Movement Exercise: Whole-body Cascade
This skill is
one of the simplest to learn, and yet was the most instrumental in helping
me appreciate what it means to be fluid in dance. The whole-body cascade
provides the overarching context; the scaffolding upon which convergences
with other body motions is mounted.
This exercise involves movement of the lower back. If you suffer from
a serious back condition then you should not proceed. If you want to
be sure, submit this exercise for evaluation by your physician. If you
have determined that it is safe, you should still manage your expectations
for suppleness but adopting a 'slowly but surely' approach.
Your body is divided up into seven horizontal bands (in order):
- Upper back
- Middle of
- Lower back
- Hips / buttocks
Each band is
displaced in sequence to give rise to a cascade: either from head to
toe or vice versa. In dance mode, think if it as an extension
of the lower body joint cascade found in the Lower
Body Action tutorial.
And the best
bit is that you get to do this lying down.
head-to-toe cascade, lying down
this, you'll need a firm-ish mattress; and two cushions (pillows or
rolled-up towels will do).
Lie down on your
back and place one pillow under the arch of your back, and another under
your knees. You can place your arms by your side or lay your hands on
your lower abdomen. I prefer the latter.
- Press the
back of your head into the mattress and hold it there for two
seconds before releasing.
- Press your
upper back into the mattress and hold again for two seconds
- Do the same
for the middle of your back.
- Squash the
pillow with your lower back for two seconds before re-establishing
- Press your
buttocks into the mattress and hold for two seconds.
- Squash the
pillow with the back of your knees for two seconds.
press into the mattress with the backs of your heels for two
Repeat the practice
until the transitions from band to band occur smoothly. Don't forget
to release properly before moving on to the next band.
Shorten the pressure
period from two seconds to one second, and then to under a second.
toe-to-head cascade, lying down
The same as for Exercise 1.1 except you perform the cascade in reverse
order i.e.: ankles, knees, buttocks, lower back, mid-back, upper
back, then head.
head-to-toe cascade, standing
Now I know some of my students prop up a mattress against a wall
and practice it that way. I don't blame them for finding it preferable
to doing the pressure bit against a bare-naked wall.
However in my
case, after practising it lying down for a few days, I went straight
to the standing unsupported version.
toe-to-head cascade, standing
If you've been able to perform Exercise 2.1 unsupported, the only
point you need to remember (apart from the standard safety issues) is
to start with your knees slightly flexed to give them somewhere
to go. Straight legs don't allow your knees the chance to get involved
in the cascade process.
cascade from pedalling, asymmetric
Execute the pedalling action, and continue taking the movement upward
beyond the hips up to your head. The cascade is powered using only one
leg, which is the most likely scenario in dancing.
From this exercise,
you can glean that the most common application is to use the toe-to-head
wave after foot placement, and the head-to-toe wave before
Insert a horizontal circle into the body wave. For example,
- pedal onto
your right leg;
- let the cascade
reach your right hip; then
- describe a
full anti-clockwise circle as in Body
Movement: Pelvis, Circular (east-north-west-south-east); then
- continue the
cascade up to your head.
There are plenty
of imaginative ways which this exercise can be varied:
- you could
use two horizontal circles, by inserting another at chest level;
- or incorporate
a lateral looped pelvic swing from east to west, carrying the cascade
up the other side.