Shake a leg!

To be honest I’m happy that the fashion for shaking-based, oh-so-cool choreographies seems to be fading, but I do love shaking practices.

I feel when my joints are well shaken they can absorb shocks without either overtensing or overextending. Shaking helps me to differentiate different bits of myself, with that paradoxical effect that I feel more connections throughout. I’m not a dancer who tends towards sudden sharp movements, but shaking helps me find impacts, twitches, swift collapses…

I particularly enjoy shaking my feet and that’s what I’ll mostly talk about here, but I hope you can see how things will be applicable to hands, hips, heads, torsos… if you got it, shake it!

So, put on Otis Reading’s “Shake” (or your shake-themed tune of choice) and shake it! How loose can you keep your joints? If you start to feel joints “locking out” perhaps decrease the range of motion of the shake, maybe less force is needed. Breathe! Especially when shaking the torso it is very tempting to stop breathing, shimmyin’ can help reveal which muscles you’re using to breathe, and any difference between shaking on your inbreath and on your outbreath might give you some valuable information.

You can change the angle of the shake, bringing a different relationship to gravity and requiring different bits of you to “pass the shake”. When doing floorwork moves I like to shake my feet to see when I’m over-tensing, any time I feel my feet stop shaking I know I’m doing too much somewhere else. Anecdotally this exercise also helps develop a strong sense o f humour when dancing.

Before I got into all these western contemporary art- theatre-dances I was a tap dancer. When your toes touch the floor this lil’ shake is called a nerve tap. Nerve taps with hands and feet can help to prepare for moments of unexpectedly touching someone/thing (remember that?!). Maybe while shaking explore gently tapping a surface, or even yourself. 

Once you’re feeling loose, maybe try sending a few quick sudden shakes or twitches through your body/part, again keep it small if joints hit their end of range of motion, your whole body might have to be involved in absorbing, even for a small impact. You might take those shaken joints for a run or a jump or a dance and see how it feels!