Ever seen those moves where it looks like you send a ripple through your entire body from top to toe and then back again?
That’s a body wave, and it’s one of the moves that women find most frustrating to learn when they start adding styling to their dance.
They find they can’t move the bits of their body in sequence to give that boneless, snakelike effect – one that looks like every segment of the spine is moving independently,
It’s actually an optical illusion because our spines in reality are “S” shaped and only bend a certain amount. That’s dictated by the structure of the vertebrae. Our thigh bones are the longest bones in the body and don’t bend at all.
So the illusion works because the onlooker’s eye “fills in” the gaps.
There are three phases to a bodywave:
Initiation: The chest and ribcage push forwards and upwards.
Follow Through: The pelvis is pushed forwards, driven by the glutes, extending the hip joints. The upper abdominals assist in pulling the pelvis through and under.
Completion: The illusion of the wave is completed by a “sitting down” motion. The lumbar spinal muscles relax and the lower abdominals contract strongly – this gives the appearance of the wave travelling down the legs as well.
The trouble is, many adults have lost the physical capacity to execute this movement. This is usually because of one or all of these three scenarios:
- Lack of spinal mobility
Most adults have no thoracic extension available through their upper spine. This is because the chest and shoulder muscles are tight, and holding the spine in a flexed position which makes it impossible to get the upward rotation of the ribcage in the initiation phase of the bodywave.
- Tight quads and hip flexors
The huge, strong front thigh muscles and deeper, skinnier hip flexors are shortened, holding the hips in a flexed position. This often results in the lumbar spine being locked into an exaggerated curve, and the hips lose the ability to move into extension which is the movement required for the pelvic follow through in the second phase of the wave.
- Inhibition of the glutes and lower abdominals
About 90% of the population have neurologically inhibited lower abdominals and glutes. This means that those muscles are not “firing”. They’ve lost the ability to contract as they are not receiving signals properly from the nervous system. This is often a direct result of the tight quads mentioned above, and means that full hip extension is impossible, along with phase 2 and 3 of your bodywave.
The only reason that adults struggle to do bodywaves, or get the “look” of a real dancer is that they have usually lost full range of movement, and the nervous system connections that allow fine motor control of specific muscles.
Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with age and it can be rectified in many circumstances. It just takes a little bit of expert help and commitment to the process…in order to fully regain the full spectrum of movement and control, you need to work on it every day.
A good place to start is to stretch the quads and low back. This will often help as it should improve hip extension.
The Salsa Intoxica Dance Clinic offers a full assessment to identify these issues and teach you the mobility and reconditioning programme you need to fix them, and produce a perfect bodywave every time!