Torso Technique

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by TinyDancer109, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. TinyDancer109

    TinyDancer109 Well-Known Member

    Hi all,

    This is sort of stemming off of the abs thread/european championship thread/looking at my own videos.

    I seem to have a lot of trouble with my upper body. Below the waist is fairly solid technically for now but my upper body could use some catching up.

    My question is this: are there any exercises i can do to learn how to separate my ribs-up from the bottom half of my torso? i notice that in trying to keep my center up, i become stiff in the ribs/shoulders. i have cuban motion, but i have trouble also moving my upper torso while moving my hips.

    perhaps i am approaching this all wrong? any suggestions/exercises?

    thanks!
  2. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Bellydancing?
  3. DanceJoy

    DanceJoy Member

    uh oh, this might turn into another one of TC's favorite threads *wink wink*
  4. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Practice the rumba basic - or just shifting weight from foot to foot - in front of a full length mirror, making sure to use plenty of cuban motion but keeping the rib cage square to the mirror. It's boring but should help.
  5. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    Don't laugh. It really does help learning to isolate.
  6. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    Can you be more specific about what you are trying to move in your upper torso? You said you were stiff in your shoulders--can you elaborate? Just trying to see where you're coming from so as to be able to approach it from an educated perspective.
  7. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    I really believe it. I haven't done much. About the time I tried to take it up a bit, was when I hurt my back, and so had to quit (it kept upsetting my back, probably because I was doing it wrong, but anyway), but I found it very helpful.
  8. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member


    Ron Montez has an exercise that involves sitting down and making circles in both directions with the ribcage. It in one of his DVIDA syllabus DVDs. This seems to help isolate the ribcage when you are first starting to get get a sense of it...
  9. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    Ribcage motion is a big part of my regimen, including in front of a mirror. It is a big part of my American Rhythm dancing...
  10. TinyDancer109

    TinyDancer109 Well-Known Member

    To clarify, I dont have a problem with isolating my hips, perse. i do my cuban motion while keeping my upper body still. but i think i keep it TOO still. I think i should be leading into the next step with my ribs, stretching them toward my direction of motion, then follow through with my hips. Basically, i dont want to simply isolate my hips from my top half by moving my hips and keeping my top still. i want to be able to move BOTH in any (different) directions i want. I was wondering if there are any exercises to help bulid this skill.

    A thought of something that may relate -- During my coaching with Tony Dovolani, he said i have strong legs/hips, but need to "dance with my back" more. He said he wants to still be entertained by my dancing even when i am dancing with my back to him. I think this is related to the rib cage question, as the rib cage and back muscles would most likely work together to loosen up the upper body above the hips.

    And, although not the main issue, i think the shoulders are a repercussion of the stiffness.


    Thanks, this might be a bit more of what I am looking for... It is for my Armerican Rhythm too, Ray! :)
  11. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    TinyDancer, You are very welcome! The work on ribcage motion and dancing with the back is well worthwhile. I get lots of compliments on my Mambo and Rumba because of it and the hip motion (among several few things)...

    :bouncy:
  12. chica latina

    chica latina New Member

    Tinydancer.. work through the basics slowly and after doing hip, make sure you do back movement.. ex.
    beat (put foot on floor) and weight transfer during the beat..
    and = do hip action
    a' = finish w back /compression before next beat-- while working the back, make sure to keep shoulders still and isolated as much as you can.

    at the end, result should be fluid in the upper body.. good luck
  13. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    chica latina, yes, well-explained! In our coaching, we work each part in segments like this (in many of our dances). And then smooth it all out into one continous flowing motion...

    Lately, on the Smooth side, I've been doing a similar thing with Waltz--including the subtle body movements at points such as the collection and as an extension of the rise...
  14. Piggles

    Piggles Member

    TinyDancer, for what it's worth, I've found that sometimes the rib/oblique you mentally emphasise during any motion helps create the movement through the back that I think Tony is referring to. Obviously you also want to physically emphasis it, but these days I find "mental activation" to be almost as effective. It's been a year since I switched to Latin from Rhythm, but I seem to recall this concept really helping me with my cuban motion. If I actively thought about using the emphased rib/oblique, my cuban motion tended look a lot more natural.

    As a matter of interest, I've always been told that I'm too tight through my back. Historically I relied too heavily on my upper body to move me and not enough of my lower body and core; especially in really fast movements/spins. My teacher has really been working on using fast feet, hips, use of leg flex and core (including rib/oblique emphasis) to bring my power/stability downwards. This in turn has loosened up my back and brought more movement and "play" through my upper body.

    The Ron Montez exercise sounds like a good one for increasing flexibility. You could also just go from side to side as well, ensuring nothing below the waist moves. My husband does this one every day and his rib cage flexibility is *way* better than mine!
  15. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    Piggles, thanks! If I recall, the Ron Montez exercises also include side to side and backward and forward movements, as well as circles.

    I do a lot of the side to side (and other directional) ribcage isolation work in front of a mirror, standing, doing exactly what you are saying. And segmenting it, as chica latina just described.

    It is as much of an important part of my regimen as basic ballet exercises, due not only to my commitment to American Rhythm, but also to my love of Latin.
  16. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Many things may be the root cause of "stiffness" in the shoulders or upper torso; trying to "balance" by holding your weight off the floor, insufficient use of legs and grounding, trying to "hold" the upper body to create "stillness", trying to keep the shoulders facing forward through the wrong usage of the muscles, trying to connect the body with the wrong sets of muscles, etc.

    In my experience, once I found the correct way to connect my body (legs, core, back, shoulder blades, and spine) and how the opposition in the body actually works and feels, the shoulders relaxed and the body produced the correct action. One hint I might also add is that the when you use the correct opposition in the body with the back, hips, core etc. it helps one to move in a connected fashion during the weight transfer; it allows flexible movement around the spine while helping with the transfer across the foot/leg.
  17. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    I know and feel the body forces involved a lot better after working on this relentlessly for a few years. It's the kind of thing that is hard to describe in words (which you did well); and I learned so much of it "by feel" with our coach (as I did with so many other things in dance). For me, for part of it, I feel a wave through my back from shoulder to opposite oblique, tracing sort of an "S", if that makes sense. Working the body, using that opposition that you speak of...

    And as I mentioned earlier to TinyDancer, Ron Montez' sitting exercises seem to help in the isolation of the ribcage, especially when one is first trying to get that feel that I speak of...
  18. TinyDancer109

    TinyDancer109 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your suggestions everyone! i am going to let you know how my progress goes. :)
  19. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    In Funstuff, when reading the following in the the "Car Dancers Thread", I thought of you, TinyDancer109:

    "Our instructor said the best way to practice each of these techniques is in the car (or sitting on the edge of a chair or sitting on the floor).

    Essentially, when your sitting (like in the car) your hips and pelvis stay isolated automatically so it is easier to move only your ribs or to isolate your stomach muscles."


    This is something like the Ron Montez exercise I told you about, and he even suggests (in at least one of his DVDs) of doing this while sitting in a car (while stopped, he emphasizes, if you are driving!) or on a chair.
  20. TinyDancer109

    TinyDancer109 Well-Known Member

    hahahaha, great advice, Ray!!!

    That's a great way to kill two birds with one stone and get the practice in during the day since i am a car dancer myself! ;) not to mention i sit at my desk at the office all day

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