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Body Isolation Exercise: Pelvis, Side-to-Side

Setting Up the Standing Neutral Position

Stand with your feet more than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward.

Let your arms hang loosely so that your hands rest comfortably against each thigh.

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. This is the 'elastic string' teaching point.

Imagine your pelvis getting heavier and heavier, gradually sinking to the floor causing your knees to flex. Continue sinking your hips towards the floor until your knees are bent, not merely flexed, yet light enough that you can maintain the position indefinitely.

Check that your knees are pointing outwards.

Feel how the elastic string lightens your chest and releases pressure in the abdomen; and at the same time, feel how your heavy pelvis sinks towards the floor causing your back to stretch.

Adjust your tailbone by either tucking it in or sticking it out until you feel your back comfortably stretching to its longest.

Now close your eyes. Listen to and feel your breathing.

Feedback Points
All self-teaching systems should incorporate mechanisms for monitoring the successful execution of the lesson. The standing neutral position provides such a mechanism, featuring loci that provide you with feedback on the progress of the exercise. These are the:

  • Soles of your feet
    There should be no perceptible change in pressure in the front to back direction of both feet; and in later exercises there should (ideally) be as little change in pressure laterally as possible.
  • Knees
    In terms of form, they should remain flexed or lightly bent, and should not be encouraged to straighten completely when assisting the exercise. Pay special care to sensing the pressure through your knee joints - should you feel it to be excessive, raise your stance to relieve it.
  • Thighs
    The level of muscle tone also tells you if you're working within your capabilities. Should you feel a lot of tension in your thighs, you've probably dropped your hips too far towards the ground.
  • Muscle groups above the hips
    These are the oblique abdominals in the front and the muscles of the lower back. By placing your hands above your hips, you should be able to feel changes in muscle tone through your thumb and fingertips. In this exercise, you should feel the abdominal and lower back muscles of one side contract whilst the corresponding muscles on the other side relax e.g. the right side relaxes as the left side contracts.

The exercises of this tutorial involve movements 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
The standing neutral position emphasises:

  1. Torso-weight being as light as possible, lifting upward; and
  2. Pelvic-weight being as substantial possible, sinking downward.

This duality of body is known as the separation of weight; where the upper body and the hips are decoupled except for a fulcrum point in the solar plexus region. The separation is fundamental to a dancer's ability to hold and express multiple rhythms in the body.

The object of this tutorial is to get your pelvis swinging freely from side to side, as if it were a pendulum or cradle suspended by a chord from the solar plexus, with a track of travel that curves smoothly upward at the ends.

In the initial exercises the swinging motion is emphasised at the expense of control of weight. As the tutorial progresses, weight control is established increasingly for the better isolation of muscles controlling the pelvis. You'll learn how to adjust the intensity of the exercise, along with developing fine control over your hips.


Exercise 1 the cradle
Set up in the standing neutral position.

Swing your hips from right to left (east to west) and back again using broad, smooth, and even strokes, curving upwards at the ends. The action should feel like the rocking of a cradle or the swinging of a pendulum.

The swinging movement should be broad enough to cause your weight to shift from over one foot to the other.

After a smooth even motion is established, investigate the following parameters:

  • Control of coccyx: Tailbone tucked in or stuck out?
    Explore how the tailbone angle, as detected by the muscle intensity of the abdomen and lower back, affects freedom of motion. How does tucking your tailbone in or sticking it out affect the way you move? Be particularly careful when experimenting with the latter as there is a tendency to hyper-curve the lower back.
  • Depth of stance
    Lowering your pelvis to the floor brings your major muscle groups more into play, but increases the intensity of work.
  • Arm position
    Forearms resting on the inside of your thighs, hands on the outside of your thighs, hands on hips, or palms on your lower back at the kidney region. Each variation affects body isolation.
  • Plane of movement
    Sure, your hips are swinging from side to side… but is the plane of movement cutting through the balls of your feet, bisecting them, or passing through your heels? How does the position of the plane affect the cradle?

Exercise 2.1 the cradle and loop
Similar to the cradle exercise above, but the hips perform an upward loop on the same plane in the centre of the action. The addition of the circle serves to develop your fine control over your hips. Downward loops may also be performed.

Exercise 2.2 cradle and more loops
A further development where multiple loops are performed in between the ends of the cradle, more emphasis is placed on smoothness and circularity of action. Start with two loops, then three, then more.



Exercises without weight transfer
Contain the action between your feet by keeping the amount of pressure registered through the soles of your feet equal. This results in a tighter, more intense action that has minimal impact on weight transfer. Doing this results in an action that interferes least with the way your steps are taken.

Re-focus on separation of weight
This is the first thing to fall by the wayside. Master the exercises with separation of weight as the principal concept.


1999 Salsa & Merengue Society