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Improve Floor-Work Technique
Dancers today are under a lot of stress; there are more technically advanced dancers than ever before, and one has to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd. One important aspect of any dancing routine is choreographic depth. One way to showcase depth, is to develop dancing “levels”; these levels usually include at least a section of floor-work, which is dance movement done on the ground.
Every modern, jazz and lyrical dancer finds a time when floor-work starts to take a toll. Many dancers come home with bumps, bruises and fatigued bodies that come from working on floor-work routines. Let’s face it; floor-work takes a lot of finesse, strength and development. When a dancer continuously faces floor-work challenges in their dance routines, they have to take extra measures to keep up with the choreography. There are many exercises a dancer can do, to improve many aspects of their floor-work.
Upper Body Strength
Upper body strength is a major part of fluid floor-work movement. The first thing a dancer should strive to do is to increase upper body strength. Usually this comes easier to the gents, so all you girls out there need to take time a few days a week, to develop this area of the body!
- Push-ups: A great way to increase push-up capacity is to hold the body in a plank position, and slowly lower the body all the way to the ground. If this is too hard try resting the body on the knees. The key to this exercise is to lower the body as slow as possible. After completing this exercise five times, try to do as many push-ups as possible. Do them until fatigue. Make sure the body is a solid plank, and use those stomach muscles! At the end of every month a dancer should have increased capacity for number of push-ups by at least ten.
- Pull-ups: Now this one is more challenging for the ladies as well. A good push up really works the shoulders. Try finding an outdoor jungle gym, or acquire a pull-up bar. If a dancer cannot complete a single push-up then try to hold the body up by jumping up to the bar, and holding onto the bar with the arms bent. Hold this position and lower the body as slow as possible. Then try as hard as possible to pull the body back up. Continuing this exercise a few times a week will lead to an eventual pull-up, which will multiply with hard work.
- Hand Stands: Try doing a hand-stand against a wall, and hold it for as long as possible. Eventually graduate to balancing a hand stand in mid air, then try walking on the hands! This balance will increase strength all over the body and will certainly strengthen floor-work capacity!
One of the most crucial aspects to dance form is core strength; this intensifies even more with floor-work. Anyone who lacks in this area needs to work on it pronto!
- Crunches: One of the best ways to increase core strength is with a good old crunch. Make sure the crunch is coming from the center of the core, and the head must be faced towards the ceiling. Meet one knee at a time, with a bent elbow and continue rocking this crunch until exhaustion.
- V-balances: Lay on your back with the arms above the head, and the legs stretched out straight, come up as far as possible while bending at the waist only, and lift the arms and legs to the sky. Keep them straight and stay balanced; the longer the balance the higher the strength.
- Leg-lifts: This exercise requires an exercise unit that can be found in the local gym. The upper body stays suspended, and hangs down, while being supported on the forearms, which are holding onto two bars. Lift the lower body with the legs straight out in front (in a 90 degree angle), and try to get the lower body as high as possible before controlling the lift back down. Do this until the muscles are tired. This can also be done while laying on the floor, keep the body straight and the arms out to both sides; now lift the lower portion of the body up, with the legs pointed up to the ceiling. Repeat.
- Back Bends: Push the body up to a back-bend, and hold for ten seconds. Now come down so the body is resting on the upper back, while the lower body is still raised. Now lower the body down to the ground one vertebrae at a time until the tail bone is one the floor, make sure to push the stomach muscle toward the ground while doing this. Repeat this three times, and try to do this exercise a few times a week.
Every floor-work routine comes with a multitude of transitions. The key to beautiful floor-work is to keep those transitions precise and clean. If the transitions are not understood, it would be wise to get with a fellow dancer, or the choreographer, to find out exactly how the transitions are supposed to look. Transitions need clarity and fluidity, so try thinking of phrasing and musicality with each movement.
Another important aspect of floor-work, is getting to the ground and back up gracefully! Sometimes choreography requires a controlled fall, and the dancer must drop to the floor quickly, and in some awkward positions at that! It is important to retain confidence, and a mental connection with the music and message, so the body just follows. Try the following exercises to help with controlled falls, and proper ways to get back up from a floor position:
- Jump and Roll: Start in a neutral standing position and jump up, then drop to the floor, sitting on the behind, roll back in a rocking position, then pop back up in one smooth motion into another jump. Repeat this exercise until it looks like one movement. Notice how the body uses inertia to complete the movement in a fluid-like fashion. Retain this feeling and mind-set when doing a quick drop to start floor-work movement, and when getting back up to an upright dancing position.
- Another exercise to try is to get up without using the arms every single time you arise off the floor in any dance classes. Always find new ways to rise without pushing off the floor with the hands. This will improve strength, balance, and poise.
With hard work and determination, any dancer can gain the strength to develop floor-work technique. It will only take a few months to improve every aspect of floor-work, and it is sure to stand out in a dancer’s performance. One of the best things a dancer can do outside of these exercises is to just practice, even if it is at a slower pace at home. This will make each movement and transition concrete, so there are no questions when it comes time to execute the movement. Knowing exactly what comes next, without any doubt will increase confidence, and that too will show in performances.