BrainDance as Observed in our Classes – Written by Caitlin Walker


Week 9 and 10 – Breath and Tactile

Looking at the concept of breath in our holiday BrainDance, I found dancers demonstrated an excellent understanding. They understood the main concept and components to a breath, as well as dynamics of breath.

Breath is an important part of dance as it is what keeps a dancer going. When dancing a lengthy performance piece, one must breath so they don’t run out of energy when performing. Breath is also an excellent way to help a dancer move more fluid and airy. By having knowledge of breath, a dancer when asked to move fluid and soft, they will find it easier and more natural to move, also improving the dancers ability to successfully performance those movements with greater confidence.

Breath is a concept to always keep in mind at dance and when you aren’t at dance. It is beneficial and is always a great way to regain focus and be in touch with your mind and body.
Personally, if I am stressed or anxious, breath is an effective way for me to regain focus and calm my body and mind. I also incorporate breath if I am frustrated or upset. I am able to calm myself so I can also talk calmly and think more clearly instead of getting angry and expressing emotions in a negative and unnecessary way.

These same concepts of stress, anxiety and frustration are all emotions one can feel in dance. Stress and anxiety of having to perform on stage in front of an audience. Frustration or being upset because you may not understand a concept or move right away. By breathing through these emotions and allowing yourself to relax and regain focus and peace, you are benefiting and allowing yourself to move forward in a positive and calm way.

When looking at the concept of tactile and exploring different movements and dynamics related, the dancers seemed to understand and successfully demonstrate their knowledge in class. When the dancers had to show light snowflakes landing on their body (light finger dabs), compared to an icy blizzard (pat and poke quickly all over body), the dancers were able to show and understand the difference not just through viable confirmation, but by performing the concept physically.

Having awareness of touch and where your body is in space is an important thing to keep in mind. If you are to do partner work or choreography that includes contact with another dancer, the ability to understand where the contact needs to be or what kind of contact needs to be performed is where tactile becomes useful. To also be aware of where other dancers are in space and where you personally are in space is important when it comes to a successful performance piece. If you are working with props in class or in a performance piece, touch allows you to successfully work with those selected props allowing you to create visuals and add to a conceptual dance piece. Without sense of touch, these pictures and concepts could not be successfully portrayed, making it harder for the audience to understand or fully get the visual(s).

Tactile is also another way to bond and become close with others. An example is being blind folded and relying on a partner to guide you through movements. Without touch and having trust between the two dancers the exercise will not be as successful as it could be and could cause injuries if there isn’t trust and focus. Incorporating partner exercises in classes is an excellent way to create that trust making partner or group contact exercises and dance movements easier and more comfortable.

Week 11 and 12 – Head-Tail and Core-Distal Pattern

Head-tail is an important concept needed in dance. In our Holiday BrainDance, the dancers caught snowflakes on their tongues. They would lift and move their heads. And would shake them all off. Without spinal movement, we would be unable to fully perform and would be limited to useful movements needed to create visually appealing dance pieces and would be unable to successfully dance exercises in class.

Awareness of your spine is important when it comes to posture and alignment. Without awareness of your body and how it is positioned, it can result in injury or unneeded stress on muscles. It can make movements more difficult to perform and could create a different line or image from the other dancers or than what was originally envisioned by the choreographer. If you do not have not enough awareness or knowledge of the head-tail concept, you wont be able to adjust or fix incorrect alignment or posture. Not knowing thing knowledge can distract dancers from instructions in class and from doing activities to their fullest.

Outside of dance, having spinal awareness can benefit you in your daily life. Having knowledge of proper posture and incorporating spinal movement into your daily life benefits not just your spine but also your brain. The movement provides nourishment through cerebral spinal fluid. Having this knowledge benefits you in the future as you age, preventing inward slumped posture. This posture can affect how one moves and be restricting of certain movements and exercises that one can perform.

Core-Distal is also another crucial concept to keep in mind as well when dancing. In our Holiday BrainDance, the students pretended to slide down a hill on a sled. Curling in to go fast and pushing/reaching out to steer and slow down. Without having awareness, strength and control of your core, moving can be very difficult. Having a strong core means more opportunity for the dancer. It gives a larger range of things the dancer can learn and do without hesitation. Like reaching away from the centre core. Like distal movements.

Having the strength and awareness allows the dancer to focus on other aspects of a dance class. This also allows better focus on the teacher and instructions. Having a strong core means you do not need to focus mainly on ones core, but can allow muscle memory to kick in. It gives the dancers the chance to focus on other muscles groups and exercises in class to improve and grow upon them. Like in all styles of dance, you need the basic “back bone” in order to move on to other styles. You always go back to the basics, no matter how many years of dance you have under your belt.

Balance, as well as helping to maintain proper posture and alignment are also things ones core helps to benefit. The core is a central system that is very important when moving and is something every dancer needs to keep thinking about, not just at dance but in their everyday life. Outside of the studio, having core awareness can help in situations at school or in regular life. Participating in gym classes, to playing on the playground, walking around from class to class and sitting for long periods of time. These are all great examples of ways one can use their core, outside of the studio.

Things this simple are truly so important to ones physical health. Creating a strong core for yourself does improve and benefit many different parts of the body. Taking the time and effort to improve and grow your core is beyond beneficial. Not just for dancers and other athletes, but for every person no matter what physical skill level they are at.

~ Caitlin Walker, J’Adore Dance Intern


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