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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

June 1996

The Graceful Illusion

By Rick Allen, DC

Ah! The illusion of floating gracefully around the dance floor. The perfect couple when doing a smooth dance such as foxtrot or waltz. Kinesthetically communicating with body language, holding perfect dance frame with body contact in just the right places. Do you aspire to look like that? Has your instructor been after you to improve your dance frame?

Canadian 10-Dance Champions Pierre Allaire and Mireille Veileux observed during the City of Roses Ballroom Classic that "Portland people aren't keeping the body 'up' and the shoulders down. Let's take a look at the components of a good dance frame, one that gives that graceful iliusion and improves your dancing both individually and as a couple.

To quote L'l Abner, "The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone...the ankle bone's connected to the leg bone...etc." Proper alignment of bones is fundamental to proper posture, which is the foundation for proper dance frame.

Viewed from the side, your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle should be in alignment. All too often, the head is tilted forward, shoulders are rolled in and chest appears sunken. Why? Sitting with the head down, reading, watching TV, working on the computer for hours, combined with a "turtle pose" of hiding under stressful conditions, leads to a distorted sense of natural posture. The connective fascia, which holds the shape of your body much like a sweater or body stocking, actually changes shape. So it feels unnatural to stand up with proper alignment. It takes active change to have proper, functional posture.


The first step in crating change is to become aware of the areas needing work. Stand before a mirror. Look at your alignment side to side and front to back. Are your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles even when looking straight on? Are your shoulders rolled in with the hands turned so the back of the hand is visible and the thumb pointed into your body? Are your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles straight in alignment from the side when standing naturally? The very act of looking will distort your stance, so you may need to have a friend take photographs from the front, side and back to get a true picture. That's what I do in my office.

Myofascial Change

You may need some professional help remodeling the connective fascia. If, when you try to stand tall, you feel pulled forward and in as if a distorted sweater was pulling at you, I suggest you have six to ten sessions with a chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist. Ask them to do the deep soft tissue bodywork necessary to stretch and release the fascia. Ask them if they are familiar with the techniques developed by John Barnes, PT or Ida Rolf. This can make a life-long change when combined with follow-up stretches and exercises.

Make the Change

Next, have your dance instructor observe your posture standing and while dancing. Listen and apply their suggestions. Stand with your chest out, shoulders back, rib cage and sides held up, and neck elongated as if a balloon was lifting your head to the sky (great visual image borrowed from a specialist in Alexander technique). It won't feel natural at first. Keep at it.

Reap the Results

Combining awareness, myofascial release, exercise, stretching and conscious effort while on an! d off the dance floor will make a difference that you'll notice, typically in two to ten weeks. Your partner will notice it, too. The compliments will flow. You will be on your way to creating the graceful illusion.

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