At Atmosphere Fitness, we talk a lot of exercise science and fitness in our trainings. We do this from a safety and progression standpoint, but we also include dance. Dance basics can help everyone in aerial arts and pole to find better posture, beautiful lines and that polished finish all performers desire. We wanted to select one dance principle and talk about it.
Extension Extension means lengthening through the body to find the full expression of a pose. Basically it is the activation of the muscle to create length. If you extend my arm up over the head, you lengthen the body, creating a line and the allusion of length. If you do not extend, usually meaning you are not engaging the muscle, or lengthen halfway you break the line and frankly look unfinished. Now you can use bent arm to break the length, but properly done you will still be engaging and extending even with a bent arm.We call the full length extension, Lengthened lever extension and the bent limb, shorter or shortened lever extension.
In most forms of modern dance when you extend and finish your movement, you have complete lines and polish, you also create an emotional reaction from your audience. You are telling a story with your body, that is dance at it’s root. Your movement is used to express emotion and communication. Length can produce ideas of laughter, whimsy, happiness, love, breathlessness, openness, forward movement and these are great performance concepts. Extended but shortened levers can convey the emotion of being trapped, blocked, locked out, jilted by a lover, shunned. These are great emotions and can lead to interesting elements in a performance concept.
Look at the Examples below and check in with your emotional reaction to the poses.
The big problem is unfinished movement and lack of extension. The most important part of extension is this is that you are making the conscience choice to extend and engage. There is no halfway between, indecision or lack of lengthening awareness just makes a movement look unfinished and sloppy. When we take on difficult moves or get tired we often lose our extension and form. We see it all the time in pole performance, where a performer did not plan for the endurance required to complete a routine or choice moves that were too hard to complete in the routine. Two minutes in the performance looks sloppy, the performer looks tired and the movement looks unpolished.
How to Work on Extension
Extension requires muscle activation and the thought of the movement as continuation. This means, engage and reach not just through the arm, but the hands, the fingers and even think past the finger tips outside the body. You can use the ballet concept of active strong limbs, then softness in the hands.
To practice extension, use a mirror. Take very simple dance moves or aerial moves and slow them down. Pause in each one and look at your body. Are you fully extending? Through the finger tips? Through the toes? Through the spine and head? Most importantly what is happening to your form as you transition from moves?