|Photo by Maharet Hughes|
The question I probably get asked most frequently is how I get my abdominal flutters so strong, even, sustained and large enough to see from the back of the room- no matter what size the venue is. First of all, my flutters do not come from an ability to move my abdominal muscles in and out quickly. I could definitely do that… but if I was engaging my abs by pulling them in and out super-fast, then I wouldn’t be able to layer belly rolls with my flutters, a movement that I call the “flundulation”.
I’m going to share a few tips to my super-human flutters with you. With a little ok, a lot- of practice, you’ll be able to achieve mind-bending flutters yourself.
The main secret for "alien belly",wild-looking flutters is to keep your abdominal muscles soft and relaxed, while your skeleton remains in standard dance posture- pelvis neutral with the tailbone tucked slightly towards the floor, ribcage lifted, and shoulders back and down. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is!
Think about it: our abdominal muscles are constantly engaged, whether we’re conscious of it or not. When enter in performance, our abs are always engaged- we’ve been trained to do that! When we walk into a party or social gathering, we automatically pull up into a regal posture, without even thinking about it. Trying on a costume or an item in a store’s dressing room, we immediately suck in our stomachs.
Letting our bellies remain relaxed is completely conditioned out of us by society, so it might take you a while to get the hang of keeping your skeleton engaged and your abdominal muscles soft. When I was training to do this- and I taught myself, no one showed me- I’d place my hands on my sides, actually hooking my fingers just under my top ribs, so I could really feel my ribcage staying lifted as I let my belly go soft. It looks kinda dorky, but try it- it works!
After you’ve gotten comfortable with that, it’s time to discover your diaphragm, which is the place of initiation for all my flutters. The diaphragm, the large, major muscle that controls our breathing, is strong and kinda dome-shaped, sitting in the lower middle of your torso. Though we’re usually not aware of it, the diaphragm contracts rhythmically as we breathe as we breathe in and out. But if you concentrate, you can control the diaphragm- like when you breathe in deeply, holding your breath before diving into water. Think of your diaphragm as an inflatable ball. It fills up as you inhale and deflates when you exhale. So you can feel it in motion, place your hand on your diaphragm and breath slowly and deeply.
Once you’ve located your diaphragm and felt it moving naturally, try it a few times with conscious control, breathing in and out slowly and deeply as you keep your skeleton lifted and your abdominal muscles soft and un-engaged. Now, try exhaling sharply, cutting the diaphragm’s muscle movement off. You’ve done this correctly if you feel a little clutch or catch. Repeat this a few times, allowing yourself a couple of moments of regular breathing in between so you don’t get all light-headed and dizzy.
A word to the wise: while many people advocate catching your breath and “cutting it off” at the throat, I don’t advocate this practice. Not only are the little “catches” you make while doing that visible to the audience, the movements also can cause the tendons in the neck to pop out and look sort of stringy and ugly…even on younger dancers!
Instead, try to visualize that little clutch or catch staying just at the top of your ribs, directly under your cleavage…or, if you're a guy, directly under and between your man-candy pectoral muscles.
Remember, the diaphragm is one of the strongest muscles in our body; it’s in constant use as we breathe. If you repeat these practice movements even just a few times a day, the strength in your diaphragm will build up at lightening speed…and soon, you will have a flutter that the audience can see from the back of the room!
If you liked finding out a bit about abdominal technique here, then you’ll LOVE my instructional DVD, “ABS-olutely Fabulous”- it’s packed with info on flutters, belly rolls, and undulations! Get it here: