Tuesday, April 5, 2016

5 Tips for the Basics of Apparatus Dance Flow

Whether you're dancing with a pole, aerial hammock, or aerial hoop (lyra), there are a few fundamental elements you should get acquainted with to help develop your flow technique.  The following list is what I would always drill into my students in my classes as essential pieces to the bigger picture in developing their movement.

1. Point your toes. We've all heard this time and time again but for beginners who have never had any prior dance experience, pointing your toes can often be a difficult concept to master among learning all the other skills of apparatus dancing.  Over time, the more you practice pointing your toes it'll become a part of your muscle memory and you will find yourself naturally pointing in every movement.  As students advance to climbs on the pole, it is also important to point the back foot to complete the aesthetic of clean lines.  This is a skill that will develop as particular muscles used for climbing strengthen.  I see a lot of pole dancers that are strong enough that do not do this which is why I felt this particular skill was worth mentioning in this section.

2. Shoulder engagement. Instructional cues are often verbalized as shoulders back and down, shoulder blades neutral, and chest lifted.  There are a lot of moves in both pole and aerial that require the use of the shoulder girdle muscles.  Properly engaging these muscles ensures a safe practice that protects the muscles from injury.  For a more in depth article on shoulder engagement, read BadKitty's recently posted blog written by Rebecca Stokes "Shoulder Engagement for Polers and Aerialists." (3/23/2016)

3.  Slow and controlled movements. In pole classes, I would cue my students by telling them, "Slow is sexy." The reasoning behind this slow it down approach wasn't only because movements look better slowed down; slowing down movement builds muscle strength through the act of control.  Slowing moves down also exude confidence from the dancer.  You have time to think about properly executing your next movement which can be extremely important when up in the air on your apparatus for obvious safety reasons.

4. Balance is essential. Develop your skills bilaterally.  There will always be one side of your body that is stronger and things come naturally to you when performed on that particular side.  Even though one side is easier, it's important to train all movement on the opposite or less than easy side of your body.  You may not feel like you're using muscles on the opposite side of your body when you're performing skills on your "good" or "favorite" side.  These muscles are still engaged and offer support to the focused area you are fully engaging.  Strengthening the muscles on your "bad" or "not favorite" side will assist you in preventing future injuries.  I always enjoyed working my opposite side skills as it becomes a mental workout in addition to the physical workout I'm getting.  Pole and aerial can literally be a total body, mind, and soul workout. 

5. Listen to your body. Hydrate, nutritionally support, and rest when needed.  Hydration and food are no brainers.  Rest can be defined as many things other than not training on your apparatus.  As blogger and Physiotherapist for the International Pole Championship Selina Tannenburg writes in her blog "Training and Recovery" (7/24/2014), rest days can consist of restorative work such as a massage, relaxing bath, or active resting activities such as light work outs that are different from your apparatus training.  My favorite active rest day activity is stretching followed by some full body foam roller action. For more on the topic of rest, check out my previous blog post from 2013, "Rest."

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