As a young dancer I was encouraged to breathe when I danced. I am not talking about making a huge thing about breathing. Rather it was about taking a breath to enhance the step or movement I was about to perform and also to assist in making hard work in dance look reasonably calm or easy. There was no point in performing a beautiful dance but then looking as if you were about to expire from not being able to catch your breath. So breathing was part of my training and I think in many ways this training was ahead of its time in its thinking and approach.
Stamina demanding dance
Take the demands of Highland dancing as one example – a very stamina demanding form of dance. When constantly hopping and springing throughout a whole dance it is easy for the dancer to begin to look tired and out of breath. Paying attention to the breathing can help with pacing the dancer as well as stamina. If a dancer loses all of his or her breath each times she lands from a hop, spring or jump then he or she will very quickly be out of puff and this will quickly show in the carriage and poise of the dancer. Breathing well in dance will enhance good stamina rather than reducing it. Having good stamina and good breathing is a terrific combination.
As breathing was part of my training it felt natural to breath well and use the breath to enhance whatever dance genre I was performing. I found that taking a breath at the right time for me in dance made a difference to how I felt and also how the movement looked. Getting the breathing right can help to make a performance appear light, airy and effortless instead of heavy and full of effort.
Working with the breath, to me, is a vital part of dance. If you have downloaded and read my booklet Preparation for Performance then you will know that teaching breathing in dance is something I have been involved with from way back in the 1970s.
In addition to using breathing techniques in dance I have also been involved in teaching relaxation techniques to dancers of all ages for many years including teaching relaxation techniques in the workplace, within wellbeing workshops and stress management courses. I guess it is not surprising that my journey of the breath has taken me into mindfulness and the mindful breath too. Learning about and practising mindful breath offers yet another aspect of how the breath and the body work together.
Breathe and focus
In dance, breathing can be a good way to begin releasing tension in the body. I find that taking time to breathe (a few deep breaths in and out) before starting teaching a class or taking part in a class is a great way to focus and prepare your mind for what you are about to do. Being present in the moment when teaching and participating is a different experience to teaching whilst being distracted by something else or dancing whilst thinking of something else. Why not try, taking a few breaths to focus on what you are doing right now and see how it feels? Does it feel feel different to be fully present in the moment?
Currently my Tension & Rigidity course is running and another course that is relevant to this post is my Mindfulness in Dance Teaching. You can find out about all the short online CPD courses that I do for dance teachers by clicking here.
There are also earlier posts that you might want to read such as: Mindfulness in Dance Teaching and Highland Dancers Achieving Steady Raised Arms and Relaxation Technique. Breathing is a great topic to explore for dancers and dance teachers. It has a lot to offer for your own wellbeing as well as that of your dancers. I hope you will take a look at it in more depth and see what it has to offer.