Posture is arguably the most important technical element of dancing: not only is good posture essential in order to move your body properly, but it is also necessary for creating good-looking lines. In this exercise, we’re going to deal with a common posture problem: the turtle.
One of the most common posture problems in contemporary society is raised shoulders. Instead of sitting into our back, our shoulders creep up towards the ears, and usually also roll forward, collapsing the chest. Anyone who works in front of a computer screen knows how easy it is to find your shoulders shrugged. This position looks like a turtle trying to retract its head into its shell, hence the name.
The correction for this problem is simple: lengthen the neck. Think about pulling the shoulders down at one end, and pulling the head up as if it were on a string at the other end. The effect of this is to lengthen the neck from both directions: the head is going up while the shoulders are going down.
This posture helps you dance mechanically because your head is more aligned over your body and your shoulder joint is connected with your back muscles. It also helps your lines. For women, a long neck appears elegant and graceful. In men, the lowered shoulders open up the chest, creating a more masculine position. In both genders, holding the head high is a sign of confidence.
The Drill: Although lengthening the neck is easy to do, it’s also easy to forget. The best way to practice this skill is by constant awareness. For the next day, build cues into your environment that remind you to lengthen your neck. These cues could be post-it notes by your work space, an alarm that goes off every half hour, or a reminder taped to your coffee cup. Be creative!
If you are going out for an evening of social dancing, a great way to practice is to decide that a long neck is going to be your focus for the evening. At the beginning of every dance, remind yourself to work on your posture. Hopefully you will also remember in the middle of the dance (usually because you’ve noticed that your shoulders are by your ears again!). When that happens, take the next anchor to reset yourself.