Friday night, beginner dance class, jazz dance. We are warming up and every week you will hear me say one of these sentences:
“Remember to roll!”
“Drop that head!”
“Relax your neck!”
What I mean? My dancers understand. “Drop your heads, looking at your feet. Imagine your head was the heaviest thing about your body and let it pull your body into the floor” – that is how I like to introduce it when doing the warm-up for the very first time. A few weeks later though, I still have at least one dancer whose head is not dropped but parallel to the floor or who is looking up at me the entire time. Recognizing yourself? No problem, you are by far not the only one.
When working with kids, I like to ask “What is your back? What is your spine?” to explain why the head is part of this movement. The question they return usually is, ,,What do we need this for?” The answer is simple: it is the first step to getting control over your head. This is what you need for holding your head gracefully in ballet, for executing isolations in jazz dance and so on.
I understand that there is a reason why this is a problem for many which in most cases is insecurity. Especially with those tending to drop their head without relaxing the neck which then leads to the head held parallel to the floor, it is usually the desire to at least be able to watch from the corners of your eyes what the others are doing. With those who look up a lot, it is more simple – they just do not yet know the combo. There is only one cure to this: keep practicing and announce the next step.
Another thing I like to do in jazz and hip hop is isolation combos, meaning a one song-combo that starts with head exercises like looking to the sides followed by simple head isolations and later head isolations combined with other steps before we then go on with ribcage and hip isolations. I usually start with a section of head isolations, because this seems easy at first, but as for many dancers it seems to be the most difficult isolation to execute, it also shows how difficult an exercise with this little movement can be.
Also, I have used combos for warm-up trailored specifically to the need of classes that have numerous dancers who struggle with this. Last year I was doing one to Anjulie´s “Addicted2Me” which worked out really nice, because it is catchy but slow. It started with arm movement followed by a section with “drop your head, look up, drop your head, roll down, roll up, roll down, scoop up” that we later also executed combined with arm movement. I like to use the term “roll” as it implies that it is a somehow “round” movement.
One last thing that helps especially with tweens is a simple one: Let them execute the combo facing away from the mirror. Sometimes, the cause simply is vanity and facing away from the mirror gives insecure dancers the chance to lose the impression that others may be watching them.
Have you experienced the same problem in your classes?
What do you do to help dancers “drop their head”?