Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How High Can You Jump and How Softly Can You Land?

Dance teachers know to teach their students to bend their knees when coming out of a jump.  It is how a dancer lands without a big "thud."  It is how to cushion a landing.  It is a necessity in taking care of a dancer's ankle, knee and hip joints. In essence the bend gives the dancer the ability to stay grounded.

When a dancer bends her knees, she feels more connected to the ground and can easily push off the floor and land comfortably back down.  She can do this over and over again with no ill affect on her body. 

This concept can apply to more than just jumps.  (I often tell my sister to bend her knees when she is anxious because her voice becomes three octaves higher.)   When emotions start to overtake a person, the body can get locked, energy gets stuck and we loose our ability to be resilient.  When we bend we are not rigid and therefore we don't break.

This is a great skill to teach young children.  It is never to early to teach resilience.  Try this dance activity with your children/students:

How High Can You Jump? 
  1. Bend your knees. Push off the floor and land with a bend in the knee.  Now push off again.  Do ten in a row.
  2. Do the same activity without bending your knees.
  3. Ask the students which way was easier?  Which exercise allowed the body to jump higher?
  4. Bending our knees enables us to cushion our landing.  The softer the landing the quicker we are able to jump right back up!
  5. How else do we take care of ourselves in dance?  (Following directions, stretching, etc.)
  6. How do you take care of yourself when you are frustrated with a dance move?  Do you have a bend in your attitude?  Are you kind to yourself so you can try again with ease?  Do you lock your emotions or bend and let them flow?
We all have to land.  Gravity will not let us do otherwise.  It is the way in which we fall back to the earth that will enable us to get back up either in a jump, leap or an actual fall.  Teaching both technically and mentally how to land is essential to all dancers ( and children.)

Have fun landing with bent knees with the children in your life!