Category Archives: Body

You can take the girl off-stage, but you can’t take the stage out of the girl

By Marianne Salza

I may have been an audience member during the Colleges of the Fenway (COF) Dance Project: Dance with Somebody, but I still had performance jitters.

Photo: Banjamin Thompson

I felt like I was turning, falling and leaping along with the dancers. It had me wondering if what I was experiencing was the Ideokinesis concept of the “mind’s eye,” which is visualizing a movement without engaging in the action.  It stimulates neurological pathways without unnecessary and unwanted muscle tension.

From Somatic Studies and Dance by the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science:

Visualizing is a powerful tool in linking mind and body in programming “right” (intended) action without excessive wear-and-tear on the body from physical practice.

The “Puppet Master” routine was my favorite and most chilling. It had all the ingredients of a horror film: dim, scarlet lights that created sharp shadows, eerie music, and dolls coming to life only to retaliate against and tear the limbs off of their creator. The dancers captured the essence of rampant puppets with their consistent, blank faces and precise, robotic movements.

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Mark Ballas’s Keen Charleston: A Somatic Observation of Dancing with the Stars

By Marianne Salza

Dynamic alignment and interconnectedness make Mark Ballas fluid and powerful. The Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) performer exudes freedom in my favorite DWTS Charleston routine. His arms flail; he flippantly swings and casually gestures. Mark channels the fun spirit and energy of the roaring 20s dance.

Mark interplays between primary and secondary positions easily. He is mostly in an upright, vertical position throughout the routine, but when he exaggerates his excitement or disappointment, his spine moves from hyperextension to a bowing, softening internal position.

The dancer’s well-developed rotary muscles allow for joint mobilization, bringing strength to his body, and helping him gain full access to the three-dimensional space. I noticed a sequencing of triangular kinetic chains: scapulae to heels, scapula to coccyx, occipital bone to scapulae and coccyx to heels. Mark exhibits a great deal of flexion/extension/hyperextension when abducting and adducting his shoulders, elbows, and hips for emphasis. There is also internal and external rotation of the shoulders, hips and hands when swinging his arms and legs, or when engaging into fast, sinking steps.

Mark has a lively connection with the inner core of his body. Mark’s breath and movement are integrated and support each other. This is particularly noticeable during his rapid, spasmodic gestures. From the first step of the routine, you can see how his breath initiates movement. When swaying his arms forward, he exhales; and he inhales when swaying backward. He breathes out thrusting left, and in when thrusting right. Whenever Mark moves away from the midline of his body (abduction), he takes in a gulp of air, expelling it as he moves toward his midline (adduction). As he sits, he exhales, and as he lifts his body, he inhales. While pretending to sip on some bubbly, the dancer breathes in as he “swallows” and breathes out when he places the glass down. He exhales into his turns as well. Mark also breathes out when going into a plié, and as he jumps he breathes in, like the action propels him into the sky.

His head/neck/back relationship influences and dynamically organizes his coordination. There is no tensing in his neck, which allows the muscles and his whole body to be released (1st Law of Human Movement). Mark’s movement is free. When running up and down the stairs, his head leads and his spine follows (2nd Law of Human Movement). He initiates movement from his feet, head, hands, finger tips and posterior.

Mark’s space effort is direct; his movements are focused. His time effort is sudden, with quick movements and erratic gestures. His movements are reminiscent of the jerky-quality of a silent film. The dancer has a strong weight effort and seems grounded with his heavy stepping. He illustrates a downward pull, letting gravity take him. Ballas has a bound flow effort. His movements are controlled and precise, especially in his legs.

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How to Tendu: Laban Analysis Technique

By Marianne Salza

Dance instructor, Kristen Young, demonstrates a tendu at the bare. Photo: Marianne Salza

We’ve all done that elementary school project where we guide another classmate in tying their shoes or walking step-by-step. We thought it was silly and insignificant then (But, woo hoo, we weaseled our way out of reading from our social studies text book!); however, these exercises help us organize our inner energy impulses.

We constantly initiate and respond to movement sequences, our surroundings and states of mind without realizing the effort that is involved.  I tried teaching my partner (who had no previous ballet training) how to perform a tendu. It was trickier than I thought. I have become so accustomed to participating in this warm up that I never think about how it is done, so this activity helped me carefully analyze myself. I paused periodically to listen to my internal sensations

  1. Delicately place your fingertips on the barre for extra balance. (Do not grip your hands. It will cause unwanted tension.) Keep your spine in a neutral upright position and your gaze forward.  Imagine your plumb line lifting your head into the sky and planting your feet into the ground.
  2. As you exhale, slowly extend your working arm in preparation initiating from your shoulders. Relax your neck, shoulders, elbows and fingers creating a small curve at your elbows and wrists.  Poise your hands slightly away from the body.
  3. Place your feet in first position by rotating your legs externally from your hips with the balls of your feet turned out and your heels hardly touching. A “v” shape will form. (Be sure not to spread your feet too far apart [only as far as it is comfortable] because that will contract your glutes and hyperextend your back into secondary position.)
  4. Inhale and upon exhalation, begin your tendu by initiating from your heel and engaging with your iliopsoas. Extend your gesturing leg to the front, keeping your leg straight and your toes pointed. Your space effort is direct, your weight light, your time sustained and your flow bound. Picture yourself taking in a ball of energy from the top of your head when breathing in, and it radiating through your torso legs and toes as you breathe out stretching your leg.


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