by Bette Chamberlin
When I was a professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theater, people would come up to me and ask “are you a dancer? and then immediately “you have such good posture.” I would reply “yes”, and “thank you”. I felt content that in fact I had good posture. But that compliment was always tied with “are you a dancer?”
When I stopped dancing professionally and started to teach ballet, I continued to be that dancer that “had good posture”, yet I was unwittingly passing along the model of an over straightened spine to my students. At the same time, I was experiencing intense neck and shoulder pain. My spine was braced and operating by habit, acting as if I was still a professional ballet dancer, and not responding to conventional treatments. My anxiety about this was building and became another daily challenge.
The reality is that most of us dancers have an idea about posture that involves way too much muscular tension.
And I was an excellent example of this.
It wasn’t until I started looking for both relief for my neck pain and a more organic way to look at posture that I bumped into F. M. Alexander’s discovery. Rethinking the relationship between my head neck and spine was a revelation. I was soon pain free and decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher.
Since that time, I have studied Ballroom dancing for the past 12 years, in particular American Rhythm and International Latin. There is no question that had I not changed my impression of “good posture” I would not have been able to continue lessons all these years, win competitions and find the enjoyment in moving.
Is there a special posture that we apply to ballroom versus walking down the street, waiting in line at the market, singing or playing a musical instrument?
We have all been taught by our awesome teachers that there is a specific angle of the head, or an element of body positioning that is required to evoke tango, salsa, waltz or rumba.
However, I have learned that good posture is based on the architecture of our bodies, the support of the spine, muscles, ligaments and tendons that help to move our amazing structure. But HOW to coordinate this in an efficient manner is what I have learned over the years.