LINDA CELESTE SIMS, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
With very long arms, one of the most challenging things Linda Celeste
Sims has had to work on is her port de bras. “People say not to look in
the mirror, but I rely heavily on it to check the lines of my arms and that
I’m getting them to the right position at the right time,” she says. She
concentrates on lifting her arms from her center and making sure they
are connected from her back down through her fingertips. “One thing
that has really helped is Gyrotonic—the resistance and strengthening
helps me feel the connection between my arms and back. I keep up that
strengthening when I’m on the road by doing 15 slow push-ups, making
sure my shoulders are down, at least every other day. And I never skip
my 20-minute floor-barre warm-up—that’s home base,” Sims says.
Ask the teacher: The full coordination of your arms with your body is
key. “Never mark your arms, even in a crowded classroom,” says Taylor.
“If there isn’t space to do the arms the combination calls for, hold them
in first or fifth en bas. Those are the pictures your body should know,
not the collapsed position of marked arms.”
Ask the PT: Use the mirror to take stock of the musculature support it
takes to both move and hold the arms. Then close your eyes briefly, hold
the position, and then open them to check your line in the mirror. Karim
adds that dancers who have difficulty maintaining their port de bras often need to strengthen their arms and core. Another possible issue: You
might need a good stretch. “Tight lats can actually pull your arms out of
position,” says Karim. n
Kristyn Brady is a Vermont-based freelance writer with a BA in dance
from Muhlenberg College.
ANDREA PARSON, Northwest Dance Project
Andrea Parson has long struggled with anxiety before rehearsals
and performances. “It can be difficult to psych myself down, especially on tour, but even in class,” she says. “If I’m too pumped, my
energy takes me all over the place.” Before dancing, Parson focuses
on her breathing: She pictures sending breath down her spine to
her tailbone, softening her muscles as she exhales. While moving, it
helps her to tune in to all the sensations, such as the floor beneath
her, the temperature of the room or the stability of her partner. “I
feel my shoulders drop, my upper chest releases, and I have more
power to move from a calm, relaxed place.”
Ask the teacher: Before performances or auditions, Taylor sug-
gests doing a full barre. “Your mind certainly won’t be there for
you if your body’s not ready for it.”
Ask the PT: Karim suggests this calming exercise: Lie on your
back with your legs in the air, and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
“Put your arms out to the side and just breathe. Your diaphragm
will drop slightly, settling your nervous system. It’s like a baby
crying it out on his back, with his legs in the air.” Crawling on
your stomach and rolling or bouncing on a stability ball can have
the same effect—the oscillation calms tension.
channels the energy
of her partner, Franco
Nieto, to keep calm.
Linda Celeste Sims