How to look your best while performing your hardest moves!
This might be a little philosophical but I think it a great subject and a great lesson to pass on. While searching for a topic for this column a friend posed this. “How can I look cool and relaxed while performing my hardest moves. Brian its a specialty of yours and I’d pay to have just an inch of your talent there!”
Over the years I had coaches tell me that I was fantastic at almost falling out of my hardest moves but yet I was still able to keep my composure and look great. The somewhat philosophical answer to the question of “how did I do it?” was taught to me in a chance meeting.
Sometime last year a dance idol of mine came though town and invited me out to dinner. This guys was a bit older than me and for every story I had from my dance career he had 2 to top it. We headed to a local pub pulled up a seat at the bar and sat down for a bite. During the meal he told me about all his stories performing and competing around the world. He gave me advice on teaching and on running my studio. It was a fun conversation but little did I know how important it would be to my understanding of dancing.
As it turns out he was in town teaching. “What are you teaching?” I asked, expecting to get a straightforward answer like cha cha, waltz or two step. “Oh just my expansion and contraction theory” he replied? “Expansion and contraction?” I inquired. See after 18 years of dancing I know enough to be pretty dangerous. I understood his theory, or so I though. I mean, I understand that to increase angular momentum you need to decrease the radius of gyration right? Ever watch an ice skater? To spin faster they pull their arms in. Contraction right? Pretty basic stuff I though. I knew all of the fancy terms to describe it. My mentor however had a much more simple less technical explanation.
“Brian have you ever slipped while walking?” he asked. “Sure.” I replied. “What was your first reaction.” I thought for a min then grabbed the bar top in front of me. “I would grab something so I wouldn’t fall.” He agreed, “Normal reaction right?” “Of course.” I responded sensing the there was more to the story.
He went on to explain that as a baby our first reaction is to contract. Thats what the fetal position of a baby is all about, its a contracted position. As we grow we lean to stand walk by expanding our arms and legs in search of balance. Still the desire to contract remains, if we are falling our normal reaction is to contract our bodies. Ever slip while walking on ice? You get the idea.
He continued to tell his theory. “See Brian as a dancer performing more difficult moments there will inevitably be moments of lost balance. Its in those moments that we need to learn to overcome our inclination to contract but instead learn to expand. The better a dancer gets at expansion in those moment instead of contraction the better success they will have.” BINGO! That was the moment of understanding for me.
Let me put it in my terms, a less philosophical way. Don’t be a baby! Don’t contract all the time. Learn to extend your arms and find your balance as your first reaction while doing harder movements. Imagine dancing with your elbows slightly out away from your body. If a drop of water could slowly roll down your upper arm slowly down your forearm and off the tips of your fingers they you are on your way to better balance and style. Now puff your chest out. Seriously! Roll your shoulders back and puff your chest out. Now open your palms forward and say “I’m the king of the world” Like Leo DiCaprio said in the movie Titanic!
Without getting hyper technical or anymore philosophical I think keeping a positive mindset will help you maintain perfect posture. The mind certainly does control the body. Ever see a depressed person? Contraction all over their body language. Try to find the moments in your dancing that give you the most trouble and apply a positive mindset and then try the expand instead of contract theory and see if it doesn’t improve you ability to look your best while doing your hardest moves.
All the best in dance.