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Isolation, Chest:
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Isolation, Pelvis:
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Body Movement Exercise: Chest, Circular

This tutorial brings together the material covered in the two body isolation exercises:

forging them both into a coherent circular motion. Among the many benefits which will become obvious as we progress, mastery of circular motion will increase greatly the fluidity of your movement thus enhancing the quality of your dancing.

The elastic string teaching point is valid now more than ever, as is the health caution. Both of these I've reiterated below.

The "elastic string" teaching point
Imagine that there's a piece of elastic string attached to the centre of your diaphragm, passing through the top of your head, and fastened to a point in the ceiling.

Imagine the dome of your diaphragm being pulled upward toward the ceiling by the elastic string. As you do so, you'll find your spine coming into alignment and better supporting your ribcage.

Close your eyes, and listen to and feel your breathing. Feel how the "elastic string" teaching point seems to lighten your chest and release pressure in the abdomen.

This exercise involves movement of the lower back. If you suffer from a serious back condition then you should not proceed. If you want to be sure, submit this exercise for evaluation by your physician. If you have determined that it is safe, you should still manage your expectations for suppleness but adopting a 'slowly but surely' approach.

Lesson concepts
From the body isolation: chest tutorials, we have five reference points; one of which is the central neutral position. The other four can be expressed in either the

  • first person perspective i.e. front, back, right and left; or
  • third person perspective from above, using the cardinal compass points i.e. north, south, east and west.

I have chosen to present the material from the third person perspective. This encourages an objective detachment and renders the practices easier to visualise.

The programme begins with simple 'join-the-dots' exercises and progresses with increasing emphasis on circularity and flow. Not all possible combinations are given; as a matter of fact, mirror-image equivalents are deliberately omitted for you to work out on your own.


Exercise 1.1 working the diagonals
Move your torso, linking two points to form a diagonal. For example:

  • north — west;
  • east — south.
Figure 1.1 A pair of diagonals

Figure 1.1. A pair of diagonals

Exercise 1.2 diagonals combined
An extended version of the first exercise where two sets of diagonals are joined by,

  • Exercise 1.2.1 a lateral link:
    north - west - north - west - east, - south - east - south - east - west.
  • Exercise 1.2.2 a vertical link:
    west - north - west - north - south, - east - south - east - south - north.


Figure 1.2 Linking the diagonals

Figure 1.2. Linking the diagonals:
horizontally (left) and vertically (right)

Exercise 2.1 connecting three points
There are two variants of this, the first one returns to the starting point by retracing the path in reverse, the other returns to the beginning by cutting across the centre point.

  • Exercise 2.1.1 reverse direction:
    west - south - east, then east - south - west
  • Exercise 2.1.2 going across the centre point:
    west - south - east, then centre - west


Figure 2.1. Joining three points

Exercise 2.2 fill out the corners
As with exercise 2.1 above, but instead of connecting the points with straight lines, push your torso 'into the corners' to create a curved path.


Figure 2.2 Filling out the corners

Figure 2.2. Filling out the corners

Exercise 2.3 moving through three points, a different direction
Similar to Exercises 2.1 and 2.2 but where the former followed an east - west axis, use a north - south axis instead.

Exercise 3 full circle
Passing through all four peripheral reference points to form a complete circle, beginning and ending on the same point. For example:

north - west - south - east - north; and
- south - west - north - east.

Exercise 4 beyond full circle
Here you have to picture mentally, starting in a corner, performing a loop (full circle Exercise 3.1) and ending in a different corner. This practice does three things, it:

  1. makes your circle seamless;
  2. encourages you to focus on the corners, thereby keeping your movement circular (there is a tendency to cheat by 'cutting corners' which, if left unchecked, would result in a lumpy diamond-shaped action); and
  3. makes you practice starting and stopping in the corners in addition to the cardinal reference points, thereby increasing your resolution by 100%.


Figure 4. Tracing a loop

Imagine the elastic string, one end attached to a central point far above your head and the other to the pendulum bob that represents the dome of your diaphragm.

Envision the pendulum weight as being heavy and moving slowly, describing a perfectly circular path.

To change direction, feel it coming to a slow stop, and then gradually gather momentum to circle in the opposite direction.

Food for thought
Augmenting your physical prowess is well and good, but to elevate skills beyond mere mechanical ability requires as much effort be spent on understanding their nature and purpose - the 'whys', 'hows', and 'whens'.

Here are a few points you might consider:

  • How does incorporating this movement affect my dancing?
    If a partnership can be regarded as a discrete energetic system, introducing torso movement in this manner injects more energy into that system. What changes or improvements need to be made to be able to handle the energy better? [Hint: The successful incorporation of torso movement stresses the importance of good grounding. Which tutorials help with this?]
  • How do I co-ordinate the timing of this movement with whatever else I'm doing?
    Most existing material is biased toward joint cascades in the vertical direction. With this motion being lateral, what needs to be done to converge the vertical with the horizontal seamlessly? [Hint: Look the whole body cascade tutorial for clues.]
  • In this form of dance, the lower body utilises a combination of circular and linear paths. Now so does your upper body. What combinations of movement are possible between lower and upper body? How do they feel? When might you use a particular combination?
  • How can I build on this tutorial beyond the written page?
    Flex your creativity and explore how you can evolve this exercise to continue improving. Take ownership of it.
    If I wanted to increase my level of movement control, I might adapt the exercise to resemble something like:
Figure 5. A little something extra...Figure 5 A little something extra...

1999 Salsa & Merengue Society