One of the more difficult techniques to learn in dance is how to achieve more natural, longer lines. It can often seem like you’re trying to reach the impossible but there are several things you can do to improve your form, even if you are an absolute beginner.
The first tip is to stop considering the pursuit of longer lines as an aesthetic endeavour. It is, in essence, about the ability to stretch effortlessly and the elasticity of your body. What we mean is that it’s more a physical goal and it’s about inhabiting a space effortlessly rather than how you look in the mirror.
With this in mind, there are several steps you can take to improve and ‘create’ longer lines.
1. Core Strength
There’s no doubt that this plays a big role in all dancing forms. The stronger your core, the better you can control the rest of the body. But you also want to develop an ability to lengthen the spine and some core exercises can be counterproductive to this.
For example, doing simple crunches might seem the right exercise but it can mean you pull too much on the neck area or raise your stomach and compress the lower spine. Work instead on pulling the abdominal muscles in towards the spine and up, which should help with the lengthening process.
Using Pilates is generally good for suppleness as it has slow movements that roll through the spine rather than crunching it up.
2. Correct Alignment
One of the other keys to longer lines is making sure you are aligned properly. Misalignment can mean you are unable to stretch fully, and it will certainly shorten those lines. The correct alignment is a long journey and a constant battle for many dancers and something that always needs to be worked at.
3. Space and Dancing
You may be able to create a long line but if it looks forced or over-stretched it can diminish the effect because it’s so noticeable to the audience. This is where being more aware of your surroundings and your body can help you focus on reaching the optimum rather than grasping for the unattainable. Move into spaces and feel the air around you and pay attention to the joints and the perceived gaps between them.
When doing this, and any other dance training, it’s also important to make sure that your muscles are fully warmed up before you begin.
4. Distal Initiation
Your distal points essentially act as punctuation marks for your dance routine. The head and neck together, for example, might be seen as an exclamation mark. The feet and hands end or break a line and they have certain energy which is important for the grace and accuracy of any movement.
In addition, being conscious of your gaze can help create the illusion of a longer line. You can achieve this, for example, by raising your eyes slightly to focus on a distant point.
Pretending that you are dancing in a tighter box rather than on a large stage can help you keep control of your lines and perform them more effortlessly. For quicker movements, longer lines can be difficult to achieve but understanding the shortest distance between two points should help clear your mind and optimise your stretch.
In short, developing longer lines is all about bringing these practices together while at the same time being in tune with the physical structure of your body.