"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #83, Thursday, Jan 3, 2002
Keep your Back
As I started to dance the so called International Style, I clearly remember
my dance teacher, Tatyana (Ukraine) constanly "yelling" at me, Max! Keep your
back, keep your back. For a while I didn't know what it meant. I understood
it a little but did not know how to correct it. Then, I became a teacher and
as I started to work with some students, I really discovered what it meant.
I can recall who does what (including me) on the basis of "Back" alone. I think now, I know what that means "Keep your back."
What is Back: It is your Back, that simple? OK, for those of you wanting specifics, it is that part of your body which extends from your tail bone to your "occiput." Yes, the occiput which is a slight bulging in the back of your head. I hope that everyone understands that back is not just lower Torso but includes your Tail bone, (Coccyx), the Sacrum, the Lumbar spine, the Thoracic (chest) Spine and your Neck going all the way to back of the head.
Why a strong Back is so important? Our upright posture is dependent on a straight and good back. It is like the bracing for a beautiful flowering vine. You loose your back and you loose every thing.
Is stiff back a good back? I would say, no! Just like in everything else stiffness has no place. Yes, a firm and toned back is preferable.
Exercise: Stand with your back against a wall. Line up the back of your heel, the tail bone, your shoulder blades and the back of your head (the occiput) as one vertical column against the wall. Move away and carry this posture with a proud profile, arms up and stay Long and Tall, You have attained the first principles of a good posture. This is your picture frame, carry it gingerly and dont drop it or distort it.
Ladies Back: There are different interpretations. Yes, I say the ladies back is the same but I think Ladies Poise is slightly back and to her left. In other words she curves her back from the mid-spine to her left and slightly back This is obvious when you look at pictures of good dancing ladies. This shape of course should not be too exaggerated otherwise it will disturb the balance.
Broken Back: This is most felt in turning movements, natural or reverse. The back breaks and there is a forward lean and it feels aweful to the partner. Some ladies will exaggerate the backward poise and this makes turning and walking very difficult. A side break or collapse is equally bad. Some times one side requires more stretch but the other side should be kept stretched too.
Does Rise and Fall affect the back? No, the rise and fall is the function of your feet, the ankles and knees. The upper Torso is always stretched out to its natural best. This part of your body should not be allowed to collapse. Recall Mr. Irvine quoting Henry Jaques?. showing dance poise, "If you dont have this, you have nothing"
Latin: there is all kinds of Twisting, Wringing, Squeezing and Twirling of Back and whole body which is not common with Ballroom dances.
So, next time Tatyana yells, "keep your back"...you better know, what to do? Keep your back! By the way, the word "yell" has a positive connotation to somone like me.
Best Wishes for a nice "Back"....Max
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.