There are many dimensions to that statement for me.
First, I just feel over-stressed today and I can’t really figure out why. It seems like I have been telling myself to just ‘calm down’ most of the day. I am feeling better than I have, but I am still quite tired. I am hopeful the weekend will allow me to rest.
But what I really want to talk about is how this relates to dance. As I mentioned yesterday, during my lesson even though I was feeling scattered and unfocused there were some significant ‘light bulbs’ that seemed to come on that I wanted to reflect on. The result of that reflection is a general realization that I need to give myself permission to relax when I dance.
That probably sounds a little strange, but I will try my best to explain–and perhaps I will clear some of the clouds surrounding it in my head too.
First, in standard. A couple of different comments have come together to make sense of this. The first was a comment from a coach that I have a tendency to ‘raise my arms too high’. Among other things, I didn’t think that was really possible, so it took a little bit of thinking and adjusting to figure out what that meant. The second was one from Boss yesterday that I tend to pull him after turns because I turn my entire body as a block from hip to shoulders (or something similar to this–it was a bit of a half-formed verbalization of something he realized).
Regardless, it led me to making some adjustments to my frame, the first of which was letting the level of my arms come down a little. The result of this is that instead of having strong rigid tension through my back and shoulders directed across towards Boss, I was suddenly able to provide resistance up towards him. It was a slight change, but allowed me to be less rigid through my arms and shoulders and freed up my should blades to allow them move–something that I wasn’t really able to do before. It’s still engaging the same muscles, but it is using them in a slightly different way, and it keeps me from feeling like I have to constantly fight to keep my shoulders down.
This actually led to a conversation with Boss that it is ok to allow my shoulder blades to turn independent of the rest of my body and that in some steps it is actually needed. The combination of these things actually is leading to a dance position that feels much less tight and rigid and actually easier to control (because I am not completely focused on setting one specific position and then trying to keep my upper body from moving).
I am still concerned I am missing a couple pieces, but I certainly have a little more pieces in place than I did before.
Expanding on that, is a similar issue in latin. When we were working on rumba yesterday, I was having endless issues with my arms and upper body, to the point where Boss was actually pushing my shoulder down to get me to drop my elbow and relax my arm. I have a tendency to raise my arms and elbow too high using my triceps instead of my shoulder to do it. Add to that constantly resisting in the wrong direction and it made for a pretty frustrating part of the lesson.
Later in the lesson though, as we were discussing upper body movements in standard I remembered I wanted to ask about one of my arm exercises for latin. This began a pretty detailed conversation about arm movements and actually resulted in forgetting about my arms (for the most part), and focusing on learning how to just move my upper body from my shoulder blade. It’s a pretty detailed breakdown of the required movement, but I find that when I use my arms they distract me and usually result in me using the wrong muscles to compensate for a lack of understanding of the correct shoulder movement (and strength).
So the exercise is now about moving one side of my upper body initiating from the shoulder blade, then adding my arms within the limits of that range of motion in a separate movement. The first thing I noticed when trying this? I can’t raise my arm anywhere near as high as I was even starting it previously. Again, what I was doing previously was ‘too high’. We also discovered that I was trying to move my shoulder blade but would stop the movement when I needed to engage movement of my rib cage (because I thought I wasn’t supposed to turn my ribs). I have no idea how this concept will go, but I am hopeful that it might start to correct issues with my arm styling that have been noted by a couple coaches lately.
Peripherally related to that is the issue I am having with settling my hip in latin. I either do it too soon or not at all. The main reason? I find myself fighting ‘settling’ because I am worried I will ‘collapse’ and don’t want to relax into the hip. Essentially, I am afraid to allow myself to let go.
So the theme for the last week of dance seems to be that for whatever reason, I am getting in my own way by working so hard to try to control my movements that I am not allowing myself to move when I am supposed to (did you follow that?).
No wonder I am wound up and feel tense when I dance.