Tips For Keeping Your Shoulders Down In Leaps and Turns

Reader Question:

How can I get my shoulders down in leaps and turns?  I have been told many times to fix my shoulders and I feel that sometimes it gets better, but other times my shoulders will go up.  Do you have any tips?

tips for keeping shoulders down

Lesley:
It’s great that you can acknowledge that your shoulders are and issue and can use some work. Chances are, you don’t do enough with them in warm-up to focus on them in your dance technique. I think the best thing you can do pre-warm ups that help you focus on what it feels like to push down into your scapula or should blades. Here are some ideas.

Isolations
– shoulder rolls both together and alternating shoulders
– shoulder presses up and down both together and alternating shoulders

Neck Lengthening
– head tilts to the side flexing opposite hand down on both the left and right

I would also use physical images in the mirror to show you both what it feels like to lift the should and what it looks like to push the shoulders down. Think about your torso as an entire unit and your neck as a long extension from the torso . If you are having issues with lifting your shoulders in turns chances are you are probably also opening the rib cage. Remember to keep that rib caged closed and tight for a nice balanced turn. Keep up the good work and acknowledging those thing that will always make you better!

Sherise:
That’s great that you are listening to your critiques and wanting to improve.  The first thing to do is to strengthen your core. This will improve the strength in your back as well. This way you can have more control over your entire body.  When leaping, make sure you are starting from a plié. Push with your feet to get your height – don’t try to lift with your arms. It also helps some dancers to think about squeezing their shoulder blades together.  Always stretch and warm up first. This includes your arms and upper back. Keep working on it and you will have it in no time! Don’t give up!

Temperance:
Many of my students struggle with keeping their shoulders pressed down! Especially in leaps because it is natural to want to LIFT anywhere in your body in order to get the leap higher. Here are some suggestions that may help you- remember though; you have to be focused on something like this all the time in order to break the habit of lifting the shoulders. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are focused on it constantly, you will see huge changes!

*Concentrate on how it feels to sit in butterfly position, and really stretch THROUGH the back, and exaggerate keeping the tops of shoulders pushed down. Almost think elongate your triceps to pull down through your elbows. Use this same feeling for your dancing. Always be thinking – elongate THROUGH the arms rather than to think about hunching forward.

*Think of keeping the shoulders BEHIND the collarbone and BEHIND the chest. This is going to almost feel like the back is arching- but it won’t. It will just take some getting used to.

*Think of when we do shoulder rolls in warm up- feel the muscles really working to move your shoulders BACK and use that same feeling when you dance.

*Stretch your back and upper shoulders a LOT before dancing, more so than normal. Sometimes, the shoulders come up or lean forward simply due to tension in that area! Stretch it out and warm up properly!

*Whenever you prep for turns (ball change out-in), think to keep your shoulders in line with the sides of your body/ribcage, almost near where your back starts. For example, when you sit up tall with really good posture (like a book is balancing on your head), the shoulders should be DIRECTLY on the sides of your body. It should remain this way for ALL leaps/turns/preps for turns/balances in releve during barre work/etc.

*Think of a weight, or something like football shoulder pads, sitting on your shoulders and pushing them down and back.

This is really something you are just going to have to FEEL within your muscles and be conscious of when you’re dancing. The more you understand this and feel the upper back and shoulders working, your dancing will look SO SO SO MUCH STRONGER.

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