• SkunkWorks Dance

Exploring energy shifts through muscle engagement.

#wednesdaywisdomSW In this week’s SkunkWorks Dance Wednesday Wisdom, we are exploring how we shift our energy through muscle engagement. Why it is an imperative for dancers to understand, and how can it can be applied?


While this might initially seem like a confusing concept, understanding energy shifts through muscle movement can actually be broken down quite simplistically allowing this to be an accessible notion dancers at all ages and levels. Take for instance, the movement of a tendu. Often when dancers first learn this step, they struggle to find a “straight” leg because they do not engage enough through their muscles to find the motion of a infinitely lengthening leg. Instead, they often exert a low amount of muscle application that can barely hold the directed shape of the tendu, thus being told they have "bent knees."

If we take this concept into more advanced work, when performing in a professional company, a dancer who understands how to shift their energy by using their full range of muscle physicality becomes a much more efficient and expressive artist. Our favorite dancers to watch are often the ones that are so masterful at this craft that their ability to switch between differing amounts of energy and muscle engagement at such a fast pace looks effortless on stage and is mind-blowing to witness.


We have found that people tend to think that having a lower amount of muscular physicality in a movement means that requires less energy. This is a misconception. As there are different types of codified dance steps there are also a variety of energy types. Founder Jana Bennett often speaks about how movements that take lower amounts of muscular energy for her, can often feel more consuming because of the high amount of mental energy it takes to stay in those moments with such intention and delicately.

In the end, the amount of energy a movement takes will vary from dancer to dancer. It is important overall to recognize though, that no matter if you are using a low amount of muscle engagement or a high amount, they all take a lot of energy. It is the type of energy that may vary


In this awesome clip, Jana will take you through a simple exercise she loves to do with her students to help them begin to explore how to shift their energy through muscle engagement. It is particularly phenomenal because this task can be performed it at any age or level. To help define the range of muscular energy and engagement used, you will hear Jana using percentages. 0% means there is no muscle exuded at all. 100% being the opposite with applying as much muscle as physically possible; and then there is all the percentages in between.

You can use this exercise on any muscle group(s), but generally for starting off it is very helpful to begin with your hands because, as you will hear in the video, your hands have the most amount of brain cells!

Tell us your thoughts! Do you use a similar task to teach muscular application to your students or yourself? How has understanding your muscle range helped you as dancer? Is this a brand new concept for you?

We want to hear from you! Comment below or email us at blog@skunkworksdance.com!

#skunkblog #bethechange #skunkworksdance

13 views0 comments



P (847)787-7200

1111 Central Ave (Village Center)

Wilmette, IL 60091

All main photos unless otherwise credited, were taken and edited by Chloe Hamilton. 

© 2023 By SkunkWorks Dance