In one of our recent student Q&A sessions this question came up and we thought it would be a good one to share here on the blog.
A common stumbling block for many new dance students is being unable to keep their shoulders relaxed and uninvolved while dancing and moving the arms in various ways around the body.
There could be many reasons why you might find moving your arms without lifting your shoulders difficult but often it is down to unfamiliarity with the movements.
The most common instruction you might hear from a teacher in class is 'shoulders down!'. But what does that actually mean?
Are you meant to force your shoulders down with great strength?
Are you meant to pinch your shoulder blades and stick your chest out in the classic military posture 'shoulders down, chest up!'?
Do you think that by doing these to things it would make it easier to move your arms or harder?
Why don't you try both of these positions and see? What happens to your torso? Can you still breathe? What happens to the musculature of your neck?
One last thing to try.... what happens if you shrug your shoulders and try to move your arms?
How is your range of movement?
Can you see that by consciously and curiously experimenting with your body helps you to gain awareness and most importantly a connection to the sensations of your body as it moves?
The shoulder girdle is only directly connected to the body in one place, the sternoclavicular joint. The sternoclavicular joint is where the collar bone (clavicle) meets the breastbone (sternum).
The rest of the shoulder structure is supported and stabilised by your muscles.
Being able to organise and use your muscles in an efficient way will give you many choices when it comes to moving your body to dance and to express yourself.
So back to the original question.
What exercises do you recommend for keeping your shoulders down while dancing?
You can see José's answer in full in the video below.
The answer? Braceo!
When you do your braceo exercises, try to stay calm and curious. If you feel your shoulders creeping up towards your ears, first - give your self a high-five for noticing, and then take a break.
Imagine in your minds eye your arms moving with ease while your shoulders are shoulders relaxed down on your back and when you think you have an idea of how the movement should be try it for real and see how it feels.