Why do we practice body isolations? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think…and the real answer is important for not just your dancing, but also your life!
As dancers, we are introduced to the idea of body isolations in order to learn how parts of our bodies can move independently. If you can move your head without taking your shoulders along, you open up a lot of options for creating shapes with your body that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Different dances emphasize different styles of movement, and so different isolations stand out in different contexts. The great thing about west coast swing is that it allows you to incorporate other dance styles into your movement, so you can use Latin hip movements or funky chest isolations, and that look can become the characteristic of your dance.
But, there’s more to isolations than just learning how to move parts of the body independently.
The more important reason to practice isolations is to correct improper movement patterns. Most of us have, over the years, picked up bad movement habits. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable, and so we can still move even when we have poor biomechanics. The problem is that, when we move improperly, some muscles are not used effectively and other muscles have to compensate. When the compensating muscles are much smaller than the correct muscles, strains and tears can occur. When the compensating muscles are bigger, we lose some of the fine control that is important for stabilizing joints and preventing injuries.
When done well, isolations can be used to rehabilitate movement patterns so that the correct muscles fire for each action. This not only improves the quality of your movement, which is important to dancing—it also protects you from injury throughout your life!
The next time you dance, pay attention to your body. Do you feel everything working, or are there parts of your body that feel inactive? Can you feel all of your back working, or just the shoulders? Do you feel your leg action along your entire posterior chain, or just down the front of your leg? Pay attention to what you feel in your body, and ask yourself if there are parts of your body that you can learn to use more effectively.
Picture by colorblindPicaso