Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Butterfly Kisses - Imagery & Teaching

Recently, I heard an instructor give the cue "Lift out of your pelvis".

My analytic brain immediately responded, "That's impossible! The entire body is connected by fascia and other tissues and you can't lift out of anything." But I understood her point. Some of the dancers in the class were sinking and "sitting" into the pelvis, anterior-ly tilting the pelvis and creating improper alignment. Strengthening the lower abdominal muscles, engaging the pelvic floor, and using the "Y" ligament (aka the iliofemoral ligament) for support would be more "correct" anatomical cues, but are hard to grasp without extensive exploration of these areas separate from dance technique (ie Pilates), a pretty awesome anatomy teacher, and/or super sensitive/ educationally inclined physical therapist.

"Sitting" into the pelvis is a common premise in today's dance class culture. Personally, I blame it on the larger society's focus on a sedentary lifestyle. We sit to type papers or blogs or emails or engage on social media. We sit to read our electronic devices. We sit to have meetings. We sit to travel from place to place. Although these are positive activities (yes, I'm sitting to write this...), we spend a lot of time with our hip flexors flexed. Therefore, in a fully standing, vertical experience, it is habit that our hip flexors are tight.

What can lengthen these super-tight hip flexors in a way that encourages a neutral, functional posture? My challenge presented itself. (Stretching helps. Mindful practice of hip opening helps.)

The immediate, equal and opposite response/ reaction to anterior tilt is posterior tilt. Posterior tilt is often referred to as "tucking" and is no more effective or efficient than anterior tilt. While anterior tilt engages the quads (which, in turn contracts the front of the hip joint), posterior tilt engages the glutes (which, in turn, contracts the back of the hip joint). These occur because the quads and the glutes are more easily accessible than the pelvic floor and the deep internal rotators. (The quads and glutes are closer to the surface and larger.)

But, someone famous said that nothing worthwhile was easy. Such is dance.

My pedagogical question: What image might open the front of the pelvis without contracting the back of the pelvis? What was soft, but strong? Accessible, but fleeting (like dance and every moment)?


A sentimental gesture. Fleeting. Soft. Powerful. Recognizable. Opening.

I encouraged my students (and myself) to give themselves butterfly kisses. Cue: Put your hand to your eyes, give your hand butterfly kisses. In this way, the dancers were not only experiencing the opening and closing, but giving themselves some gentle love. (I've discovered that dancers sometimes need some extra self-care because we work so hard). Cue: Now take this feeling and place it in your hip joints.

Butterfly kisses engage the up and down dynamic. They require action and awareness of the entire eye - the front and the back. They open and close - providing space, light, darkness, and love.

Some of my dancers added images of fireworks, sparklers, or those cute accessories you can get for your car.

What works for you to find proper alignment?

(It's an oldie... but...)



  1. What a great idea! Proper alignment is so very important and-as you pointed out-pretty much everything we do these days seems to encourage the opposite. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Jenn! What are some images that you've used or found helpful?