In spring or anytime, I find that dance is a lovely way to increase my vigor and celebrate my day. It’s difficult to dance and not feel happy and light-hearted, plus dancing a complex pattern is great for your memory. Dance may have evolved from people’s seeking a social way to make merry after a day’s work, or to mark the end of a season. Perhaps you enjoy, as I do, such fervent dances as the Irish or Highland jig, or more choreographed forms like contra dance, English Country Dance (perhaps driven by the lilting sound of a tin whistle!), or the festive grapevine or even modern Western square dance. Central to all such Western and European folk dances is a rhythmic and alternating left-right shifting of weight, similar to the Brain Gym® program’s Cross Crawl activity.
Once you’re familiar with the Cross Crawl*, you can vary it to do many dance steps, including a version of your own Irish Jig. You just need the right music, or perhaps you’ll sing or whistle along.
How to: You can build your Cross Crawl jig from a common jig dance step—the rising step or rise and grind. Do this first with the right foot leading, then with the left foot leading. For the right side version: Put your weight on your left foot and lift your right foot (toe pointed) off the ground. Hop once on your left foot, then hop again, bringing your right foot back behind your left foot. Then shift your weight onto your right foot, leaving your left foot in the air. Pause slightly. Now alternate with small hops, in place, from foot to foot in the pattern of left-right-left-right, ending with the weight on your right foot. Dancers use the phrase “hop, hop back” for the first three movements. The complete step is called the “hop hop back, hop 1234”. Then repeat the pattern with your right foot. To make this a Cross-Crawl step, lift the arm opposite to the lifted foot.
You might know that the real jig is done with the feet turned out, one in front of the other. However, I suggest keeping both feet pointed forward, hips-width apart, and parallel, as most of us who have been sedentary folks at some point in our lives don’t have the length and strength of posterior muscles (calves, hamstrings, hips . . .) to dance with toes turned out, which would then put a strain on our hips and back.
In all cases, (biomechanically speaking) the feet need to be pointed straight during walking in order for the ankle to actually work like an ankle (in its correct plane of motion), for the knee to work like the hinge-jointed knee that it is, and for the lateral hip to be engaged. And especially without posterior strength, walking, dancing (or even running) with feet pointed forward helps to protect us from significant stresses throughout the posterior kinetic chain, which could otherwise over time result in frustrating conditions, such as flat feet, bunions, misaligned knee and hip, and the potential injuries these can cause.
May Saint Paddy’s Day (and everyday!) find you dancing and celebrating the wonder of human mobility!
*To read about the many benefits of the Cross Crawl, see Brain Gym® Teacher’s Edition, (C) 2010. If you have difficulty doing this movement (it does require some coordination), you can easily learn it through a brief repatterning, available from Brain Gym® Instructors (see below). Further, many Brain Gym Instructors teach the Cross Crawl in a dance-like form, or you can enjoy a whole day with more than thirty variations of the Cross Crawl offered in the Movement Dynamics course that I developed in 1990 (see course listings at the same link).
Here are more tips on how to do a jig.
See the video review “All About Your Knees” on the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman to learn more about the mechanics of foot position and how this can affect knees.
© 2013 by Gail E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.