As we head back into the season here in North America, it’s a good idea to revisit some of the concepts from last year. As a movement teacher who spent the last few year learning about the Pilates MVE chair, I think the central axis/mid line topic deserves some attention.
The informative picture below (kindly provided by Lisa Howell) offers several valuable reference points to help orient dancers in a stationary position. It does an excellent job defining where strength is necessary with supporting considerations such as softness in the jaw and fingers as well as proper weight distribution in the standing leg. However once the dancer begins moving through space, it becomes far more difficult to keep these concepts in mind. Without a clear understanding of the central axis point in our bodies, students will struggle.
“The axial skeleton forms the central axis of the human body and consists of the skull, vertebral column, and thoracic cage.” (Source: Boundless. “Human Axial Skeleton.” Boundless Biology. Boundless, 08 Aug. 2016. Retrieved 17 Sep. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/biology/textbooks/boundless-biology-textbook/the-musculoskeletal-system-38/types-of-skeletal-systems-215/human-axial-skeleton-813-12054/) In classical ballet training, the mid line/central axis point is so critical because it orients the dancer to a position in space as they’re traveling. Constant recalculation based on the ingrained patterns studied and practiced over years of training as well as kinesthetic memory come into play.
“A three-dimensional object always rotates around an imaginary line called a rotation axis” (Wikipedia). So this would apply to the human body in motion. Since we are bi-peds and our four limbs connect to and extend in space away from our central trunk, dancers, knowingly or not, are constantly using physics and re adjusting in order to achieve movement through space. Additionally, they are challenged as the choreography demands, particularly in more contemporary applications of these principals where the central axis contracts, rotates, etc.
Of course this is a very large area of exploration for the developing dancer and one that each must ultimately explore for themselves. But even a general awareness of movement intent is important here. The dancer can explore this in class with the instructor or in rehearsal with the choreographer. Obvious starting points can be movement where the dancer feels unstable.
Below the dancer in in developpé devant anchoring the right hip and the left shoulder in such a way that they work from each side of the body toward the midline. The same is true for the right shoulder and left hip, stabilizing the left standing leg and the right supporting shoulder. I would encourage my students to work with this concept in class and rehearsal, reporting back whether they can recognize for themselves other examples.