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  1. #1
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    Default Helping new students isolate movements

    Hi everybody,

    Last night was the first night of my once a year dance class that I teach.

    I had a bigger group than usual. I worked hard to personally invite some people and had a press release in the newspaper. I have some dancers with real potential.

    However, I had two ladies in their 50's (my age) who just wanted to try the class so paid the drop-in fee. If they come back I will have a lot of work to do with them.

    I have seen this issue come up before and have always struggled to find the best way to help students who are so disconnected with their bodies that they cannot move their hips without moving their shoulders and rib cage. it is like their hips are frozen with no ability to have independent movement.

    It is hard to put into words, but for example, one lady raised her whole right side, leaning to the left and flailing her arms around to keep her balance in order to accomplish a basic down hip movement. I see this a lot especially in older beginners and am stumped as to how to help. I was wondering if anyone has any tips.

    I do the usual, try to explain in words, then stand next to them to demonstrate, have them put their hands on my body to feel what I am doing, try different stances etc, but I think she was really frustrated and not really understanding what I was saying.

    Interestingly at the end of class we did a few isolations and she could do hip slides ok, but the posture for the way I do hip slides requires very straight legs with the knees and thighs very engaged (like mountain pose in yoga).

    This is just one example to illustrate. We mostly focused on walking and basic Egyptian (hip drops) in class but I can predict she will not be able to shimmy either without her whole body involved. This is not the ordinary beginner issues where there is unfamiliarity with movements but an ability to understand and progress.

    So what would you do in this case?

    Marya

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    It is hard to put into words, but for example, one lady raised her whole right side, leaning to the left and flailing her arms around to keep her balance in order to accomplish a basic down hip movement. I see this a lot especially in older beginners and am stumped as to how to help. I was wondering if anyone has any tips.
    Take tiny steps. When I started teaching I sat down with what I considered to be my basics and teased apart the skills and introduced each one slowly then built on it.

    I start getting the students to rock their hips first - feet flat & parallel, knees bent, lift one hip into the armpit then the other. (Visualization string from outside of hip to armpit) If they have trouble with that, then direct them to bend one knee then the other (I don't start with this as I prefer to get them to use lateral flexors and using the knees will be just something they'll need to unlearn).

    If this doesn't work, I try and get them to bend sideways while standing. Then I try and hold their torso still while they try again.

    Only after they have been doing hip rocks for 3-4 weeks do I bring in a hip lift. Starting by rocking with one foot in front. Then the front foot on demi. ANd then we work on timing and emphasis.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kashmir View Post
    Take tiny steps. When I started teaching I sat down with what I considered to be my basics and teased apart the skills and introduced each one slowly then built on it.

    I start getting the students to rock their hips first - feet flat & parallel, knees bent, lift one hip into the armpit then the other. (Visualization string from outside of hip to armpit) If they have trouble with that, then direct them to bend one knee then the other (I don't start with this as I prefer to get them to use lateral flexors and using the knees will be just something they'll need to unlearn).

    If this doesn't work, I try and get them to bend sideways while standing. Then I try and hold their torso still while they try again.

    Only after they have been doing hip rocks for 3-4 weeks do I bring in a hip lift. Starting by rocking with one foot in front. Then the front foot on demi. ANd then we work on timing and emphasis.
    This sounds like a good exercise. During those three or four weeks you are using this exercise to build up to hip drops, what else do you do?

    I start with posture and walking and the hip drop before moving on to shimmies, arm movements etc.

    How do you keep your students engaged through exercises designed to build skills but that aren't really dance movements.

    Marya

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    This sounds like a good exercise. During those three or four weeks you are using this exercise to build up to hip drops, what else do you do?

    I start with posture and walking and the hip drop before moving on to shimmies, arm movements etc.

    How do you keep your students engaged through exercises designed to build skills but that aren't really dance movements.

    Marya
    I'd disagree that a hip rock isn't a "dance movement". When I introduce each new move I show them what they will be working on and how it fits into a dance - eg with the hip rock I show them a shimmy and a walking shimmy and hip drops and lifts. They also spend some time interpreting music with just a hip rock - slow, fast, sharp, soft etc.

    I introduce two-three new things each week and build on the previous weeks moves - spiral curriculum approach. Each week there is also a dance section - usually a very simple improv exercise based on what they have been doing, sometimes a follow the bouncing butt session (with me trying hard to keep to what they should be able to do).

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    Also remember that your student/s may be nervous because it is their first class and they can't relax. Give them time to get comfortable with the whole concept of BDing. Good luck with your class.

  6. #6
    Administrator Salome's Avatar
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    I, occasionally, have had people sit or even lay to work on an isolation when it is a major challenge for them. Allowing gravity and contact to do part of the work can really spark a connection for some folks until they graduate into standing in it.

    If she sat in a chair, normal sitting posture, contact with the arm rests, back against the chair, feet flat... Concentrated on keeping her body in contact with all those points in the chair and "lifted", say, her right hip. Her bum would never leave contact with the chair seat, but you can totally and clearly feel the lift. I've never used a chair in class for someone, but I have had them sit on the floor, with their back against the wall and arms in contact also.

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salome View Post
    I, occasionally, have had people sit or even lay to work on an isolation when it is a major challenge for them. Allowing gravity and contact to do part of the work can really spark a connection for some folks until they graduate into standing in it.

    If she sat in a chair, normal sitting posture, contact with the arm rests, back against the chair, feet flat... Concentrated on keeping her body in contact with all those points in the chair and "lifted", say, her right hip. Her bum would never leave contact with the chair seat, but you can totally and clearly feel the lift. I've never used a chair in class for someone, but I have had them sit on the floor, with their back against the wall and arms in contact also.
    Yes, sitting can be useful. For hip slides I sometimes use the doorway as well (arms braced, tap each side)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    Kashmir and Salome

    I am curious about this technique of using only the muscles in the upper body (waist area) (sorry about imprecise language) to generate the hip drop movement.

    I use a combination of the thigh pushing back and up and upper body muscular contraction. sometimes depending on context the hip drop is generated more with lower body movement. All offer a slightly different "look".

    Thanks for the tips, I will try them out. I have never had a teacher use these exercises, nor have i ever had a teacher that emphasized generating this movement with only the contraction of those muscles in the waist area.

    Have either of you ever used a chair or barre and asked the students to hold on and then lift the knee of the action leg up and then had them do hip lifts and drops? (hope that makes sense) I have problems with my SI joint and doing it this way with my leg unsupported hurts sometimes so I tend not to use it for teaching anymore. My studio doesn't have a barre in it either.

    Most of my students have little knowledge of anatomy and mine while getting better is basic as far as muscles go so I tend to use the point method. I point to my body and say I am contracting these muscles and then releasing, or something like that.

    Marya

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    Have either of you ever used a chair or barre and asked the students to hold on and then lift the knee of the action leg up and then had them do hip lifts and drops? (hope that makes sense) I have problems with my SI joint and doing it this way with my leg unsupported hurts sometimes so I tend not to use it for teaching anymore. My studio doesn't have a barre in it either.

    Most of my students have little knowledge of anatomy and mine while getting better is basic as far as muscles go so I tend to use the point method. I point to my body and say I am contracting these muscles and then releasing, or something like that.
    I've only a small studio with limited vertical surfaces (it's fitted in under the roof) so while I'd like a barre I also like to use the wall occasionally and decided against it. A barre would also frighten off my normal clientale! I sometimes demonstrate the leg in the air version - usually as a threat to someone who wants to use the heel of the "action leg" to generate the movement. But unless they already have good abs and balance it is counter-productive - I keep a couple of fat book for padding instead.

    I don't expect my students to know anatomy. I also point but occasionally label - often just with imprecise layman's language when it doesn't matter. The only one I try not to use is "stomach muscles" - no time for processing chyme in class.

  10. #10
    Administrator Salome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marya View Post
    I am curious about this technique of using only the muscles in the upper body (waist area) (sorry about imprecise language) to generate the hip drop movement.

    I use a combination of the thigh pushing back and up and upper body muscular contraction. sometimes depending on context the hip drop is generated more with lower body movement. All offer a slightly different "look".
    I do the Leg driven type of Turkish hip lifts and drops, not the Egyptian contraction variety and that's what I teach also. But I still think the sitting method is helpful. Breaks those hips loose and builds that mind body connection with the task.

    Most of my students have little knowledge of anatomy and mine while getting better is basic as far as muscles go so I tend to use the point method. I point to my body and say I am contracting these muscles and then releasing, or something like that.
    I use the point method too! I totally agree that anatomy terms are unfamiliar to most and thus do not serve the purpose of using them during breakdown of movement.

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