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How to utilize correct placement of shoulders for dancers

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How to utilize correct placement of shoulders for dancers

There are three bad habits that dancers can fall into pertaining to the placement and utilization of the shoulders:

  • Lifting the shoulders up toward the ears
  • Forcing the shoulder blades together
  • Letting the shoulders fall forward

This article will help to explain why these habits might form, and how dancers can work to correct them. While good posture can be different in each individual’s body, it is important for dancers to achieve their own personal good posture, to prevent injury and provide the best body line.

Lifting or Raising the Shoulders

When a dancer is tense or stressed, he or she may have a tendancy to lift the shoulders up toward the ears, instead of relaxing them down into the back. When the shoulders are raised, the overall look of the movements is more tense and unsure. Not only does this alter the body line of the dancer, but it may give the impression to the audience that the dancer is nervous or not sure of the movements being performed.

In order to correct this imbalance, dancers should try to imagine pushing their shoulders down and out to the sides. Also, by warming up with head rolls, neck rolls, and shoulder rolls, the muscles around the shoulders can be more relaxed instead of tense. Dancers should also focus their breathing in their cores or abdomens, and not in their chests. Deep breathing up in the chest can cause the shoulders to rise.

More exercises and techniques to help with lowering the shoulders can be found in the article “How to Correct Raised Shoulders in Dance Class”.

Forcing the Shoulder Blades Together

Another bad habit for some dancers is pinching or pulling the shoulder blades together in the back. By lifting or opening the chest too much, dancers can force the shoulder blades together, giving a pinched look. This can cause damage to the back muscles and hyper-extend the rib cage.

To correct this habit, dancers should work with their instructors to find where their own individual, neutral position would be. Rolling the shoulders too far back would cause the shoulder blades to pull together, while rotating them too far forward would cause the chest to cave in. It is important to work with a teacher to determine the proper placement for each individual dancer’s body.

Letting the Shoulders Roll Forward

If a dancer’s shoulders are rolling forward, or slouching, it could be due to a recent growth spurt. Sometimes when a younger dancer gains height, it is difficult to remember to stand tall and keep the chest lifted. Slouching can also be the result of poor self-esteem or a lack of confidence. If a dancer is insecure with a piece of movement, or a body line, or perhaps something unrelated to dance, it can cause the shoulders to roll forward as a defense mechanism.

The easiest way to correct this habit is to strengthen the muscles in the upper back, in order to support the shoulders. Back exercises like shoulder rolls and contractions will allow the dancer to feel the full range of motion and where the shoulders can actually go. By discovering the full range of motion and where the shoulders extend from the back, dancers can become more aware of where their shoulders are in any given movement.

When dancers pay attention to the placement of their shoulders, and are knowledgeable about where the muscles extend and contract, these three bad habits can be avoided or broken.

Do You Have Poor Posture

A symptom of modern habits and technologies, poor posture is everywhere you look. We spend long hours hunched over our computer monitors and steering wheels, lugging heavy purses and laptop bags. Sitting or standing in these unnatural positions can over time lead to misalignment of many of the body’s major muscle groups, often resulting in chronic pain or loss of function. It’s no wonder that back pain and neck pain are the two most common kinds of pain reported, according to a 2006 National Center for Health Statistics survey.

The Standing Postural Assessment

So how can you find out if your alignment is less than ideal? One tool commonly used by fitness and health professionals is the standing postural assessment. The purpose of this assessment is to observe a person standing at normal, relaxed posture from the front, side, and often rear view, and then determine how his or her alignment compares to a predetermined standard as indicated by a vertical “plumb line.” This is often done using sophisticated software; however, you can do it at home with a camera and a friend to photograph you.

Stand barefoot in front of a blank wall or door (ideally in close-fitting clothes), and have a friend take two full-length pictures of you: one facing forward and one in profile. Print your two pictures on computer paper, and then use a straight edge to draw a vertical line on each. On the profile picture, you’ll start that line at your ankle bone and go straight up from there; on the forward-facing picture you’ll draw straight down from the middle of your face.

The points of reference you’ll be observing on the profile photo are your earlobe, top of your shoulder, the dent on the side of your elbow, the side seam of your pants or shorts at the fullest part of your hips, the outside of your knee (just slightly closer to the front of your knee than the back), and your ankle bone. The ideal plumb line should connect vertically through all of these points when you’re facing sideways. If any of these points fall in front of or behind the line you’ve drawn from the ankle bone up, this is an indicator that your posture is misaligned.

From the front view, you want to make sure the center of your chin, the dent between your collarbones, your sternum, your belly button, and the rise of your pants all line up vertically. Also, you might draw two horizontal lines across the tops of your shoulders and hipbones to ensure that both are level.

What to Do if Your Posture is out of Line

If you discover that your posture is not as it should be, consult a fitness professional who specializes in correcting muscle imbalances. You may have to go through further postural analysis like the overhead squat assessment, where you’ll be asked to perform a squat while holding both arms straight overhead so that the trainer can look for imbalances in specific muscle groups. He or she may ask you about some of your habits: Do you work at a desk? Spend long hours in the car? Do you tend to carry a bag on one side only? Your trainer will likely recommend exercises to correct posture as well as address specific factors particular to your lifestyle. If your problem is severe, he or she may also recommend chiropractic or massage services, or have you consult a doctor.

Remember that fitness consultations are usually offered free of charge—contact your gym’s training staff to find out how to schedule one, and be sure to request a trainer who will provide a thorough postural analysis.

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