Dance takes our everyday movement abilities to the next level as we are pushed to embody various movement concepts and complex choreography. The more difficult our movements, the harder it becomes to stabilize and control transitions and execution of steps. Often times we are increasing difficulty by asking our upper and lower body to work in different ways. In order to be successful and safe in any movements, we need to utilize all the stabilizing muscles of our core. These muscles serve as the links between our upper and lower aspects of the body. Any movement we do needs to have core involvement, as motions will either move through the core to other areas or originate from it. A strong, flexible core supports pretty much everything we do as dancers and as people.
When our core is unstable, lacking muscular strength or range in motion, we impair how well our limbs move and dance. Dysfunction of our core creates a lack in power needed for motion. Jumps are common movements where dancers can see the negative effects of weak core support. Try this exercise for yourself: Stand in second position. Allow your ribs to stick forward and tail to stick out behind you, disengaging your abdominals and encouraging anterior pelvic tilt. Try to jump in this position. Can you get yourself very high off the ground? It is not easy to jump in this position because your body is lacking the core support it needs to stay in proper alignment. Muscles in the torso that need to be engaged to help you lift off the ground are relaxing and sending boney structures in directions other than up. If you want to go up, your body needs to find length.
Think about this for a moment. Imagine a rocket ship getting ready to blast into space. What do you see? Is the rocket splaying in multiple directions? I would hope not. A rocket's shape echoes the idea of the way it wishes to travel, up, with all the weight evenly distributed to help attain that goal. Your body can do the same to help you get the proper power to support the height of your jumps as well as the effort required to perform them. Less effort is needed if your bones are already placed with the intent to shoot into the air. Ah, science!
A well-functioning core also enhances your balance and stability. This is imperative for helping dancers prevent falls that result from lack of balance or bodily control, also preventing injury. A disengaged core is often the NUMBER ONE issue I see limiting dancers ability to turn and balance successfully. NUMBER ONE! Often times, awareness and engagement of the core stabilizing muscles can be the only adjustment needed to help dancers nail an extra turn or maintain single leg extensions for moments longer. When your core is engaged your "boxes" (your bones) are well stacked and supported to work against gravity you are able to sustain longer balances with ease! Core stability helps up to find better balance through any position or movement.
Like all good things, the core requires balance amongst all its stabilizing muscles. This was something I had to learn the hard way as I struggled with low back pain through adolescence. Low back pain can be debilitating and the pain will make us limit our movement or cause us harm if we choose to move through it. Dancers don't like either of those options. So we must prevent this problem by exercising to promote well-balanced, properly activated core muscles. When experiencing low back pain, core exercises can often help us to find relief as they will help to lengthen back muscles and support their release. Next time you experience low pain, try lying on your back with your feet on the flor and pressing your low back into the floor for a few breaths. You can read more about this exercise in my #BCAcorechallenge Instagram posts! Explore what works for you. General note for safety, if arching your back is painful, don’t do it! Utilize oppositional actions and muscles (curving the spine through abdominal activation) to find relief.
Not only do strong core muscles help us stay pain-free, they also help us communicate confidence to the world in our movements and every day life by supporting good posture. When your stabilizing core muscles are working functionally you can stand, sit, and move taller, exploring the extent of your personal bubble (kinesphere). You are also encouraging longevity of your dance career as you limit wear and tear on the boney structures of your torso, like the spine, and create more space for breath to flow. Proper alignment and awareness will allow you to maximize your dance abilities and your movement abilities beyond dancing.
Balanced core muscles that work functionally bring support, stability, and power to movements, making you a more efficient mover. Who doesn’t want that? Now that you understand the benefits of a strong core, share this knowledge with all the dancers in your life and work together to develop your core strength and awareness!