A 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.
A Neutral Pelvis
The first step in correcting torso alignment is to look at the dancers hips. Ask the dancer to stand in first position and look to see where their hip bones are in relationship to their pubic bone. In an ideal situation, the pubic bones should be on the same frontal plane. This is a neutral position which is the safest position to work from. If the hips are forward (anterior tilt) the dancers back is usually arched. If the hips are tucked under (posterior tilt) the pubic bone is forward of the hip bones.
Head and Spine Alignment
There are natural curves in the spine and each individual is different. The overall goal is not to achieve a flat back, but help them strive to find their personal best spinal alignment. Take a look at your students from the side and make sure their pelvis is in a neutral position. Start at the top of the body. The ears should be in line with the shoulders, the shoulders should be over your thigh bones (top of the femur). This may result in a curved spinal position, but these are the natural curves that absorb shock and allow for wide ranges of motion. The slight curve may be what they need to be safe and protect their body from harm.
The abdominal muscles have a huge role in achieving supported body alignment. There are four layers to the abdominal muscles. The rectus abdominis, or the 6 pack, is the most superficial layer. These muscles are responsible for bending forward (trunk flexion). The internal and external obliques twist the body and assist with bending. Lastly, the transverse abdominis is the deepest layer. This is the muscle that holds in your lower abdominal muscles. The pressure created by this muscle is what supports your spine. The transverse is responsible for helping a dancer have a constant lifted look. That is why it is so important to use these muscles through the whole class.
Rib Cage and Shoulder Alignment
The rib cage should follow the movement of the spine, it should never lead. Adjustments for breathing and movement are allowed, however, the rib cage should remain knit together to ensure the movements don’t compromise the alignment of the spine. The shoulder joint needs to be placed in an open position to allow a wide range of motion in the joint. Students should open their collarbones and glide their shoulders down in order to not affect the carriage of the torso as they move.
Every dancer works differently, there will be individuals that have muscle imbalances and physical habits that may hinder and change the way they correct their alignment. Some students may be able to make these changes and corrections immediately, while others may take months to attain one small correction. The important thing is to train each student to achieve their personal best alignment to have happy and healthy dance lives.