Dancing from the Centre | Home Practice
Lucy introduces her latest Home Practice class...
When I was 9 years old my Jazz teacher asked the class where their abdominals were. I knew we had to use our abdominals when dancing and I was under the impression they helped us be strong - I therefore raised my hand. . .
“Yes, Lucy where do you think your abdominals are?”
I tentatively pointed to my thighs.
“Yes, well that probably makes sense” she scoffed “you probably do use your quadriceps”
Throughout my training and practice, teachers and choreographers have taught me to keep tuning into what dancing from the centre means and each time I have discovered new ways of connecting my movement to my centre and vice versa.
It was company dancer Hannah Sampson who requested a Home Practice session on dancing from the centre. Practicing at home and not being able to shift through space with others, not having a teacher respond to Hannah face-to-face and be hands-on was not helping Hannah feel strong in her centre. Most importantly it was the lack of partner work that was making Hannah feel that she was no longer connected to her centre at all.
Although Stopgap has been really dedicated to our fitness in lockdown (we do a great Bootcamp, Tabata style fitness once a week) somehow this does not always correspond to our dancing. Why?
It was when Siobhan Hayes (Assistant Artistic Director) first started training in Franklin Method that we found out why the sit ups weren’t always making the improvement we wanted. Eric Franklin says (and I am seriously paraphrasing here) if we only do core work in a horizontal position this is all the body remembers and so that when we are in an upright position (as we usually are when balancing) the connection to our core practice is not made. This means we are only strong in the centre when we are, well… horizontal!
When we were dancing in the studio with Hannah pre-COVID, we worked a lot with dancing from the centre, a favourite task was an up cycled Charlie Morrissey exercise. The task seemed to really support Hannah’s understanding that the centre can be soft and flexible as well as engaged and secure.
“In pairs we imagine we are attached centre to centre by an invisible umbilical cord. Facing one and other one person leads and the other follows (pulling pushing and guiding from the centre) and then we swap roles.”
It works a treat! Even on Zoom (Thanks Charlie!) However, this was not going to work on a pre-recorded Home Practice.
On returning to my favourite Eric Franklin book ‘Dynamic Alignment’, I found the image of what looks like a web over the stomach. In the Home Practice session I lead, we work with this image and then the image of a spider’s web. I then take those strong silken threads of a spider’s web and imagine I attach them to my centre (or yours if you are participating). The silken threads are then held by my thumb and forefinger and I use my centre to pull and push or simply move my hands and vice versa.
Hannah said this really worked for her and so I hope it does for you too. Another discovery - and I would love to know more if anyone has any experience or factual information about this is the forefinger to thumb press...
This connection between thumb and forefinger created more articulation, clarity and precision in the dancers’ arm lines I worked with - is it something about the energy travelling back to the centre?
I am not sure why that is, maybe you do, I’d love to hear your comments, so please let me know your thoughts.
(By the way that dry Jazz teacher earlier - set me up for life. . . the successive sarcastic comments of every teacher and choreographer after that just made me smile on the inside right where my abdominals are - right?!)
Lucy offers an extra challenge in this class - once you've completed PART 1 - Dancing from the Centre, find Part 2 here:
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