Being honest and authentic

Photo: Liel Ann – Unsplash

As promised in the first blog, I will guide you through ideas and concepts that are building blocks of good design, that will inspire and lift you to another level of your awareness, presentation and performance. (All the way through the text, there are links and hyperlinks in red – they will contribute a lot to a bigger picture.)

Already the Ancient Greeks knew This is one of The Secrets of Success. They even went as far as to engrave the maxim on the portico of the Apollo’s temple in Delphi: “Know Thyself”.

In our world, being honest and authentic sometimes seems quite hard to achieve, because of the pressures, illusions, or images that we carry inside our heads, trying to figure out what Latin dancing and Latin image really is about. But trust me, nothing says more authentic, than a true, honest manifestation of your own self on the floor. As Edith Piaf said: “ Use your faults, use your defects; then you’re going to be a star.”

How do we do that?  I believe knowing ourselves is one of the most difficult things to achieve in life, because it calls for honesty, a critical/analytical eye and above all, courage to accept ourselves for what we are and how we look like. For our practical purpose of creating an authentic image on the floor, we are not going to go very, very deep, but nevertheless, we are going to bring higher awareness to our body type, character and style of dancing. All this will give us a wider perspective when we develop our new authentic image on the floor. Since dancing is a physical art – we use our bodies as tools of our expressions – we need to know how we are built. What is our temperament? Does all this affect our movement, our image?

I will go rather quickly through the classification, but I do hope you will get inspired enough to make your own little research into this very interesting field. There are three typical body types walking and dancing around this world: Ectomorph – the lean long limbs, not a lot of muscle mass, Endomorph – muscular, chubby built, with shorter limbs, and Mesomorph – athletic built, somewhat between Ectomorph and Endomorph.  Of course, there are combinations between these three body types – nobody is really a 100% of just one.          

Many years ago, while driving to Blackpool Dance Festival, I came upon a great book of Ayurveda in sports, that confirmed what I was observing all the time, but wasn’t really sure I was on the right path. It has an even better classification of the three Doshas – types – which describe physical, physiological and psychological profile:

VATA (Wind energy) – as body type, closest to Ectomorph type – lively, communicative, creative, quick to remember and quick to forget

PITTA (Fire) – closest to Mesomorph type – competitive, emotional, with a lot of willpower, sharp and agile mind.

KAPHA (Water) – closest to Endomorph type – peaceful, calm, with good stamina, slow to remember, but the memory acquired this way, stays forever.

Each of us is a different combination of these three Doshas. And in order to be healthy, happy and successful, they need to be kept in BALANCE by having the state of mind, activity, food, and environment, that is just right for them. Here is link to the The Book that inspired me –with a test inside: Body, Mind and Sport by John Douillard All these types and combinations between the basic types are nothing more than descriptions of very diverse, interesting people. We all move in a different way, because the way we are built, the temperament we have and the way we think.                                  

Photo: Bruce Marsh – Unsplash

Good design is created by having all these characteristics of body types in mind. In Latin-American and Ballroom dancing, one of the primary things to determine, is where each dancer’s center of gravity lies – remember, different types are differently built – it determines the way they move. It is physics. Some dancers, for example Ectomorph type – Vata type – who have long, lean limbs and narrow hips, have their true center of gravity relatively high. They need to work in their own special way to bring their centre of gravity lower. A good design will help them achieve this even quicker and give them a look and feel of a “heavier”, lower center of gravity. It is all about achieving a good BALANCE.                                                                         

Photo: David Hofman – Unsplash

On the other hand, a dancer with lower centre of gravity, shorter legs and longer torso (maybe Endomorph, – Kapha type), needs to work in a different way to create the illusion of longer lines and higher centre of gravity. Of course, a well designed dress, creating the right balance for this type will help achieve this. The Mesomorph, or Pitta types have all kinds of possible combinations – athletic built with longer legs, shorter legs, just right proportions… And often, not well defined WAISTLINE.                                                                    

And this is where I want to bring the attention to. Where is our NATURAL waistline?

David Hoffman – Unsplash

If we want to get our priorities in order, this would be the first question we need to ask when we think about a good authentic, personalised design. Our natural waistline is also a point where we start talking about Aesthetic “laws”, that are embedded in our subconscious mind. Surely, you must have all heard about the GOLDEN RATIO – a concept that determines what we perceive as Ideal of Beauty. It is a special number – ratio – that is present in all parts of our body. Ideally, the number is (around) 1.618.   To have a little fun, lets calculate our (Golden) Body Ratio:                                                                                                                       

Leg length : (Total Body Height – Leg Length) Leg length is measured from waistline to the floor.

Example Leg length 106cm : (Body height 167 cm – Leg length 106 cm) = 1.73 Which means that the centre of gravity is slightly high.

Each of us have our own Body Ratios, that fall closer, or further apart from the Golden Ratio.

Photo: David Hoffman – Unsplash
Photo: David Hoffman – Unsplash

GOOD DESIGN has always been a delightful answer to all these deviations.                                                                FASHION has been cleverly shifting waistline throughout the history, putting focus of attention to different parts of the body:                                                                                                                                                                                                  

In Greek and Roman times, with fabrics being asymmetrically draped over a basic linear tunic, waistline was not really an issue, only the natural shape of the body was coming out. Focus was on shoulders, neck, arms, face, hairstyle.                                                                                                                                                                                               

With the use of Corsets, the waistline became very well defined and fell into it’s right place, with big focus on ladies’ bosom and hips – hour-glass silhouette.                                                                                                                                           

Then the waistline started to move upwards in Napoleonic times, and The Empire style reached the line just under the breasts. This created a look of longer legs and a lighter center of gravity. Everything looked suddenly lighter and younger, also because of the hairstyles that followed suite and changed into a lovely short fringed style that framed the face.                                                                                                                                                                                               

Again, the waistline travelled, this time low, much lower than natural waistline in the Roaring 20’s. The look was linear, flat chested, almost shapeless. This helped balance out the lower waistline. With one new focus – legs! Again, hairstyles changed into a short cut bob style and a Modern Woman was born.                                                                          

Coming into post war modern era, The 50’s were all about natural tiny waistline, with tiny rounded shoulders and pointed breasts, showing legs just under the knees.

 The 80’s were all about waist again, but this time, with big accent on wide shoulders and showing off the legs – with centre of gravity higher than in the 50’s.                                                                                                                                  

Present time fashion generally had/has a lower waistline, although we actually see all possible positions of waistline, which bring into focus different parts of the body. Markets have globalised and fashion brands offer different styles for all kinds of different types. Knowing our body is the key to dress for success.

(If you checked the hyperlinks just a little bit, you could see how very radically images have changed because of the shifting waistline. All the rest of the details and different cuts are secondary and somehow fall into place.)                                                                                                          

In dance, we have all the freedom to play with these different proportions. There is no fashion dictate, like in everyday fashion – we can create our own, authentic style. This is at the same time very liberating and very scary. Primarily, we need to be well aware of the proportions and characteristics our bodies have, and by the way, none of this is either “good” or ‘bad”. If we are clever, we can use them to our advantage:                                                           

Where is the waistline? How long are the legs? Remember our Golden Ratio?

How long is the torso relative to the body?

Ideally, the head is 1/8 of the total body height and the middle section is where the crotch is.

How long are the arms (are the lines naturally longer or shorter?)

And of course, there are secondary characteristics that follow as a consequence:

How does anatomy and proportions affect the movement?

What can we do to enhance the movement with design?

Photo: Robert Collins – Unsplash

When we decide to take this “High Road”, we have to be prepared to learn lessons and face the consequences – some painful (critiques because of all the searching and mistakes), But if we remain on track, we are rewarded, because of the impact, originality and style that will work for us. It takes time and real courage to do this. For all of you out there who are trying to find your own personal authentic style, this is how trends are created. It is exciting and insightful journey that starts first by knowing your own body.                                    

Until the next time, make your own little research. Try to find out what type are you, where is your centre of gravity, how does it affect your movement, where is your waistline, your “Golden Ratio”. We will build on this and find out even more “rules” and concepts that will create Good Design for you.

Stay active, happy and healthy.


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