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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Anatomy of Pole

To achieve optimal performance, a dancer needs to understand the blending of science and art to improve dance techniques. Pole Dancing is a highly acrobatic sport, undeniably a beautiful art form. Scientific knowledge and understanding in the connection will help dancers blend anatomical and kinesiological principles with artistic expression.

Because pole dancing in the advance level requires tremendous total-body muscular strength, a dancer needs to condition the body in order to increase muscular power, flexibility, stamina and core strength as a preventive regime to reduce risk of injury, at the same time enhance performance longevity.

As a weight-bearing exercise, pole dancing increases bone density thereby strengthening joints as well as all of their connecting tissues. Most people don't realize the importance of bone health but a higher bone density means lower risk of osteoporosis, which women are known to be most prone to.

lift your abs + lengthen your spine

To "pull up" or "lift" is often used in conjunction with the abdominal muscles (pull up or lift with your abs). A desired anatomical interpretation of this cue is to contract the abdominal muscles such that the inferior (lower) attachment onto the pelvis is the moving end, rotating the pelvis posteriorly (backwards) to achieve the desired neutral position of the pelvis and normal curvature of the lumbar spine.

"Pull up" is very important in executing air-borne dance moves as well as those that defy gravity. How the "lift" helps is it keeps the entire body "frozen". During this time, core action will kick into play, like when the body is planked. I personally find myself "pull up" most when performing the Shoulder Mount (using ab strength instead of momentum by kicking up, that is). Also when executing a rotating trick called Cyclone, where the movement requires the body, at take-off, to plank once air-borne and keeping the legs extended straight out while allowing the body to stay in this position as it swings till it's time to touch down, when eventually the legs are pulled into an 'attitude' position.

However, the planking of the body doesn't always apply for other more extreme moves in pole dancing. Dancers do execute tricks which, very often require excessive backward movements and arching of the back. For instance the "Pole Arch", "The Ball" and especially the contorting "Bird's Nest".

There's therefore a great need, in fact, imperative to build and strengthen the back extensors (the 2 strips of protective muscles running alongside the spine all the way to the upper back). These are the muscles that'll stablize the skeletal frame and offer better support of the back when core is weak.

think of your pelvis as a basin... avoid spilling the content

Imagine your pelvis is a basin so avoid letting it tip. This is an effort to maintain desired alignment of the pelvis. From an anatomical perspective, keep neutral pelvis and avoid letting the pelvis tilt in an anterior (forward) direction - as you are asked to practise in Pilates.

This is a great exercise so practise regularly to strengthen the lower back region and learn to activating the core muscles, where you encourage the use of abdominal muscles to lift the pelvis to a neutral position. The same technique does kick into play when maintaining balance and stability of the following move, for instance.

There're some moves, however that require the dancer to do the exact opposite. For instance when executing rotating tricks like The Butterfly and Goddess, the dancer must use the lower ab muscles to tilt the pelvis forward (hence "spilling the content") while keeping the lower back arched and glut muscles (the butt) contracted.

use lowers abs + quads/hip flexers

Greater use of the abdominal- quads (front of thighs) force couple. If more stability is established, use of this force couple helps maintain a neutral pelvis and to position the weight of the body appropriately to maintain balance. For instance, The Boomerang.

Such a blend of science and art will empower dancers to realize their potential and expand their artistic vision. Start from the basics and teach the body. Our body is an incredible machine. It is remarkably obedient because the muscles remember what you make them do. You'll be aware of what your body is capable of and how it can work for you, if you pay attention to it each time. Understand it, appreciate it, look after it.

I love this quote by Astrid Alauda,

"Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one".

Well, that's exactly it.
Notes on theory from Dance Anatomy & Kinesiology
Thanks to Brandon & Justin for these awesome photos (taken at the NUDE party 26/7/09)

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