Every dancer has been given these types of corrections… but why? What is the purpose?
If not explained properly, many dancers (especially young or new dancers) may believe this correction is merely to provide the look of a slim or strong dancer. However, “engaging the core” or “pulling up” provides many functional benefits.
Dancers have low backs that are more flexible than the average person. Flexibility of the spine paired with an “unengaged core” or weak abdominals, can lead a posture dysfunction described as increased lumbar lordosis where there is an excessive curvature in the lower spine. This abnormal posture is typically accompanied by tightness of the hip flexors since the pelvis follows the curve of the spine and tilts forward allowing the hip flexors to be in a shortened, or tight position. Hip flexor tightness can lead to poor activation of the glute muscles. Good glute activation and strength is key in maintaining proper alignment of the knees and ankles when performing any step or combination on one leg and especially when taking off and landing from jumps (see “Dead Butt Syndrome?”). Repeated jumping with poor joint stability can quickly lead to injury.
The “core muscles” or trunk stabilizers include muscle groups that connect the spine, ribs, and pelvis.Drawing in with these muscles place the spine and pelvis in a neutral position. This position not only protects the spine but also allows for optimal muscle functioning as the muscles are in the correct position to work correctly and efficiently. Drawing in and bracing core muscles correctly can assist in helping the legs to move freely and separately from the trunk and improve poses, positions, port de bras, and overall control. Focusing on holding abdominal muscles tight throughout class, and developing these muscles further with exercises such as planks, will improve alignment and positioning, promote optimal muscle function of the hips, increase joint stability, improve balance and control, and decrease the overall risk of injury.