Technique Review: Posture
What does the word “posture” conjure for you? A young lady at finishing school balancing books on her head? Well, if you’re an Irish dancer you might have a different answer! When most people think about “posture” for Irish dance, the first thing that comes to mind is the unique form Irish dance utilizes: an unmoving, straight spine as their feet are flying. But good posture isn’t about just not moving your upper body—there’s a lot more to it than that!
Good posture in other forms of dance is a little simpler than Irish dance (what isn’t,) with the term generally referring to an alignment of the spine and body—from the top of the head through the heels. Good posture isn’t just about correct technique--it’s about putting the least amount of stress on your ligaments, muscles, and body in general while performing an activity. There are benefits to maintaining good posture, whether or not you’re a dancer—less wear on bones and joints, decreased back pain and spine issues, and helps prevent muscle fatigue—but for dancers the stakes are even higher. Not only will the adjudicators notice incorrect posture (and dock you!) but maintaining a correct posture while dancing can also help prevent injury. With back pain as one of the most common complaints for dancers across disciplines, the best option for avoiding it is maintaining proper posture from the get-go to lessen the strain!
But posture for Irish dance goes beyond standing up straight—it’s all in the arms! To get into the right posture for Irish dance, first stand with your spine straight, heart up (make sure to avoid arching your back and pushing out your ribs!), and push your shoulders back as far as you can—ideally until your shoulder blades touch at your spine! Try it at home, parents—it’s not comfortable, is it? It’s not any way to go about your day to day, but it’s the standard, required posture for solo Irish dance. And that’s not all! The arms need to be kept completely straight to the sides, hands always in fists. It’s a lot to remember while also remembering those steps!
Issues with posture tend to stem from dancers not holding the correct amount of tension in their bodies. Too stiff and your movements will become jerky and awkward versus smooth and graceful. Too loose and the upper and lower body won’t appear to be in sync. Either of these issues encourage the biggest mistakes we see with Irish dancer posture: shoulders rolling forward (think what your dancer looks like hunched over their phone all day,) loose and untamed arms, bent arms, or arms pulling away from the body.
But how can we encourage correct Irish dance posture? A technique we like to use in class (but can easily be utilized at home as well!) is pinning rubber circles (or paper plates) between the elbow and the ribcage. If the arm comes away from the body at all, the plate drops! This is a great way for your dancer to practice their feis performances—muscle memory is everything. The other key is core and upper body conditioning. A strong core and arms allow the position necessary for Irish dance to be held, even while the feet are constantly moving.
There are so many exercises and tutorials available to help your Irish dancer with their posture! Miss Courtney suggests lateral pulses, shoulder rows, “dead bugs,” superman pulses and holds, and any core work at all! For our littlest dancers, egg rolls (and the paper plate trick) are the best starting point. Wherever your dancer starts from, these exercises and practices will not only improve their dancing, but help with their overall back health—whether they keep dancing or not!
Tune in next time for a more advanced technique review, but a pivotal one as your dancer continues on their Irish dance journey: height on toes!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last technique review, all about crossing, here. Also: check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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