Michelle Jenneke dances to get ready to run hurtles.
She hears music in her head, and dances to it. She has been doing the same dance since she was first racing. It’s a routine that has worked for her for years at this point. It’s a superb example of a studied rehearsed routine, using excitement and imagination to focus and feed yourself for performance. She is starting with enthusiasm and momentum to go into extraordinary movement, using the performance energy to get ready. Her spring-loaded movement quality is apparent as she exceeds her competitors in the precision of her jumps and speed. Also clear here is the forward thrust of her head leading her movement- even though her legs have to get way out in front of her, the momentum of the movement is apparent in her head and torso. It’s particularly interesting to observe the difference between her and her competitors in this regard.
This dance prepares her perfectly for what she’s about to do: the bounce gets her head/ spine organized and active, and fires her glutes and hamstrings; wiggling her fingers gets her fast-twitch muscles firing which she needs for explosive movement; and the dancing on alternate legs with hands on hips gets her lats firing and activates her contralateral movement pattern (alternate arm and leg) so she’s both taut and springy. Her dance is a perfect pre-hurtle routine.
Another important element of her routine- acknowledging and welcoming her audience. She waves at the crowd, smiling, clearly including them in the event. This is essential for performance readiness- inviting your audience to be with you while you are being with them doing your performance.
Practice and Process
“I fall a lot in practice. Like, every training session. I’m always trying to push myself to go faster and do better and get as close the hurtle as I can, and when you do that, you hit them… I really like it when I fall over in training…It shows me that I’m doing the right thing.”
This is something you can see in extraordinary performers and athletes time and time again- the practice of pushing up against and beyond the limits of their current ability. There is friendliness with failure, seeking new information through experimenting. There is no “waste”, there is just the next thing to try. This is deep play- exploration that leads to self-fluency, mastery and innovation.
Kate Conklin is a performance coach and teacher of voice and the Alexander Technique. Kate specializes in helping world-class performers whose work requires excellent technique and profound artistry. She teaches in Los Angeles and remotely via Skype.