Empower Your Dance Through Core Conditioning

“Empower Your Dance through Core Conditioning” – A Letter

March, 2007

My Dearest Darling God(dess) Daughter –

The days are definitely longer. I’m writing to you in the very early morning, and noticing — just two weeks before we “spring” our clocks ahead, that it is much lighter in the early morning hours, and that daylight thankfully persists just a little longer in the evening. And even though we just had a heavy snow last night, it will melt off today — in contrast to the snowstorm that we had just two weeks ago, which left snow and ice that lasted for a full week.

In short, spring is on its way. Even though it is still cold outside, and still winter, our bodies are beginning to “wake up” to the new year.

We celebrate the arrival of spring — even the arrival of “pre-spring” — in many ways. For a week now, I’ve been having “closet-cleaning fantasies.” I envision closets that have been completely emptied, cleansed as far back as the darkest crevices and corners, are freshly painted with charming, soft, feminine colors, and are then re-filled with clothes, shoes, and accessories, all easy-to-see, easy-to-reach. I envision creating wonderful new outfits simply by being more creative with what I already have — and of course, shopping for and wearing new spring clothes.

And nothing, of course, is more inspiring for getting fit and trim to wear these new clothes than watching Oscar night, and seeing all of our “goddesses” on stage — didn’t they look fantastic? And totally fit; they were all wearing “pour-on” dresses with not an extra ounce of flab detracting from their marvelous waistlines. (So maybe some of those gowns had boning — it’s the fantasy that counts!)

As any of us in the dance world — or performance world of any sort — know already, (quoting my favorite muse, Elsa Schiaparelli, “Fantasy Requires Determination.” We can make magic happen. It just requires incredible hard work, focus, and determination. As well as style, panache, a sense of fearlessness, and numerous other Diva qualities. The exhilarating “lift” of Oscar night, or performamce night for any of us, is backed by countless hours and days, and often months and years, of “backstage labor,” simply the work involved in any creative activity — not to mention perfecting our craft.

When we want to create fantasy through our dance, draw on two aspects that give us our fundamentals; our “craft” as dancers. The first is the very intrinsic, internal, connection with our bodies and their alignment, with the very subtle body/energy connections. This is a very inward or “yin” practice. (See letters from December, January, and February.)

But now we are feeling that transition into spring, and we are becoming more “yang” — more external and goal-oriented, more wanting to get things done — beginning with making changes in ourselves. And if we’ve been putting off exercise, we now suddenly feel motivated.

Pragmatically, let me encourage you towards core conditioning.

When you develop strong abs, and can separately and independently control the different muscle layers, and also separately control the different portions of each different layer (e.g., upper abdominal muscles distinctly from lower, etc.), then you will find that your body discovers in itself the “belly dance” aspect of belly dance. You will find that abdominal muscles will suggst little choreography movements to you. And even the techniques that you’ve done for a while will take on a new “springiness,” a new sense of uplift and energy. Heavens, you’ll even find that you walk up the stairs with greater ease!

Similarly, when you start conditioning your buttocks and thighs, you’ll find that not only will your pelvic work improve, but your step combinations will be easier; both lighter and more powerful at the same time.

My dance friends who work out, and do strength training and cardio training in addition to their dance practice, all report that they have more endurance for their dance, as well as better overall performance.

All of this is a necessary and powerful aspect of your Level 1 training. As you transition to Level 2 work, you will find that you make much greater progress with “relaxing and releasing” when your core muscles are strong and can support you. It is then much easier for you to release other muscles, and to release overall tension. And like a tigress, you will feel that the increased sense of power that you get from a toned, strong body gives you the confidence to be more relaxed and supple.

I find that my ability to do Level 3 energy cultivation work is very connected with my overall level of physical strength and conditioning. This is at least in part because we can use our abdominal muscles to pulsate an “overlay” on top of our basic undulation vocabulary. This has some interesting effects! Also, when we can control our lower diaphragm muscles, we not only build a greater “floor” supporting our abdominal-area organs, but can “contain” the energy that we cultivate so much more. (Yes, literally “prana-bindu” .)

You may wish to turn your attention to the rising energy, or “increasing yang,” of springtime. If so, please pay particular attention to your own perception of energy shifts as we approach and go through Vernal Equinox, followed shortly by Easter or Ostra’s Day. This is a good time to experiment with taking the new spring energy into your choreographies, and even into your dance improvisation.

Love – Alay’nya

P.S. — Having done this for most of the past several years, I have been moving on to a deeper and more comprehensive set of strategies, that I will write to you about in the next letter. But it is an organizational framework such as this that allows greater levels of strategy to happen. I love you! Be well. I am thinking about you, and sending love in your direction.