Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard a Dance Teacher say, is that “Stiffness Kills Dancing”.
Our stress builds up, we practice too much or too little and we get so rigid, so locked up that we can’t figure out how to be smooth or graceful anymore. Heck, maybe we never were, and we just didn’t realize it yet.
One thing is for sure, if our back is too inflexible, we can’t stretch in a line… If our shoulders make it up around our ears, and our legs get too straight… we can say goodbye to a nice head position and proper footwork!
But dancing is also the cure for stiffness, if you ask me.
Let’s face it, we dance to LOWER stress, not to increase it!!! The music, the steps, the challenge and fun all rolled up in silly goof-ups and great spins, ending in dips…
Dancing is where it’s at! Such a workout and you don’t even notice it! Calories being burned by traveling boxes and Cuban motion… all the stress of the day’s work, the weeks deadlines just melting away.
So how can we ensure that the side of this battle which we are cheering for, wins?
Here’s some ideas for tipping the balance in Dancing’s favor:
- Make a conscious decision to have stronger Heart than fear.
Ask yourself if you think Courage outweighs fear, and say yes. Because it’s true: if fear was stronger, you wouldn’t be on the floor in the first place, would you? So ask yourself again, and answer with conviction:
Your Heart is stronger than your fear.
- Give the movement all you’ve got. Attack it!
Say to yourself you’re gonna try it the crazy way, full-out, just once. Just to see. And then really go for it! Push, drive, swing as far as you can! You’ll be surprise the reaction you’ll get from your ‘stiff’ body, and the difference your partner will feel!
- Tell whomever you’re working with that you’re serious today.
If you need accountability, tell your partner that today’s practice you’re really going to focus on letting go, getting outside the barriers, breaking down walls and everything else standing in your way of shaking off the rust!
- Be patience with your body. Listen to it and find new ways around challenges.
Sometimes you will push yourself in a direction or through a step, and no matter what, it still feels awful. Don’t let yourself blame your body and it’s ‘problems’ for it; there’s nothing wrong with you. There are, however, two options here: ONE, you can try changing the way you’re doing it, ever so slightly to find a variation which feels better, or: TWO, you can seek out advice from a dancer you trust who can watch and help explain to you what they see that can be improved or done differently. That way, instead of hitting against the same brick wall over and over, you can find a way to climb…
- Put on the most motivating music you can find. Something you can’t stand still to.
Nothing loosens up a body full of stiffness like a good song and sweet vibrations! Find your inner hippy, gangsta, fighter, ballerina, star or Blackpool finalist by digging the music you’re listening to. Try songs that make you imagine yourself on the biggest, grandest floor you’ve ever seen, striding confidently across it with comfort and ease… maybe put those headphones in and shut the world out to get in the right mindset.
- Dance by yourself and break all the rules you’ve learned. Get loose, then go back to practicing with a new flexibility in mind.
Once in a while, every dancer should shake off the rules and dance only what they feel! If it’s figures and steps, fine, but do them against the LOD, with more turns, different timing… get funky with it, or add in lyrical movement and different styles mixed together. Get out of the rigid ideas of ‘This is a _____ step’ or ‘the timing is _____’. Let expectations go and just move to the music.
Following these tips when you get stuck will help you to shine new light of stiff muscles and reach past the stress! You have to let Heart win. Let yourself try things that may not work! Ask questions you’ve never asked and learn through the stiffness, what you can do to release even the most stubborn parts of your spine.
If we’re fighting a battle between rigidity and fluid motion, we may find that changing our mindset to follow suit goes a long way towards achieving the win. So remember to let new ideas or odd inspirations have their due. Be a little silly… or a lot. And give yourself the chance to be freer in your mind, so you can be free in your body, too.