If you ask yourself how much of your life you have spent looking at a screen, would the number of hours per day shock you? It may not come as a surprise to find out that staring at the screen has become a species-level problem. Whether its hours of binge-watching youtube or a series, working at a computer at an office or at home, or just absentmindedly gawking at your smartphone – if you find yourself slowly turning into the infamous Hunchback of Notre Dame inch by inch, then you know for sure you’ve got a problem.
Looking beyond the mental and social effects of glueing your face to a screen for a large part of the day, we as dancers need to watch out for the effects it has on our posture and the art form.
Bad postural habits can easily creep into our lives and our dancing, and we often aren’t even aware of it!
We have to keep reminding ourselves to lengthen up and out like swans soaring in the sky! Not slumping down with bent necks like flamingos searching for plankton, as we do when sitting in front of a screen.
Get Rid of Bad Habits
Now the point of this article isn’t to get you off the internet, or completely off your phone — you’re still allowed to use them but do so consciously. It’s about unhooking your body from the harmful routines it has adopted around a particular device/habit, and hooking it onto better habits. Like holding your back and neck up while you’re sitting at a desk or not looking directly down at your feet when you walk. Even starting your day with the thought that today I will try and be more aware of my posture, can help train you.
It’s so easy to be accustomed to dropping your shoulders forward and slouching. So, lift your sternum bone (chest) up to the ceiling, hold your back up and stomach in. Have your shoulders open towards the sides, both evenly in the front and at the back. Avoid sticking your chest out or curving your back. These few basics are a template on how you should hold yourself as a dancer.
Dance Dangers of too much screentime
It ruins our line
– ballet dancers are forever striving to achieve our most elongated lines possible. Dropping your chin and having your eye line downwards completely throws those lines out.
The best remedy for this is to remember to bring Miss Elina’s ear fairies to class. They’ll perch on the tops of your ears pulling you upwards to the sky, giving your neck the space to grow a couple of centimetres.
A performance stand still
– we are dancers, we are performers! It’s hardly a performance if we spend half our time looking directly down instead of outwards to the audience. The trick is to always keep your imaginary audience cheering you on. Bring them along everywhere; the more you think about it the better. Soon you’ll find that you’re automatically more lifted and will even help overcome any uneasy feeling of performing in front of a crowd.
All for the aesthetic
– not only is it important for performing but also to stay true to the art form. Ballet is all about the aesthetic, a hunched back and dropping neck is simply not the ballet way! So chin up and chest lifted, on stage, in the studio and out on the streets.
Messes with our technique
– the moment we look down we end up sticking our bums out and that’s a recipe for disaster. Practice carrying a water bottle or a heavy book on your head to test how much it takes to get into the right habit of walking with your head lifted high and your shoulders back.
You can of course also do back, shoulder and core exercises to help you strengthen the right muscles to hold your posture. This is not only beneficial to dancing, but to the body in general. A good idea is to do these with the help of a teacher, ensuring the exercises are performed correctly!