Alignment: Developing a Strong Foundation

"When you find that your life is out of alignment with your grandest idea of yourself, seek to change it." -Neale Donald Walsch
         A contractor would never try to build on an unstable infrastructure, yet each day dancers attempt multiple pirouettes and complicated combinations upon misaligned bodies that provide a shaky foundation.
         Correct body alignment allows for efficient muscle use, encourages a less bound and more relaxed approach to movement, reduces the risk of injury, and contributes to ease of movement.
         Whenever a dancer has difficulty with balance or executing a step, which he or she should be strong enough to do, it is important to first observe his or her body alignment.  Just as a building will weaken if there is a crack in the foundation, the body is weakened by misalignment.
         Before each class a dancer needs to re-establish a strong base by being certain that all five toes are flat on the floor.  Body weight should be equally distributed on each foot in a triangular pattern formed by the base of the big toe, the heel, and the base of the pinky toe.  The ankle should be lifted so that the base of the tibia is not rolling forward and causing the foot to pronate, or roll inward.  Subsequently, the knee joint should be centered over the ankle, and the hip joint should be centered over the knee.  The base of the ribcage should be in line with the pelvis while the sternum is lifted and the shoulders rest on the body, similar to how frosting rests upon a cake.  The neck should be lengthened with the head lifting as if it were a helium-filled balloon.
         Dancers are often told to “pull up their centers” which often causes a disconnect between the upper and lower halves and the front and back halves of the body. When a dancer “pulls up” the stomach, the tendency is to “sit” or relax into the back of the hips and open the ribcage, resulting in a swayed back.  Dancers engage their abdominal muscles, tuck the pelvis, and hyperextend their legs and believe they are properly aligned.
         This ideology results in gripping muscles instead of lengthening them, stressing ligaments instead of strengthening muscles, and skeletal misalignment.
         Instead, dancers need to think of the ankle being lifted by the patella, or kneecap, and the leg being lengthened by the pelvis lifting and lengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings.  Dancers also need to remember to lengthen the back of the torso as well as the front as if the entire upper body were being sucked up through a straw.  Additionally, it is important for dancers to lengthen through the front and back of the neck equally to avoid the turtling of the head that often occurs.
         Simply thinking about dance posture differently will help align the body, engage the muscles in a different way, and produce a lengthening of the body which will increase the efficiency of movement, improve mechanics and balance, and lead to healthy dancing.