It's Day 2 of the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Home Challenge! How did the breathing activity go for you yesterday? Angela had an interesting realization about her breath; check out her comment here.

Below you’ll find my reflections along with a new home activity...

I applied yesterday’s challenge activity to a remate and marcaje por bulerías since I’ve been wanting to improve my bulerías.

I noticed that thinking about the breath before I started set me up to breathe more fluidly while I was dancing. While it was easier to focus on breathing during the marcaje than it was during the remate (probably because of the complicated rhythms, footwork, and body slapping) I could execute the remate with more ease when I was aware of my breathing. What about you? What did you notice? Let me know here.

Now for today’s challenge,

Day 2:

Hombros abajo. 

Mercedes reminds us to keep our shoulders down in class.

We may accent with the shoulders, roll a shoulder, shrug the shoulders, etc. but these are isolated movements, and after we must bring our shoulders back down.

Here are three areas where the shoulders may want to come up:

  1. When we bring our arms up
  2. When we think about keeping the elbows up
  3. When we’re not breathing

Let's look closely at those three problem areas:

1. Sometimes as we raise our arms we bring our shoulders up with them. Uh-oh. 

Try This: Take a deep breath in and raise your arms on the exhale. As you bring your arms up, engage your back muscles to pull the shoulders down. Notice how the muscles in your back can control your shoulders. 

2. As we know, we hold our elbows up in flamenco which feels completely unnatural at first. Often times when we focus on holding our elbows up, the shoulders go up at the same time. Ack! 

Try This: Take another deep breath and on the exhale raise the arms to shoulder height. Shift your elbows up (like you’re a marionette puppet and your strings are attached to the bottoms of your elbows) Engage in your back to pull your shoulders down as you hold your elbows up.

3. Breathing definitely helps us keep our shoulders down. If we stop the flow of breath, the tension may cause our shoulders to go up. Also, we can become so focused on correct form (in this case, keeping the shoulders down) that we forget to breathe and become stiff.

Try This: Bring your arms up halfway again. Make sure your elbows are up. Breathe consciously while circling your hands in and out. Use the breath to keep your shoulders down (while keeping your elbows up.)

Okay, now that we’ve had some practice, let’s move on to today’s activity.

An Activity to Help Keep The Shoulders in Place

  1. Choose a move or combination to work with. (You may choose to use the same one from yesterday or something new.)
  2. As you dance, notice your shoulders. Are there specific points where they want to come up?
  3. Do your move again, and use your back muscles to pull the shoulders down and keep them in place.
  4. (If it’s a piece of cake to keep your shoulders down with that move, try the exercise with another combination, perhaps something longer.) 

Take the challenge on the road:

You can squeeze some more practice in when doing other non-dance things today. Explore using your back muscles to pull your shoulders down and back while typing on your computer, working in the garden, etc. 

Your Reflections:

How did it go? Do you have any tricks or things you say to yourself to remind you to keep your shoulders in place? Are you able to engage the back to help? Let me know in the comments below.

¡Hasta mañana!

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