Pelvic Alignment – Part Two – To Tilt or Not to Tilt?

 

tilt
photo:  easyflexibility.com

by Janine Bryant for The Dance Journal

All dancers know that skeletal alignment or, more accurately, making the desired shape, is a highly sought after skill toward which every dancer works in their technique classes and in the rehearsal studio.  Dancers are masters at proprioception or feeling where their bodies are in space.  Oftentimes, though, dancers first make a new shape and, with repetition, that shape begins to ‘feel right’.  It is rare to find a dancer who learns a new body position that can admit, on the spot, that it feels comfortable!

While there are multiple aspects to consider regarding good skeletal alignment, the pelvis plays a significant role due to its location, structure, and muscular attachments. Some movements, though, require degrees of pelvic tilt that dancers are trained to feel for. But how far is too far?

In this second installment of the journey toward pelvic neutral, we will consider the question: Is there a degree of pelvic tilt that should or could be optimum for each individual dancer and, if so, what are the aesthetic, anatomical and biomechanical considerations?

When in a natural position in relation to the rest of the body, the pelvis assumes neutral alignment because the surrounding joints and muscles are balanced. Neutral pelvic alignment can help us to achieve efficient execution of dynamic movements and static positions and therefore more effective muscle recruitment. Not only might neutral pelvis facilitate body movements in general but it also seems to improve specific action at hip and lumbar spine. {1}

There are some movements, however, that require the pelvis deviate from neutral such as the lateral tilt, certain aspects of Horton fortification exercises and Graham floor work. During these movements, the relationship between the pelvic girdle, and the ribcage definitely shift from traditional neutral but are done with degrees of understanding while adhering to the technical and aesthetic requirements of each respective movement. During the lateral tilt, for example, the pelvis tilts but only insomuch as it allows for a 90 degree angle between the gesture leg and the lateral ribcage. There is a clear aesthetic for which the dancer is to aim – any further tilt or shift in the pelvis and the aesthetic is lost.

What about classical ballet movements?  To what degree is a dancer realistically able to hold a neutral pelvis and at what muscular cost?

Most of us learned that the pelvis should be still for the whole time during grande rond de jambe en l’air both at and past 90°. Yet researchers observed that amongst experienced dancers the pelvis itself is deeply involved in gesture leg range of motion, especially when the leg is raised past 90°. In order to move the leg fully at highly vertical angles, the pelvis seems to follow the leg – even though we aim for creating an illusion of an immobile pelvis.  In a follow-up study the role of the pelvis was examined in facilitating gesture leg motion, and the related “cost” of the muscles involved. For skilled dancers the effort in the gesture leg is smaller than in the standing leg. This was reversed in less skilled dancers. So we might conclude that the skilled dancers worked more efficiently in their standing leg to support the pelvis and gesture leg, whereas the less skilled dancers are mostly using the muscles in the gesturing leg.  A recommendation to the teacher might be to appreciate that when working on movements where one leg is moving fully, a strategy to focus on the standing leg will help balance the necessary movement in the pelvis and spine. Not allowing the pelvis to move commensurately with the gesturing leg will decrease the potential range of motion and place unnecessary stress on the hip joint and lumbar spine. {1, 2}

This is interesting to consider and, hopefully, freeing for dancers to learn!  Given the above statement, the individual dancer’s specific training level is considered, which can be good news for most of us needing our pelvis to come along for the ride just a bit for movements like grande rond de jambe en l’air.  It makes sense that positioning of the standing leg and work firing core and stabilizer muscles is stressed.

It is important to focus on the journey.  Dancers are free to tilt or not to tilt, depending on the genre, aesthetic, individual shape and training level, and with proper guidance from teachers monitoring training and development.

Until next time, friends, dance healthy and strong!

Janine Bryant
Director of Dance Programs
Eastern University, St. Davids, Pa.
jbryant3@eastern.edu

 

References:

1. Fischer Gam C,  Urmston E, Dancing with the pelvis, alignment, deviations and mobility.  IADMS Education Committee, April 30, 2015:  http://www.iadms.org/blogpost/1177934/General

2. Decker JL, Barry SM, Welsh TM.  Analysis of Pelvic alignment in university ballet majors.  J Dance Med Sci. 2007; 11 (4): 110-7.

3. Wilson, M, Applying biomechanic research in the dance studio. The IADMS Bulletin for Teachers. Volume 1, Number 2, 2009.

About Janine Bryant

Janine Bryant, Senior Lecturer in Dance, Faculty of Performing Arts at University of Wolverhampton in The United Kingdom. She originally hails from Pennsylvania, USA and was the former Chair of Dance and Director of the Dance Program at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa. There she taught courses for Dance, Biokinetics/Kinesiology at the Loeb School of Education, as well as at the Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies. She has been teaching technique and choreographing classical and contemporary ballets for more than twenty years.

Janine received her B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in 1986. Janine is an active member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and was recently added to their Peer Review Board, Poster Judging Committee and Education Committee. Janine also is a member of PAMA (Performing Arts Medicine Association) and is currently earning her PhD in Dance Medicine and Science from The University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom.

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