Sustainability for the Planet and for Dancing

It was great to hear that so many people participated in Earth Hour 2009.  Although it was officially held for only 60 minutes of the day, it was really meant to be a symbol of how we can all change our lives to benefit our planet Earth.  It’s not just about turning off the lights; it’s about making your home, your community and your life more sustainable.

compact_flourescent_bulbI found this great website that has a whole slew of ideas on how to reduce energy, from changing to more energy efficient light bulbs to saying no to junk mail.  It gives you ideas on how to save energy and reduce waste at home, at school, at work and at the store.  It even has ideas for kids!  The website is called, ‘One Day… smaller steps towards a cleaner, greener, healthier city.’  It’s put out by the City of Vancouver, so it’s got great little practical ideas that everyone can use.  Check it out:

For me, the whole evening of ‘Earth Hour’ day was spent reflecting on how to make my life more efficient.  Of course, being a dance teacher, coach and fanatic, I started thinking about ways to make my students more energy efficient while dancing.  As a professional dancer, when I look out there on the competition floor, I am simply aghast at how much energy is expended on the floor and not used to contribute to a more positive performance!  It’s so wasteful that it almost hurts!  It’s like having all the lights and appliances in the house turned on, with no one home!

Why are dancers so wasteful?  Where is all this energy going?  Basically, the number one place where all the energy goes is into muscle tension.  The muscles of the body are getting locked up and therefore the body becomes slow and hard to move; it becomes harder to breathe and harder to balance and then the whole experience becomes a struggle.  You start huffing and puffing and wondering why all your stamina training is not helping you survive.

Why do you have so much useless muscle tension?  Well, there are numerous reasons that I could go on and on about, but I’ll try and narrow it down to just a few.  Here are 3 of the biggest causes of the problem…

1)      Too busy creating the ‘look’. Many people have too much tension in their bodies, because they are trying to create a certain ‘look’ or ‘posture’ and therefore end up ‘holding’ the position artificially throughout the whole dance.  Remember people: we’re supposed to be dancing!  Dancing is about movement; not about holding positions.  Surely we do have a few places where we want to create impact and essentially stop an action.  However, that should not last for more than a few seconds during each dance.

2)      Incorrect usage of joints. This is very much linked to the first issue of ‘holding’ your posture.  Too often do I see people unable to absorb the weight of their bodies through their joints, because they are too busy trying to hold a nice frame.  Imagine doing a long jump and landing with straight legs.  Ouch!  Not only are you going to have a lot of muscle tension, but you’re also going to cause unnecessary injury.

3)      Lack of Breathing. It’s unbelievable how many dancers out there dance a whole song holding their breath!  Just like running or singing, we need to make sure that our breathing is controlled and continuous.  We can’t forget to breathe, because the lack of oxygen to the muscles will also contribute to muscle tension.

energystarAs I said, there are so many reasons why people have too much muscle tension when they dance.  Some people may be affected by performance anxiety; they may have excess muscle tension from nervousness or from pure adrenalin and excitement.  Others just naturally carry around too much tension on a daily basis.  This could be due to stress, improper alignment or even just personality.  On the flipside, some people have too little muscle tone and have the exact opposite problem.  The key is to identify what tendency you have and try to change it.

It’s very difficult for me to watch people spend so much energy and waste it.  I guess this is how environmentalists feel…  So in the spirit of Earth Hour, please stop and think about how you are using energy in your daily life, not only in your home and community, but in your own body as well.  Become an energy star!  By conserving energy and reducing waste, you will enable yourself to produce a more dynamic performance and hopefully prevent injury as well.  That way, you can sustain your dancing a lot longer and live a happier and healthier life.

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