General Dance Discussion > Exercises For A Stiff Upper Half

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Vince A, Jul 21, 2003.

  1. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    I had some Pro-Am practice sessions this past weekend, and I videotaped all the dances.
    I'll watch them over and over until they are memorized, then do them until the muscle memory kicks in.

    I know that we are our own worst critics when it comes to watching a video of ourselves, but my upper body seems very stiff - too much Waltz? - and my right arm seems out of sync with the rest of my body.

    I want to be smooth and flowing with soft arms in, say NC2S, maybe somewhat more dynamic in Cha Cha, and very expressive in WCS and ECS.

    The Waltz and my other dances are OK.

    Does anyone have any exercises, or suggestions for things that I can practice, maybe in front of a mirror, etc?
  2. msc

    msc New Member

    First of all your upper body really shouldn't be stiff in waltz, but that leads to a very long story of swing and sway and stretched vs. stiff and leading from the center,so I'll just stop there.

    I was stiff as a brick when I started less than 4 years ago, and now I have a great deal of upper body flexibility. I improved through repition, just always trying to make the ribs lead the hips in the latin dances (including WCS, to a lesser extent.) I also tend to shift my ribs around while listening to the radio in the car ... interestingly enough, Michael Kiehm suggests the same.
  3. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    In Latin, as you settle into your right hip, let your left shoulder blade settle back. As you settle into your left hip let your right shoulder blade settle back. After a while you can start to have a figure 8 motion with your shoulders just like the hips (but opposite). The shoulder movement should be lss pronounced than the hips.

    In smooth, watch out for the right shoulder coming forward too much. Remember you are allowed to bend at the right elbow joint to open the lady into promenade just as she is allowed to bend at the left shoulder joint. Also remember that, just like in Latin, you are going to have one side of the rib cage stretching. For example, when you are developing step 2 of the twinkle the left side is growing.
  4. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member


    Thanks . . . what I'm reading is do "rib isolations" . . . practice them, the use them in a contra-body movement??? I'm sitting here banging out these words, and "shifting the ribs" at the same time. I'll heed the words!

    I've seen quite a few articles on just this very thing. Guess I'll download them to add what you said.

    Thanks again.
  5. msc

    msc New Member

    Good man, vince. Once you can shift and roll your ribcage, that opens the door to all the intricate shaping in Latin and Standard. It also vastly increases both the power and control of your lead.

    One more thing (well, there's a lot of other dtails, but this one is good to know from the start)... when you move the ribs, always think of moving the bottom rib.
  6. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Excellent point msc! – otherwise one ends up tending to move the shoulders, which is exactly what you're trying not to do in Latin!
  7. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Another point about the ribs:
    If you are thinking of stretching the left side, DO NOT think of shrinking the right side (another cause for too much shoulder movement).
  8. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Too true! In fact think about stretching the right side and just stretching the left side even more!
  9. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    WOW! Thanks to all three of you . . .

    I tried it at my desk, then went into the bathroom to see what it looked like in the mirror. I got a few looks, but what the hey???

    Keeping in mind, what all three of you wrote . . . "I LOOK GOOD." I even noticed that my hips were doing something different and that my straight leg/bent leg took on a somewhat different look. I was probably a little more over my lead foot???

    Can't wait until it gets even better . . . msc . . . 4 years???

    Why didn't any of my instructors tell me this? Are they too busy teaching me the basics and routines?
  10. msc

    msc New Member

    Ummmm ... could you repeat the question?

    Depends on the teacher. A lot of this stuff is Int'l Latin technique, which is not necessarily well understood or respected on the WCS/country scene. Even those who understand may feel uncomfortable teaching these techniques, especially since most guys take to this stuff like toddlers take to green veggies.
  11. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    msc wrote:

    This is what I was jokingly referring to.

    OK. So now I know I'll never be taught this by an instructor, but will have to get via the "Net???"

    I've been at it all day. I can feel the stretch more than I ever could have imagined!

    Again . . . thanks.
  12. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Hey Vince, glad its helping! msc is right, much of this is Latin technique...but, the stretch one side and the other side more is actually international ballroom technique more then anything else (although it does, of course, aply to Latin shaping as well).

    As far as why you haven't been taught it, I don't know...

    As for myself, I have all of this stuff in my head but will have an interesting time, to say the very least, trying to aply it now that I'm re-starting ballroom...
  13. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    It is most definitely helping . . . and as far as "much of this is a Latin technique . . .

    I do Swing, some Latin, some Ballroom, and Country. I had some privates last night and noticed, just by doing somewhat more R or L stretching, my lead in the 2 Step now comes more from my center/rib cage in comparison to using an arm and turning my shoulder - or forcing a contrabody stretch! I assume that the Waltz would benefit, but haven't had that practice yet this week!

    Obviously, the Cha Cha will, and it is my second favorite dance. NC2S should use it. WCS, ECS, Triple 2, and Triple Step . . . I'm not sure, but I will find out!

    My next private is Thursday. I forgot to ask her last night "why she isn't teaching it." I know she does do it . . . I've noticed it before, but was unsure how to accomplish it.

    I'm just starting ballroom and don't have it my head. But I will. I certainly see the benefits of it, and am convinced that it is "a must do type of thing."
  14. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Hey Vince,

    Hmmm, I wonder if there are some phenomena whereby teachers are: (A) too unaware themselves, (B) teach it, or (C) take it too for granted?

    I say this because I could imagine an instructor who does something themselves but doesn't really think about, or maybe even realize, that they are doing so, accordingly, neglect to teach it. At least this one dynamic, if indeed in play, would relate back to the thread about the possible disconnect between good dancing and good teaching, i.e. you don't go to someone to whom everything comes naturally if it doesn't come at all naturally to you, etc.

    Anyway, just a thought...
  15. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    Ditto on the Hmmmm, SD . . .

    It is probably a little of A, B, and C.

    I think that just maybe these things are what is taught as we approach mid-to-upper divisions, levels, etc. Our Pros, or teachers may use it to insure that edge over our competition . . . or maybe they believe that as we are growing in our dance, that getting the basics, learning the routines, competing on the floor without too many mistakes IS enough . . . and too keep us competing and/or coming back for more! Then all that is left is the real fine tuning . . . possibly the differences between local competitiors and State competitors and finally World or International competitors.

    I really don't want to believe it to be this way, so I'll pick A and C. I would hope that we would be taught those things first, right along with CBPM, centering, the foot positions, etc.

    I think I'm back to Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .
  16. msc

    msc New Member

    I still have to go with answer (D), which is that most guys just don't want to learn this stuff. SD, you've surely seen enough competitions, how many US National Finalist men dance their ribs and back strongly (I realize this is changing with the Russian/Slavic wave?)
  17. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Different issue, the question was why this wasn't taught – lack of execution is a different matter then lack of informational transmission, no?
  18. WCSgal

    WCSgal New Member

    stiffness in upper body

    Well, I might get blasted for this....I am amateur in ballroom and so forth, but for me.....jazz dancing and belly dancing....that really helps stiffness and isolations. I was taught isolations early in my dance years, and I have practiced in front of the mirror alot...I feel dumb at times, but when I DO it on the floor, the crowd doesn't think it is dumb. Belly dancing really helps use lots of muscles....that is my story and I am sticking to it! just my opinion....
  19. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Re: stiffness in upper body

    Why would you get "blasted" for such a statement?

    Jazz is definitely among the best of the best dance forms regarding isolations. And, while I have no personal experience with belly dancing, I could easily see where this would be of assistance in a similar manner. As best I can understand the forms I would still contend that, overall, jazz would be more universally applicable and beneficial but, by definition, any form of bodily mastery can only be a boon to any other such activity.
  20. msc

    msc New Member

    I think it depends on the context. If the subject is Int'l Latin, then sure the teacher should go ahead and teach rib/hip action, but even still, I don't know if that will hold many guys' attention, just based on empirical evidence. In WCS/Country, you rarely see much of that kind of stuff, and almost none among the guys. Usually that world is dominated by patterns and such, and not strength/smoothness/character of movement.

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