During the last few years, so-called turn and jump classes have been the most popular topics in my workshops. To the initial horror of many participants, however, these workshops only contain a few jumping and turning combinations. Anyone expecting to learn spectacular new jumps or turns is wrong with me in these workshops. My concept for Turn and JumpClasses includes three levels. Each stage consists of a one to two day workshop. The first two levels in particular deal exclusively with the technique of jumps and turns, only at the end of the second level and in the third do we apply this technique to various jumps and turns. I call this workshop series “Core, Center, Balance and Alignment FOR Turns and Jumps.
Regardless of the dance style, without core, center, balance and alignment, without correct posture, without a strong core and an awareness of the body center, without balanced muscular strength and flexibility and without anatomical understanding of one’s own body, there is no control and no balance.
However, without control and balance, both, turns and jumps, are not possible correctly.
More and more often I sit as a judge or just as a spectator at dance competitions and dance festivals and see spectacular combinations of turns and jumps, which, unfortunately, are performed technically incorrect and are often not properly mastered by the dancers. Often you see spins blurred, ended badly and landed badly. What is particularly noticeable with many dancers is the sudden panic in the face, the moment when they lose their dance expression shortly before a turn or jump combination because the turn or jump represents an element of fear in the choreography for them. I do not want to go into the health risk of the technically incorrect execution for the joints and other structures of the dancers body, who is often still growing, because it would go beyond the scope of the article.
In the following, I would like to limit myself to explaining the individual elements and terms mentioned above with regard to their meaning for turns and jumps.
Alignment is the term for the optimal posture and correct alignment of the individual joints and body areas to one another.
Correct body alignment and posture are essential and of crucial importance for dancers of all dance styles. Good posture not only makes you appear more elegant and confident. Good posture also improves overall balance and control.
Dancing with the correct alignment makes dancing more enjoyable, more efficient, and I would almost say, easier. Good posture can be described as the most mechanically efficient positioning for the body and reduces the risk of stress or strain problems such as back pain and muscle pain.
It is worth working towards good posture. One of the most compelling reasons is that it keeps bones and joints in proper alignment so that muscles are properly deployed. It also helps decrease the normal wear and tear on the joints and reduce the stress on the ligaments that hold the joints of the spine together. This prevents the spine from being fixed in abnormal positions and reduces fatigue by using the muscles more efficiently and the body using less energy.
The correct alignment of the spine, the correct structure of the individual body parts on top of one another, is an important point for correct posture. Weak points are often the head posture, incorrect tension in the shoulder girdle, shoulders that are pulled up or tilted forward, a sunken sternum, incorrect pelvic position, incorrect knee alignment and incorrect foot loading.
Another common problem is, for example, when the body weight is carried too far back.
Tension in the neck and lower back becomes visible when the ribs open forward and disrupt the balance between the pelvis, chest and head. This imbalance affects balance control, especially when jumping and turning.
Most dancers naturally have muscular imbalances due to everyday stresses, growth phases or one-sided training or dance style specific stresses that impair good alignment. This imbalance can mostly be corrected by properly stretching and strengthening the body. For this, however, it is necessary that the dancers analyze their bodies together with the teacher and develop an individual training program. General group training quickly reaches its limit, which is why it is worth investing once or twice in a private individual lesson for this topic.
In order to achieve a good alignment, I still recommend all dance learners of all dance styles to learn the basics of classical dance, I have also had particularly good experiences with the Horton technique in combination with Cunningham, Graham and Pilates.
But it is also useful to explore and implement the use of mental imagery to aid in this process. I will deal with the latter in a later article.
In dance we refer to the core as the core of the body.
The core includes all the muscles in the middle of the body, the abs, as well as the lower to middle back muscles and even the hip muscles.
For dancers, as for many athletes, it is important to have good core strength and, above all, to be able to consciously control it. It helps with balance, control, posture and strength. Therefore, it is important to do different exercises that will help develop more “core strength”. I will soon present individual exercises for this in another article.
As already mentioned, it is not enough just to have strong core muscles, you also have to be able to use and control them. We call this centering in dance.
Every movement in dance begins in the middle of the body and is stabilized and controlled there, regardless of the position in which the body is in the room. Some dance styles require a little more maintained centering, while other dance styles require a permanent alternation of tension and relaxation of the center. Dancers therefore not only have to learn to strengthen the muscles of the core of the body, but they also have to practice their control, tension and relaxation in the center over and over again. Correct breathing and various breathing techniques also play a major role. (Breathing while dancing will be the topic here on the blog in December)
Martha Graham has many elements in her dance technique that deal precisely with this centering. Since the Graham technique is often difficult to master for young dancer, I usually recommend exercises and principles from Pilates and also parts of the Horton Technique according to Lester Horton.
Core, Center and Alignment are the 3 basics for balance and control.
Balance is nothing more than the perfect overcoming of gravity. Regardless of the position in which the body is in space, it has to fight against gravity so that we neither wobble, stumble or even fall. The only exception is when we use this fall, i.e. consciously give in to gravity, as is the case with jazz falls.
The better dancers understand their core, centering and body alignment and are able to use them, The better the control and balance.
For the training of balance, I always recommend the use of Pilates balls, large exercise balls, balance pads and soft floor mats, as well as yoga blocks and turn boards.
I also advice choreographers to incorporate less turns and jumps into the competition choreographies, which most dancers cannot yet master correctly. Allow your dancers more time for correct preparation, correct jumps and correct landing. A choreography can still be interesting. It does not have to mean that, for example, each pirouette is only prepared from the 4th position. In the long term, our students should be able to begin and end turns as well as jumps from a wide variety of positions, depending on the choreography. It is important, however, that we give them enough time within a choreography, depending on the respective level of training, so that turn and jump combinations no longer become elements of fear and, above all, can be performed safely.
By the way, some American competitions changed the rules some time ago and subdivide the individual dance categories not only into age groups but also in terms of training level. Different elements are allowed in each training level, for example more than two pirouettes may only be shown in the advanced levels. I think that’s a very good approach, because sometimes I have the impression that teachers and choreographers think they have to show special elements in the competition in order to be able to keep up. In doing so, they accept that there are elements in every choreography that are not and cannot be good either. I can only repeat myself again and again and I know from conversations that many of my colleagues think similarly: we judges do not value these elements. We would like to see choreographies corresponding to the level of education and the physical abilities of the children and young people. Each chosen element of a choreography should allow the dancers to show artistic dance, musicality and expression on stage without mental and physical overload and physical stress.
For today I will close with my standard sentence: without technique there is no correct, expressive, efficient, safe, healthy and artistic dancing, regardless of the dance style. Train more technique, train the body and educate it, then it can dance anything.