Singing posture for women part 2

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The first time that I saw a person with really good posture was at summer camp. I was 9. There was a friend there who was a gymnast. She could do splits and cartwheels, which was awesome, but I also noticed she walked different. I must admit that at the time I perceived it as unnatural, since no one around me moved and stood in such a way. As if she swallowed a stick and her stomach was falling out? I remember looking at children with really protruding bellies and thinking they needed “fixing”. I did not realize I needed fixing myself.

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In my family my father was the one with a hunched over back and always in pain. My mom never had any back trouble. I think you might see from this photo that I took after my father with a slightly collapsed chest and head thrown forward.

School nurses never commented on that, it was not noted in the physicals. Well, of course, when you walk into the doctor’s office you try to look presentable. Had the health practitioners evaluated children in the schoolyard during play they would have noticed it, but would they have done anything about it? They would have prescribed some God-awful corrective regime that would just make me miserable.

I still believe it is good to practice sports for good posture but it is not the whole story. While unveiling the secrets of voice production I looked for something that gymnasts and large bodied divas have in common. I concluded that it must be good spinal alignment, when the posture muscles are engaged – neither strained nor stretched. This is something subtle and cannot be addressed by a simple trick. Pulling the stomach in or pushing it out, curving the spine in places or stretching it out  does not do it.  It is unsustainable. The moment you stop thinking about it your body will return to the most easy stance.

My friend from the camp did not have to watch herself every moment of the day to maintain her good posture. It was completely natural to her. Why then could I just not copy it and enjoy a such a more graceful and healthy way of living? Why when my singing teachers encouraged me to “walk like an opera singer” I was not able to copy them?

The answer in the next post. In the meantime, just for inspiration, a few more examples of great posture in female gymnasts. Notice their spines – don’t they remind you of Jenny Bernals?

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Singing posture for women part 1 – meet Jenny Bernals!

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Bernal Opera now has a new patroness – a French singer by the name of Jenny Bernals.

I found a postcard of her on Etsy, fell in love with it and now Jenny is my favorite model for talking about singing posture for women.

So what is the difference between a singing posture for women and for men? Basically none –  the dynamic male posture, as described in my earlier post, works well for anybody. The problem lies in the fact that while men have dressed principally the same for the last 100 years – jacket, shirt, pants – female wardrobe underwent a complete transformation and that transformation affected women on many levels, not always in a positive way.
On the surface it seems that getting rid of corsets and long, heavy skirts was a liberating development. However, the old clothes were a kind of ladies’ armor. Within the structure of the corset and her long dress a woman, I suppose, felt more confident and protected. As we see in Jenny’s picture, she is not apologizing for anything in her looks, she doesn’t have to think about a muffin top, hanging belly, cellulite or any other concerns that plague women of today not only when they make a trip to the beach.
The best example would be to compare Jenny’s stance with that of a contestant in a beauty pageant from the 1960s:
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She wears low heels, seems relaxed and balanced just like Jenny, yet the overall impression is fundamentally different. Let’s see the pictures side by side:

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When I look at Jenny I see a female Alpha, a queen. When I see the 1960’s Girl, I feel that although she is smiling, she is somehow hiding in her body. She stands straight, but do we want this kind of straight?  She is almost naked and exposing herself to judgment by a bunch of strangers, so she is playing down her curves. Jenny can afford an “indecent” and open pose, because she is fully covered. 1960’s Girl cannot. I can imagine Jenny making a great and loud sound from her posture, the other one – I am not so sure.

Let’s examine the examples in more detail:

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It seems like the lines of their bodies are reversed. 1960’s Girl’s line is also almost flat.

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Small difference and yet very important for a singing artist. Although, as I said in the post on posture for man, a good singer can produce great sound in any position, it is easiest if your everyday posture is already good, you don’t have to undo some bad habit. The corset helped the ladies in the past, but this is not the whole story – see another popular pin-up of the day, dancer La Belle Otero – she’s definitely not wearing one, but her stance is just as fine as Jenny’s. Or look at the iconic beauty, opera singer Lina Cavalieri.

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The long skirts encouraged a certain style, certain look that in the 1920s went out of fashion. Women started hiding their breasts, tummies, butts and hips even as they exposed them to the public. Just look at Bettie Page, young, cute and sexy model with a pulled-in stomach. I can just hear the photographer telling her to pull it in, if she didn’t remember. You cannot sing with a pulled-in tummy, so for me this photo is ruined by the fact that I perceive a woman rendering herself mute.

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Why Jenny’s posture works better for singing I will explain and demonstrate  in the next post. I will also tell you how to work towards it – and no, it is not just about pulling back your arms, raising your chest and holding it all like that. No pushing and pulling in this singing guide!

The proof that the curvy posture is natural and works for all kind of singers, not just for 19 century divas, another half of the photo of Mick Jagger: here with Taylor Swift. Wavy body line, facing up to him,  strong on her high heels as he is in his sport shoes. No pulled in stomach!

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Part two of women’s posture coming soon.