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I Got Rhythm

by Sandi & Dan Finch

A new emphasis in dancing is on body rhythm. It is considered so important now that the major English technique books are being expanded to include specific jobs for specific parts of the body, not just the feet, to achieve this idea of body rhythm. So what is body rhythm? It essentially makes use of basic laws of physics to isolate various muscles to work independently to maintain posture, balance, and energy for more musical expression. 

“There are many ways that the human body can move within the muscular and skeletal system,” Geoffrey Hearn explains in his new technique book, The Evolution of Body Rhythm and Dynamic Shaping. Isolating muscle groups to work more fluidly means the body doesn’t have to dance like a solid bock of wood. 

Gravity is an element that can assist in rise and fall. Don’t fight it when lowering, just control it with the feet, ankles, and knees. Momentum is free energy, providing movement with less work by the body. Like a bowling ball that continues moving, slowing down only due to friction. Think of practicing the foxtrot sequence—feather, reverse turn, three step, half natural—in a narrow hotel hallway to use the free energy of momentum to carry you through to the end. 

That block of weight over the shoulders—the head—can make or break a figure. For starters, a balanced head position would be, for men, keeping their head turned so that their nose is over the toes of the left foot, Hearn suggests. For ladies, he said, think of your nose pointing over the knuckles of the left hand. He suggests an exercise for ladies to feel the effects of head weight: Dance solo an open natural from semi-closed position. Focus your eyes on the same spot in the room through the three steps, as the head seems to change from right to left. The head actually does not turn at all. The body has turned to the right under the head. When lady is in a strong extension, such as a contra check, she should allow her head to return to normal position slowly, even as she finishes the first step of the next figure, to avoid loss of balance if the head shifts at the same time as the rest of her body. Try this when dancing a contra check into a natural pivot. 

All good balance begins with posture. To find your vertical line through the body, run in place, then stop. This has placed the core muscles of the body in perfect position, with the muscles in the groin lifting. The support of these muscles places the neck in a proper line, centralizes the head, and supports the muscles holding up the arms. After trying the run in place and stop, raise your arms to dance position. Now relax the groin and feel how much heavier the arms feel. Return to a good frame, men, and then imagine holding the lady the same way you would hold a tray of crystal glasses filled with champagne, always level and in front of your body. Shouldn’t be a problem—we’ve just had all that experience with champagne glasses at New Year’s Eve!

 From club newsletters prepared by an and Sandi Finch , January 2015, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, July 2016.


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