I was so thrilled with the realization that I made a “mental transfer” from the dance world to the gym world, I started thinking about it in more depth.
And another light bulb went off, resulting in... Epiphany #2.
In an earlier post, I talked about moving into the world of free weights and how I was struggling to learn the proper form for one or two basic exercises. Well, I continue to struggle… I do weight training three days a week, all of it on machines. When I’m done with machines, I grab a short broom stick and practice the form and movement for the flat bench press, and chase that with a meek attempt at practicing the form for the bent over row.
I’ve been practicing for a month... Over a month.... And I still haven’t quite gotten it. We’re getting closer, but … not quite there yet.
Last night, as I was thinking about dance frame, I realized there is a connection between this bench press thing I’ve been trying to learn, and basic dance frame.
When you’re a brand new baby ballroom dancer, one of the ways they teach you about frame is to teach you hold an “invisible beach ball” out is front of you. You “hug the beach ball”. Shoulder blades are together and down and ribs and the whole thing is supposed to be light and strong. (If it’s too strong, they’ll tell you that your beach ball is made of glass, and you mustn’t be too forceful, or you’ll break it.) Again, both men and women learn to “hug the beach ball”.
From there, you can move your arms up and down or side to side, as necessary, but “hugging the beach ball” is the basic starting position. I believe this is known as “first position” for arms in ballet (but I could be wrong...)
Men are typically taught to “create angles” with their bodies. Square this, or make a triangle out of that. Women are taught to “create curves”. Round this out, or soften that…
In the last training session, Chris kept talking about having everything at 90-degree angles.
I found myself lying in bed, hugging an invisible beach ball, and drawing my arms down into 90-degree angles.
This is just like having frame in dance, but I need to “move like a man”, not a woman!
My dance teacher of days long ago, David, spent all those lessons trying to get me to “move like a woman” and now in the gym Chris is trying to teach me to put everything into 90-degree angles. No wonder I didn’t get any of it. There is transfer – but I had to cross some wires (and constructed gender lines!) to do it.
As I was lying in bed, beaming silently to the ceiling, I thought “OF COURSE! What we call “frame” in dance is similar to “form” in the gym! I get it!! And … I can feel this frame… form… whatever. Of course I can feel it! How could I NOT feel this? It’s so… obvious!”
I stopped Chris today at the gym and asked him to check and see if what I thought was an epiphany actually was one (as opposed to a delusion). He seemed to think the form was better…. Maybe not perfect, but better.
I tried to explain to him how I made the connection, but he didn’t seem to really clue in. He understood that a light bulb had seemed to go off... but didn't seem to get why or how. I asked if he’d ever taken dance and the answer was as I expected… no. (I had guessed that… good trainer, though a bit of a jock, bless his heart.)
Anyway, as soon as I had it confirmed that I was not, in fact, insane, I rushed back to the office and phoned a. who not only goes to the gym now, but also has 12 years of ballet training, several years of ballroom, jazz, and African dance training behind her (so… much more of a dance background than I have.)
I explained the revelations to her and of course… she understood.
In fact… she giggled.
“What are you laughing at?” I demanded.
“Well… it’s just kind of funny… It’s all about… body movement. I mean… you’re just moving your body.”
I said, “Yeah, I know… but I didn’t make the connection before… you know… between the dance studio and the gym… Didn’t know how to connect the two… You know… gyms are full of jocks and dance studios are … well… usually not. They’re like two different worlds…”
a. said, “I know… and I’m glad you’re figuring out that you can transfer stuff from one place to the other.”
And indeed… it would appear to be so. Or perhaps I should say… I do believe… I feel it is so.