Lines are very important in dance. We create shapes with our bodies and the quality of a line can either make or break the intention, message, and aesthetics of a movement.
Refining this technique on the pole can be a struggle, especially in the knee/ankle/foot area and it’s no wonder given the enormous feats we are requiring of our bodies to perform all while at the same time ensuring that we are protecting ourselves from a fall or injury. Pointing our toes and maintaining our lines can sometimes be the last thing we’re thinking about.
Now my lines are nowhere near perfection but I have learned a few things in the decade I’ve been dancing.
Firstly, you spend hours searching for the lines: practicing in the mirror, recording yourself, doing it again, and again, and again…
These hours are important.
I view learning and practicing dance much like learning (and practicing) a new language. Dance is a language. In learning a language you must first learn individual letters, their sounds, then string together those sounds to form words, and eventually sentences. Dance is no different. Poses must be learned, entries and exits into and out of the poses also practiced, a period of refinement, then placement into sequences or combinations.
As your base knowledge of individual movements (words or vocabulary) increases, your ability to communicate and express through your movement or language also increases. Just as in the language of the tongue conjunctions (for, and, but, or, yet, so, etc – words that join two or more items such as words, clauses, or sentences together) allow you to better flow through your message or expression, in dance gaining flexibility, strength, grace, and ease in your transitions will provide you with a stronger toolset to effectively and beautifully communicate. In short, you cannot provide a fluid conversation until you reach a certain level of base understanding – this is no different in dance. This is why it is so devastating when a dancer gets injured. The loss of language renders them speechless in an area they once fluidly moved and expressed through. Injury debilitates a dancer’s language thus their form of freely and effectively communicating.
To work on our lines we must first have a base understanding and foundational working form of the movement(s) we are trying to improve. Once we’ve programmed body memory into our movement we can then free up the mental space needed to practice flow, perfect our lines, and expand on our knowledge/expression. That being said I see a lot of practitioners heave themselves ungracefully into a move (something they are practicing) THEN begin working on their task (improving their lines, making it flowier, etc.). I call big mistake here because you are training your muscle memory improperly. In a language equivalent doing so would equate to implementing slang and improper grammar into our speech. EVERY movement is important to your training in this aspect. When I pole, I approach the pole in this mindset. Even when practicing a single move, shape, or transition I feel it is important to place equal weight on each step and movement leading up to and back down from said exercise. That is, in practicing the Jade for example, I place equal importance on approaching the pole (my walk), on the aesthetical lift of my spin, the lines of my invert, the quality of my leg switch, and THEN the Jade, PLUS equal mindfulness applied to my descent. To ungracefully flop myself up into an invert in preparation to practice the Jade is training my muscle memory to be sloppy and is counterproductive to my training.
So what do we need to know in order to create beautiful leg lines in our dancing?
For me, creating consistent, aesthetically pleasing leg, ankle, and toe lines begins from the thigh.
Lie down on your back, legs open into a “V” like position then imagine a spiral extending from the inside of your thigh (hip flexor area), out around your thigh, spiraling around your knees and calf muscles, then finally in around your ankle, extending out your big toe.
Stick with that thought and just streeeaaatch into it. Curl those pinky toes up towards the sky with super-strong thighs, legs, and glutes while pressing the arches of your feet up toward the ceiling. Think of exposing or presenting the instep of your foot (for a more detailed description of externally rotating the legs view my POLE DANCE TUTORIAL: LEARN HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN UNIQUE WALK STYLE @2:01). Practice this often until you become familiar with that feeling that runs from your thighs to your pinky toes.
Now take it to the pole:
The more you relax, the easier it is to manage your lines. When you are over gripping due to a lack of strength, skill, or confidence your lines reflect that strain. Practice, record yourself, and watch your footage! (If you are not recording and reviewing your movements each time you train, please take a minute to read the following article on recording yourself so that I may try to gently persuade you to change that practice). This will help you to become aware of the ‘feeling’ of your body’s alignment in comparison with your actual visual positioning and will help dial in precision body memory.
Another exercise you can try is to dance a freestyle ‘leading’ with your toes – every thought in mind being on your toes, allowing them to lead the dance. This exercise will make you more aware of your feet and lines within your usual movements and yields a new strength and purpose to your movement as well.
With consistency and diligence, you can train your body to reflect your desired movements.
Lastly, teach yourself to be aware of lines outside of your dance. Our external environment offers up incredible inspiration if we have the eyes to notice; architecture, shadows, nature, the movement of water, etc. Be mindful of them in your dance and present them in your movements. Dancing is all in the details – the energy, the intent of a line, and where you direct the gaze of your audience.
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