My students have heard me tout "tone without tension" more times than they would like, I'm sure. But let's be honest - every physical activity or sport demands this very distinction. Tension slows you down and often causes injury. Think of downhill skiing with tense legs... I'd rather not. Or biking with tense hands - Ouch. Or, since it's March (Go Big Blue!!), shooting a free throw while tensing your arms. It's not even an option in other sports, yet we try it all the time on the dance floor. Which, if you think about it, makes even less sense because we're not only affecting ourselves - we're hindering our partner. So let's all say it together: tone without tension.
Honestly, life itself begs for the distinction. We naturally hold tension in our traps, which as we all notice when we're lucky enough to get a shoulder rub, sucks! Our muscles want to help us. All we have to do is engage them.. .then breathe. Harder than it sounds unfortunately.
Start with engaging your center - your core, your powerhouse, your abdominal muscles - I don't care what you call it as long as it's not hanging loose over your belt buckle. Then relax with it still engaged. Breathing comes in ever so handy in dancing, I've noticed. Now radiate that tone down your relaxed arms and out your finger tips. Next, relax your shoulders. Breathe again. Re-engage your center. Lastly, relax again.
Notice the importance of relaxing?! If not, I'll mention it again - I'm not scared;p When you have subtle tone in your arms, you're giving your partner a great gift, so you can relax knowing s/he will relish that gift. For my guys, you have to relax even more because you're naturally stronger in your upper body. So, for kicks, let's all say it together: Relax!
For the record, I'm definitely not advocating noodle arms. One of my pet peeves is when women don't give you anything in the arms. If dance is like a conversation, that would be like ignoring everything your partner says (and in my opinion, grounds for a good shaking). That being said, more often than not, people err on the side of too tense, which is why I've written the blog the way I have.
It boils down to the this: connection generates from your center. The arms and hands are merely the channel we use to communicate - they are not the message. Tension in the channel is as useful as static on your TV. If you have questions about this or other dance topics, call me for a private lesson, 303-895-0655.
Let's all say it together: See you on the hardwood!