The Posture of Dance

By on July 16, 2008

Dancers are known for having good posture. At my clinic, I work with a lot of dancers, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard my other patients whisper with excitement, “The patient you just saw, is he/she a dancer?” Without fail, it’s the graceful posture that tips them off!

Good postural control is essential in dance — how else would we be able to pirouette, developé, or stay balanced in attitude while perched high up on pointe shoes? Your posture can also help you communicate emotion through your dance, as seen in the passionate embrace of a fiery tango.

Besides, poor posture doesn’t just look bad, it also puts undue strain on many aspects of your body from your joints, muscles and nerves to your lungs and digestive system. Your posture can even influence the first impressions of someone whom you have not even met!

A healthy dancer maintains good posture both in and out of the dance studio. This is important, as many everyday activities, like sitting in front of the computer or driving, are common areas of postural neglect. While faulty posture is a bad habit in general, it can be an even more significant problem for dancers and other athletes, who rely on their bodies in order to perform finely tuned motor skills for a living. Read on to learn more about the benefits of good posture vs. the pitfalls of poor posture.

Strive for Good Posture Both In and out of the Dance Studio!

For many people, holding their posture is an unconscious act.  In order to achieve good posture, we need two things: postural strength and postural awareness — that is, bring the unconscious into the conscious! If you need help  strengthening your muscles of postural control, ask your chiropractor for exercises that will target your specific areas of concern.

As dancers, it’s our responsibility to protect our bodies, whether it be during rehearsal and performance, or while doing other sports, recreational activities, lifting heavy objects or even just sleeping. Good posture will help you maintain proper spinal alignment so your body can function at its best and you can continue to enjoy dancing for many years to come.

Reduced joint & muscle strain

Even though slouching may feel relaxing, it actually creates more tension in your muscles and puts more pressure on your joints. This is called postural strain, which can cause pain all by itself. The areas that are most commonly affected include (but are not limited to) the lower back, neck and between the shoulder blades.  What’s even worse is that when you then call on your body to perform, these muscles are already fatigued, which increases your risk of injury — and you thought you were resting! Improving your posture will help to reduce the strain on your muscles and joints, and is part of a pro-active approach towards injury prevention.

Facilitate arm & leg movement

Try to do battements frappés, petits battements serrés, pirouettes or even a simple port de bras with your body in the EVIL posture pictured above.  Not only does it look terrible, but it’s much harder to do! By lengthening the spine, lifting your body up and out of your pelvis, and separating your head and neck from your shoulders, you create space within your body that helps free up the hip and shoulder joints so that your limbs can function properly. By eliminating such postural restrictions you’ll look stronger, more confident and be able to perform up to your full potential.

Respiration and digestion

Our main muscle of breathing is the diaphragm, which is an umbrella-shaped muscle that sits below the lungs and above your stomach and intestines.  When we slouch, our diaphragm is unable to function properly, and as a result we end up using only a small fraction of our total lung capacity. The less oxygen we take in, the less is available to supply to our working muscles and brain. In addition to negatively impacting your strength and endurance, this may cause sleepiness and make it harder for you to concentrate. Poor posture can also impair your digestive system, causing reflux and indigestion, so be careful not to slouch at the dinner table — or on the couch after a meal!

May good always triumph over evil!

Dr Twardowski is a classically trained dancer with professional credits including Beauty and the Beast & Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  His Chiropractic and Acupuncture clinic is located in Toronto at Bayview and Sheppard.  Contact: 416 226 2552

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