Highland dancers – achieving steady raised arms

Highland dancing

I remember when I was a young Highland dancing competitor that we all worked hard to have steady arms. With so much elevation and jumping going on in Highland it is not surprising that achieving steady arms is, for some, a real challenge. But does it need to be?

Traditionally, working to achieve steady arms in Highland was often done through using tension.Tension such as, pressing the fingers together, tightening the arms themselves, tightening the shoulders or even through tense posture.The problem in this approach is that it rarely achieves steady arms and it often creates a vicious circle of tension throughout the body. This makes it more difficult for the dancer to present well placed arms with good shoulder alignment.

I find that steady arms in Highland comes from reducing tension and enabling the shoulders and surrounding musculature to a good job of supporting the arms. Taking the unnecessary tension out of the equation and working with the anatomy of the shoulders and upper back is much more likely to result in steady arms than when focusing on and creating tension in parts of the upper body.

Skills to teach your students

Breathing and relaxation skills for Highland dancers are great skills that can help to free up movement, build more energy and stamina and enable dancers to make it through to the end of the dance without gasping for breath. These skills work, not only with Highland dancers. You can apply the skills to dance students and dancers in all dance genres.

A booklet that I wrote ‘Preparation for Performance for Highland Dancers’ covers some basic breathing exercises, relaxation skills and other useful skills. You can download this book for free from my decodanz site by clicking on the link above.

Short online CPD courses for dance teachers

You can explore this topic in more details by taking a short online course beginning in June. There are two courses, listed below, beginning in June and both are relevant for Highland teachers. You can do one or both courses (if you have the time to do two courses at the same time). The personal email tutorials that form a key part of these courses offer support in applying the learning and development to your own dance teaching practice.

Learning and teaching dance: tension and rigidity in dance


Aspects of anatomy for dance teachers: exploring basic shoulder anatomy and function in dance

Details for the June short online courses are available in an earlier post here on CPD for Dance Teachers.