As a dancer and the assistant director of New York City–based contemporary dance troupe Kate Weare Company, Douglas Gillespie takes to the floor like a duck takes to water. Whether he’s sliding, falling, pushing, rolling or holding a plank, he knows just what he needs to do to protect his body. Here, Gillespie shares three tips for keeping floorwork safe, easy and fun.
1. Use your breath.
A mindful exhale has a relaxing effect on the muscles. Gillespie brings his students attention to their breath so they can avoid that harsh encounter with the floor due to tense muscles. “Breathing out when you go down into the floor is one of the first and foremost things that I try to press upon people,” he says. “We often hold our breath when we’re doing something new. I think accentuating the breath helps people ease themselves into the floor. It’s all about releasing the tension.”
2. Engage your core.
“Having a really solid core, which I think is just a main part of any dance training, is super-helpful on the floor. Having your core be the thing that is solid allows the rest of your limbs to be the things that are sweeping or sliding on the floor.” Gillespie notes that although having a strong upper body is helpful, it’s not as necessary if the core is engaged.
3. Wear kneepads.
“Knee pads are crucial,” says Gillespie. “When I walk into class, I usually ask if everyone has knee pads or long pants so they don’t get floor burns.”
For some floorwork inspiration, check out Kate Weare dancers Nicole Vaughan-Diaz and Thryn Saxon in rehearsal for Weare’s Sin Salida.
And watch Gillespie get in and out of the floor effortlessly in a phrase he choreographed for class.