“. . . a good archer can shoot further with a medium – strong bow than an unspiritual archer can with the strongest. It does not depend on the bow, but on the presence of mind, on the vitality and awareness with which you shoot.” - Eugene Herrigel – Zen in the Art of Archery
The study of Human Anatomy proves that there is a basic structural map of our bodies. Body surfaces, landmarks, planes, sections, cavities, quadrants, regions, organs, tissues, bones, cartilages, skeletal bones & muscles, blood vessels, and nerves work together to create a structure that naturally appeals to our curiosity. Despite this structural map, no one human body is the same as another. Ellen Jacob describes it best in her book titled, Dancing, when she states, “You don’t need a perfect body to dance well; you need a feeling for movement and music, a sense of rhythm and good coordination – anatomy is not destiny, but understanding your individual body and how to work with it is.”
I decided to focus the next couple Movement Wednesdays on the idea of Strength, and how with proper attention and functioning it helps to fine tune and classify each dancer as unique in his/her own way. In order to create beautiful movement – or any movement really – our muscles must move smoothly in a way that is not overly taxing, yet supported, on our bones and joints. Strength helps a dancer jump, turn, lift a limb, stabilize, succumb fatigue, and have the confidence to move in a way that “just feels right.” Some of us have strength more naturally than others, some build it easier than others, but we all have the capability to increase our source of skeletal power in someway.
To understand the technicality of strength – it is quite simple. Muscles fall into two basic groups. Agonists (biceps in picture above) contract or shorten while antagonists (triceps in picture above) oppose the agonist by relaxing or lengthening. The work of these two muscle groups synchronize to produce movement. The power of contraction, or strength, depends on its gradient of action potentials (think of how a sparkler works – the spark is the action potential, how it travels down the sparkler is the gradient and the light is the end product or movement in this case) which can increase in efficiency with time, energy and strength building. How the body knows when and how to actually perform this muscle action, is a post for another day. One clue – CNS!
- Jacob, Ellen. “Dancing – A guide for the Dancer You Can Be.” Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1981.
- Marieb, Elaine N. and Mitchell, Susan J. “Ninth Edition – Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory Manual.” Pearson Education, Inc., 2011.