You are on page 1of 10

Thompson 1

Savannah Thompson
Research Essay
Kate Monson
30 November 2015
Prima Players
After ESPN went behind the scenes with 320-pound Pittsburgh Steelers nose
tackle Steve McLendon, Dance Spirit took the reigns to share the report with the dance
world in their September 2013 issue. It reads, Steve McLendon, who, yes, takes a weekly
ballet classat Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, no less (Fuhrer). Margaret Fuhrer the author
of the Dance Spirit article and Dance Spirits editor in chief continues to explain that his
ballet habit began in college. McLendon said, I needed like an extra credit or two, and the
first day when I walked into class, there were nothing but females in there, he continues,
Then [the teacher] told me it could help me with football
Just like NFL player Steve McLendon, many of the Football players at Brigham
Young University take a dance class to fulfill the letters or arts general. A former Brigham
Young University player, Jared Richardson, was one of the players who had to put aside
his pride and trade out his cleats for black shiny Latin dance shoes. At first Jared dreaded
going to ballroom class, but slowly he began to see that dance was actually improving his
footwork at practice. Jared began to appreciate all the different aspects that dance were
being affected positively in his football performance. As he learned to maneuver his hips in
all directions, to spiral is upper spine, and to drive his pelvis, he was surprised to learn that

Thompson 2
the dance principles that he was learning could benefit his performance in even the simple
act of throwing a football.
The first part of training to become a successful football player lies in learning the
proper form and stance. Through strength training and the practice of many drills, these
athletes focus on velocity, accuracy and distance. As they continue to master the basic
aspects of becoming a strong athlete (balance, coordination, speed and core strength) they
are able to move onto learning how to throw a football. There are five movement phases
that occur to accurately throw a football. These include: the starting position, the windup,
the step and point, the turn and throw, and the follow through (Rigano). Each of these
steps contains specific kinesiological aspects that are vital to the performance. National
Football League quarterback Phil Simms explains some of these qualities, Stay relaxed,
use the throwing arm to whip the ball rather than push it, and rotate at the waist as the
ball is being thrown. Follow through with the thumb pointing downward (Albergotti 2).
As a player applies these qualities: relax, whip, rotate, and point, they will become much
more effective in the small details that are actually extremely vital to proficiently throwing
a football.
Dance training and technique also requires knowledge about specific kinesiological
forms and practices. Just as the football needs to be held in a specific way, with at least
two fingers on the laces and about a 90 degree angle at the elbow, dance also has specific
qualities and forms that must be mastered before a dancer can move on to throwing their
football. There are many principles that when dancers know them and apply them, can be
very helpful to their dancing. I would like to focus on two of Irmgards Bartenieff
Fundaments: Core-Distal Connectivity and Body Half, which are critical principles needed

Thompson 3
to become a truly successful dancer. I wouldnt doubt that as they are applied to football
players, they would have the same desired effect.
Core-Distal Connectivity can be explained best through this poem, Coming into
my innermost core, all parts of me find relationship. I experience support within and
lifelines of connection through which I pulsate and radiate bright with internal energy. I
can go out from my core, because I know I can return. I am centered, supported by my core
(Hackney 67). This poem accentuates the importance of core awareness and how it shapes
the way we can respond when something, (or in football when someone), comes to
throw us off our center.
Core-Distal is the ability to find all body parts in space as they relate to the center
of us. As a dancer becomes aware of their personal kinesphere they will find that they will
become more connected within themselves to be able to find coordination of their
neuromuscular pathways. As all body parts are connected, even the slightest shift in one
part, can affect every other part. As dancers and athletes loose sight of the complex
movement relationship of the body as a whole, they stick their limbs into the right places
to fulfill tasks in a sort of helter-skelter way, without organizing framework (Hackney 67).
As players and dancers apply this full body awareness and core connectedness to their
individual practices, they will have an increase in coordinated and full body performance.
They will create organized muscle sequences and patterns that all stem from the center and
core strength of their bodies.
As I went through some Core-Distal exercises with Jared, he was able to better
understand the relationship of his core to the rest of his limbs. In his football training, he

Thompson 4
had never learned what his deep pelvic floor muscles were, let alone how to engage them.
As part of his daily training he had always focused on strengthening his rectus and
transverses abdominal muscles. As I taught Jared where these deep internal muscles were
found and which muscles made up the pelvic floor, he was able to gain an image that
would help him to know how to better locate and strengthen these muscles. Once he
learned where these muscles were located, we went through some strengthening exercises
that gave him a better understanding of the importance of these deep muscles. He
discovered that when he was engaging these muscles while in his football stance and throw,
that his whole body was in more control.
After we finished our lecture and exercises, I inspected him as he threw the football
for the fourth time. I could see that his abdominals seemed to be guiding each step leading
up to the release of the ball from his fingers. This looked much different than the first two
times that he threw the ball. I could see a change in his core internal energy, which spread
like wild fire into the crevices of his entire body. I asked him if he felt a difference and
even he could feel a difference in the coordination of his body as a whole. He said, My
lower body feels more connected to my upper body, and just all of my body feels more in
sync.
As I observed a rehearsal with dancers from the professional company, Salt
Contemporary Dance, I saw that they too had gained an increase in full body control while
using the Core-Distal principle. While Salt was rehearsing full out, and even while they
were just marking the choreography, I was able to see that core-distal was a non-negotiable
for almost every dancer. I observed which dancers engaged their core but did not let it
connect and coordinate their body as a whole. In contrast, I saw dancers who had an

Thompson 5
increased grounding as they not only sensed their core, but also had an understanding of
the way it affected every part of their body. Many of the dancers who I could see had a
magnificent understanding of core-distal seemed to be stronger, more fluid and more
athletic dancers. Through this awareness, I was able to see that Core-Distal, is an essential
awareness that every human, (both dancer and athlete) can benefit from, just as Jared was
able to see these benefits as he applied this principle to his football training.
Body half is a principle that teaches awareness of the midline while learning to
stabilize one half of the body to support mobility on the other half (Longstaff). As one
learns to stabilize one half of the body, the freedom and expression within the other half
increases significantly. This is important because it creates a greater opportunity for
strength and solidity in both halves of the body through learning to stabilize each half
separately. Body half is a principle that can be difficult to apply because it is not an innate
motion within the body. Cross Lateral feels more natural to us because it is the way we
learned to crawl. As we continue to grow into young children and then into adults, cross
lateral becomes the only way we know how to walk. In contrast, as we try to walk with the
same arm and leg swinging forward, it will always feel unnatural. As awkward as it may
feel though, body half is an essential principle to apply to dance and athletics.
After I taught Jared the principle of body half, he was able to recognize body half
within the simple act of throwing a football. Jared could see how being able to ground his
non-dominant side, created more mobility in his dominant side. As we worked on exercises
that not only gained awareness of body half, but that also created coordination and strength,
Jared was able to perform a more proficient throw. He was able to better recognize the
movement that he had already been trained to do, but he was able to tap into this

Thompson 6
knowledge to create a stronger image. Simply gaining comprehension and understanding
of this principle helped him become aware of what was going into the action he was
performing. This is one of the greatest benefits that applying dance principles to athletics
can produce- a mindfulness of what each action entails, which becomes a magnified
dictionary to what they already thought they knew about movement. Before Jared had
learned about these dance principles, he was aware of his body exteriorly, but was not fully
aware of how important the internal connections were to the peripheral performance.
As I watched body half being applied in Salt Contemporary Dances rehearsal
setting, I found that each dancer who fully understood the concept had an increase in
strength while on one leg, or while stabilizing one half of their body. Hackney explains the
physical importance of body half through this example, I hold the nail with my left hand
and pound the hammer with my right. I loved this analogy because it emphasizes the
absolute dependence the working leg has on the standing leg. Without the strength from
the hand holding the nail, then the nail would flail all over the place, becoming nearly
impossible to ever plant the nail into the wall. As I watched these dancers, the nail analogy
was very clear to me. I saw how each dancer used their right or left side independently but
also together, to produce the same goal. I was also able to witness the frequency of body
half in each choreographic piece.
Body half has become very popular in choreography because it seems to depict a
sort of optical illusion. Because body half is not the most natural motion to dancers, and
non-dancers alike, when dancers master body half with coordination, ease and flow it
becomes magical. Seeing the dancers ability to isolate one half, while also creating such
fluidity in the other, entrances the viewers. As I observed these professional dancers

Thompson 7
rehearse, it was clear to me of the importance of understanding body half. Those who were
able to really let go and release the one side completely had an increase in the dynamics of
their dancing. Through isolation and release they gained a deeper connection to themselves
and to the viewer. Their performance became raw and relatable, and their technical
abilities became beyond grounded and energetic.
Many football players feel that dance training and football training are completely
separate. The stigma within football players taking dance classes is that they feel it is
gender specific. Jared said that originally he had always felt that dance was anything but
masculine. He went on to talk about how most football players and athletes see dance as
mainly a female art form. Psychologically football players may feel that dance softens
them emotionally. They may also feel that they cannot connect to dance because it is so
emotionally motivated.
As I talked with Jared about this stigma, I was able to explain the way that dance
and football are alike in the way that they both are driven by passion, which is an
emotional motivator. I also demonstrated to him the fact that, although football players
may not be aware of their innate desire to dance, these athletes dance nearly every time
they enter the field; while doing a battlefield dance that originates from New Zealand,
called the Haka, (which most football teams perform before each game), not to mention the
victory dances that are done after every touchdown.
Usually we seem to believe that football and dance go together just as well as the
two opposites, love and hate. As the evidence has shown, football and dance are more
closely related. They go together more like the complimentary peanut butter and jelly,

Thompson 8
(very opposite in texture and taste, but exquisite when placed together). Many of the
principles and fundaments in dance, are contained in football, but cannot be detected by the
unseeing eye. As each fundamental and principle was applied to NFL player Steve
McLendon, and our former BYU player Jared Richardson, it became clearer and clearer
how football and dance coincide and even compliment each other. After taking a few ballet
classes McLendon became hooked because of the strength it brought to him. He said, all
of the classes have strengthened my lower body, particularly my ankles and feet, making
me less prone to injury on the field. Jared was also able to witness the benefits of dance
training to his football performance. He highlighted that dance could increase his overall
strength, increased awareness of his body, and full body coordination
Using dance as a method to cross train will improve football performance. The
simple act of throwing a football can become more grounded, precise, and spiraled than
ever before. As peculiar as cranberry sauce seems on top of the thanksgiving turkey, if
dance principles are applied to the training of football players, even their personal stance,
throw and follow-through, will undoubtedly improve. I wouldnt hesitate to believe that
the team, who also dances, would bring home the victory at this seasons turkey bowl.

Thompson 9
Works Cited
Longstaff, J.S. "Bartenieff Fundamentals: 'Basic 6'" Laban Analysis Reviews. 2004. Web.
<http://www.labananalyses.org/laban_analysis_reviews/laban_analysis_notation/body_con
nectivity/Bartenieff_fundies_basic_6.htm>.
Rigano, Arianna. "Kinesiological Analysis: Throwing a Football." Boston University.
Digication, Inc., 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
Henkel, Mr. "Throwing a Football." Blogger. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Making Connections: Total Body Integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. New
York: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Albergotti, Reed. How to Throw Like a Pro. Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition 08
Dec. 2007: W1+. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Longstaff, J.S. "Bartenieff Fundamentals: 'Basic 6'" Laban Analysis Reviews. 2004. Web.
<http://www.labananalyses.org/laban_analysis_reviews/laban_analysis_notation/body_con
nectivity/Bartenieff_fundies_basic_6.htm>.
Fuhrer, Margaret. Are You Ready for Some Football [Players in Ballet Class]? Dance
Spirit Magazine 26 September. 2013. Print.
Interview: Jared Richardson (Current Football Coach & Former BYU Football Player)
Interview: Joni Tuttle (Professional Dancer on Salt Contemporary Dance)

Thompson 10