Spring is finally here! And what better way to celebrate the warmer weather than with a little dancing? Dance Informa spoke with a few of New York City’s top dance teachers about their advice for literally getting more “spring” in your step in dance class this season.
Andrew Black Tap (Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway)
“Most of ‘spring’ in tap is about softening the knees — really using your plié all the way from the hip to the toes, and using the upper body to balance. In tap, there are two (main) kinds of spring, illustrated best in Irishes. First is a turned out, off the floor traveling step that really leaves the floor. The second is seen in a military time step where the body does not bounce as much but the legs pump under like pistons. The first kind is long and gliding, while the second is faster (being closer to the floor) and more contained. For the best spring, don’t ‘poop’ in your plié (sticking your butt back), but keep your body aligned so there is no wasted energy. And just like ballet or jazz, push all the way through the toes. Long story short: good preparation, good jump.”
Al Blackstone Musical Theatre (Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway)
“Not enough dancers realize that they need to use the floor in order to have a successful jump. You can’t just think, ‘Up!’ You must think, ‘Down to go up’. Rolling through your feet, activating your core and using your plié will all serve you in getting more ‘spring in your step’. Additionally, I think it’s important to really emphasize the breath. Exhale during your plié preparation, and use your inhale as the impulse for a jump or leap. That flow of breath will help send your body into the air. You’ll get more height and the movement will both feel and appear more natural.”
Caitlin Gray Jazz (Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway)
“One way to keep the spring in your step in your jazz combinations this season is to give lots of love to the almighty plié. Keep working your plié to increase your height and amplitude in your jumps. More plié will also smooth out your transitions and have you seamlessly moving through your combinations, both in class and in auditions. Really push through your whole foot (heel, ball, toe) and ankle in your take-offs, and roll through your feet (toe, ball, heel) in landings as well, for additional height and softer landings in your jumps. Proper alignment is also key to a great jump, and a strong core is essential for proper alignment. Keeping your core engaged and strong is an important element in keeping your jumps on point. Also, remember to breathe! Dancers often hold their breath while attempting difficult technical elements, which ultimately hinders their success. Breathing while jumping— and dancing, in general — is extremely important! Use your breath as a tool to increase stamina, strength and endurance in class, in auditions, and in performance. Remember how much you love to dance, and use your plié, core and breath to bring more ‘spring’ to your step this season!”
Lizz Picini Musical Theatre (Broadway Dance Center)
“The brilliance of theatre movement stems from how effortless and organic it appears. While executing a beautiful phrase, sailing across the stage, fluid transitions and preparations are key. Movement appears effortless when the connecting steps smoothly link each phrase together. Likewise, seamless yet strong preparations are essential in hopes of ‘springing’ into a step.
There are many key factors involved in nailing that perfect preparation. Maintain correct alignment from head to toe. Allow the spine to lengthen through the back of the neck, while that pelvis remains in a neutral position. When utilizing a deep plié, really feel the floor, balancing that solid, grounded approach and the light, lifted feel. This is especially important while wearing heels. It is essential to engage and activate the entire core, meaning the abdominal muscles and the full back. Keeping the focus active and lifted is extremely important as well. The second we drop our focus to the floor, we only make it harder on ourselves to have ballón and spring into the air. Without correct alignment, a grounded plié, full core engagement and a lifted focus, there won’t be much ‘spring to that step’!”
Matthew Powell Ballet (Broadway Dance Center)
“Like all aspects of classical ballet, I think the key to getting more bang for your buck out of jumps begins at the barre. More specifically, ensuring that the hips stay right underneath during pliés. Young dancers know they need a solid plié to execute a good jump, but sometimes they overcompensate and let the pelvis tilt backwards for the sake of gaining depth. By doing this, the energy spreads in many directions rather than remaining efficiently underneath to propel the body upward. It’s sort of like a rocket ship with engines pointing in all directions.”
By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Matthew Powell. Photo by Brian Jamie Photography.