Nina Levy talks to the WA Academy of Performing Arts’s Molly Tipping to find out how you can develop your core stability and mobility. This is the first in a series of articles providing tips and advice for improving your contemporary dance technique.
LAST year I had the pleasure of seeing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Sadler’s Wells in London. The dancers were simply gorgeous to watch; their luscious, rippling torsos apparently boneless. My favourite contemporary dancers all have those gloriously articulate spines. But while they may appear to be all about looseness and flexibility, that ability to bend, roll and ripple one’s torso requires strength as much as flexibility.
Like so many skills in dance, the best contemporary dancers make it look easy, but actually achieving that fluidity through the spine can be challenging for young dancers, especially those who have come from a predominantly classical training background. So how can a dancer improve his or her ability to move through the spine? I spoke to Molly Tipping, a Feldenkrais practitioner and Pilates instructor who teaches dance students at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), to find out.
It’s about being stable... but also mobile
While all dance styles require core stability, contemporary dance requires more than just stability of the trunk, says Tipping. “Core stability requirements for contemporary dance are much more complex than other styles. In ballet you can brace the core. You can create an almost immoveable trunk, to a certain extent, or a slightly moveable trunk, but that doesn’t work in contemporary dance.”
What is core stability used for in contemporary dance?
“Contemporary dance uses core stability in the same ways as every dance style: for alignment, balance, co-ordination, precision and centring,” explains Tipping. “But in contemporary dance we also use core stability for things like spirals, suspensions, falling, off-balance turns and partnering work (both men and women). Floor work also requires really good core strength, as does moving from the floor through the mid-level, through the upper level... and some contemporary dance styles are really athletic. They have huge power output in terms of direction in space, speed, and you need a really strong, agile core to deal with the choreography.”
I have a strong core from ballet – will this transfer to contemporary technique?
“Core stability in contemporary dance is much more nuanced and complex than ballet,” replies Tipping. “While ballet certainly has high demands for core stability, contemporary dance is more specialised and style-specific. Certain styles are really athletic and you’re going to need an athletic use of the core. Some styles are very lyrical and they’re going to require this soft, fluid use of the core. ‘Core dexterity’, ‘core control’ and ‘core mobility’ are better terms to think about in relation to contemporary dance, because ‘core stability’ implies lack of movement and in contemporary dance you have to have movement...
This is an extract from an article published in the December/January edition of Dance Australia, OUT NOW. Read the rest of the article in the current issue, available at your favourite magazine retailer, subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia website.
Pictured top: Link Dance Company performing "Twin Share" (2017). Photo: Jon Green.