.

Another important area where biomechanics proves indispensable is injury prevention. For instance, researchers have studied the alignment and angles of various segments of the body during dancing to prevent lower back pain. The segments most studied are the pelvis, lumbar and hips.

2. Physiological Fitness

Some forms of dancing are high intensity while others are much lower, but require more strength and endurance. What is the physiological fitness demanded from a regular dancer?
In studying the correlation between physical fitness and dance technique, researchers have found several things. One, increasing body strength has a positive effect on dancing.  Exercises that boost lower body strength have been observed to be more beneficial; and reduced muscular strength has been seen to increase the risk of injury and lower dance technique

A high level of cardiovascular fitness, body endurance and muscle flexibility are regarded as aspects crucial to becoming a professional dancer.

3. Nutrition

Anything that demands a lot physically from the body, is also expected to demand much nutritionally. This is exactly the case with dancing. Without the right nutritional components, the body cannot meet the tough demands of dancing.
Especially important is a nutrition that meets the energy requirements. The caloric intake of dancers determines how well they are able to handle these requirements. If it is too low, muscle tissue is lost which in turn negatively affects dancing and increases chances of injury. If it is too high, it can cause too much body fat, also increasing the risk of injury.
Other important nutrients include potassium for muscle function, fat for muscle fuel, proteins for muscle repair and various other nutrients for healthy general body function. The professional advice or care of a professional nutritionist is a good way to find out the correct meal plan for you. Adequate fluid intake is necessary to replace the high amount of water lost through sweating.

4. Psychology

A dancer’s state of mind is important to achieving the right physical movements and emotional expression. Years of studying the psychology involved in dancing, has helped dance scientists come up with recommendations on how to;

• Create emotion through dancing.
• Stay motivated.
• Communicate with other dancers and flow together.
• Use visualization to gain confidence and improve dancing.
• Understand and deal with the emotional challenges experienced by dancers.

Today, ambitious dancers understand the crucial role psychology plays in the art. They use therapists in dance classes to help them sync the mental and physical aspects of dancing.

Conclusion

We are still in the early stages of dance science. As researchers continue to uncover more facts, the future holds so much promise for dancers. But with what we have learned so far, any beginner dancer can still make a lot of positive progress. This information will also help make dance classes much more effective and safer.

Ballet Tips for Tendu

Port Orange Dance Classes

Port Orange Dance ClassesBattement Tendu is one of the first steps you learn as a young dancer. In french tendu means to “stretch.” It may seem like a simple step, but its importance is high on the scale of dance technique. Through this movement, dancers become aware of the energy expelled through the feet. The strength developed through this articulation is how dancers take off and land their jumps with cushion.

“In ballet and other dance forms, this stretched action (and the way the body reacts to it) is important preparation for just about everything, including rising to pointe, lifting, throwing, or balancing on a leg.” 

Tendu is the gateway step for assemblé, grand jeté and entrechat quatre to name a few. Without the dexterity in the feet and toes, jumps would land hard and movements would be lacking the finished look that pointed feet provide for dancers. Whether it’s ballet, jazz or modern/contemporary- tendu is sure to be a part of the curriculum in those styles.

You may think the working leg (the leg doing the tendu) is the most important, but the standing leg is just as important. Tendu is the introduction to standing on one leg, preparing the body for other steps and positions such as dégagé, passe or arabesque.

5 Tips for Tendu

1. Maintain body alignment and hip rotation to ensure proper turn out. I tell my students to start with your best turn out, being careful not to roll in. If rolling in does occur, decrease the turn out. The direction your feet are pointing from first position is the pathway your battement tendu a la seconde (tendu to 2nd position) should travel on. Your tendu will be slightly in front of you, unless you have perfect 180 degree turn out. At that point, it would be directly side. The hips should remain even on a neutral axis with no leaning to either side.

2. Dancers should strive to spread the toes and push them through the floor to create resistance, articulating the toes into the tendu position as the body slightly shifts over the standing leg. There should be no weight on the tendu, just the very tip touches the floor. Reverse that same resistance to close back in to first position.

3. Weight should be balanced over all three points of the foot, keeping all five toes on the floor. Balance points are on the first and fifth metatarsal and The calcaneus (heel bone).

4. Closing in can cause problems in hip alignment. Often times, dancers will lean over the standing leg and lifting the working hip up. This causes the tendu to lose resistance in the floor and can cause problems when approaching more difficult steps.

5. Elongate the toes when working tendus to fullest stretch. They should never be crunched or have weight on them. Again this relates to support in the working leg to maintain balance. After all, tendu is a one footed balance.

             “Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” -Suzanna Farrell

As beginners, plie and tendu are two of the first moves we learn in ballet class. Many times, we forget the importance of that and take those first few exercises at the barre for granted. Not only do they warm up our bodies, but they are the base upon so many dance movements are built. The tips I’ve provided are just a glimpse into improving your tendu. Hope this gets you started, and on your way to improvement.

 

The Different Styles of Classical Dance and Their Evolution

Ballet Classes Daytona

“The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and that has the traditional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs”- Charles Baudelaire.

The Evolution of Ballet

Ballet Classes DaytonaHow it began

In the late 15th Century, ballet emerged in the Renaissance Court Culture of Italy as a dance interpretation of fencing, and was expanded upon in the French Court in the 17th Century. The original elaborate performances took place in large halls which were also used for royal banquets and balls. They united poetry, painting, dancing and music. In 1489, one dance actually took part in the middle of a banquet, and it was themed on the menu- basing their performances on the social dances of the time.Continue reading

Dance Technique: Torso Alignment

Port Orange Dance Lessons

Port Orange Dance LessonsA dancer’s technique and alignment is the foundation needed to reach high levels of dance. This is important in order to prevent injuries and keep your dance students healthy. It is the job of the dance instructor to correct dancers on proper torso alignment and instruct them on how to align the spine correctly.Continue reading