Dancers and the Deep Front Line

Dancers and the Deep Front Line

This post is dedicated to those of you who are as engrossed in Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains theory as I am. If that’s even possible.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this “anatomy trains” thing, here’s my attempt to summarize (a fool’s task, I know).

Myers’ concept, which he was able to prove through cadaver dissection (yum), is that the body is intricately connected through myofascial lines. In other words, muscles are connected to other muscles and internal structures through a bunch of sticky connective tissue called fascia. Hence, myofascial meridians.

These lines are actually able to be dissected, though painstakingly, from the body. Imagine having pain in your neck, and by using this theory, to be able to understand how it could be traced to another area of the body by following these lines.

Just being able to of think about my own body, and the bodies of others, in this new framework has brought my postural O.C.D to a new level. And by the way, yesterday, two people told me I had good posture, and it made my day. Just sayin’. Those of you who know me well, know that posture is very important to me.

It’s also interesting how these “trains” of fascia are similar to Chinese Meridian Lines, or the Sen Lines of Thai Yoga Massage (which I practice). These are referred to as “energy lines”, but the Myers’ myofascial meridians are indeed “energy lines” in themselves, as fascia conducts an electric current. And so, if there are adhesion in one area of our myofacsial being, it can disrupt this flow of electricity (or energy) to other areas of the body, influencing it’s function.


spiral line

sen line kalathari







Note the interesting similarities between the sen line Kalathari, and Myers’ spiral line, above.

And consider that the Chinese and Thai people knew this long before we were able to dissect the individual lines from the body. My ability to (kind of) understand both Myers’ concept of  “trains of fascia”, in terms of their functional anatomy, and also the Sen lines of thai massage, in spiritual and metaphysical terms, kind of blows my mind daily.

Of all the lines in the Anatomy Trains theory, the deep front line (DFL)  could very well be the most important line for dancers. The deep front line connects the body from the flexors of the toes, up through the deep posterior compartment of the calves, through the adductors, into the iliopsoas and QL and transverse abdominis, to the diaphragm, the heart and lungs, and up into the facial muscles and the tongue.

the deep front line, connecting us from toes to tongue.

When I first read the DFL chapter in Anatomy Trains, it didn’t seem particularly fascinating to me. It wasn’t until I watched the video footage of the fresh tissue and embalmed cadaver dissection of the deep front line that I took a double take at it. And then, after watching Ryerson’s student performance, “Choreographic Works”, I took a triple take, and a few lightbulbs turned on. Yeah. More than one light bulb.

By the way, if you are following my Dance Stronger online training program, the dancer you see in the videos,  Sam, was in the show last night. And she freakin’ killed it. But anyway.

The deepest line of our bodies, the DFL connects the articulation of our feet with the ground to our facial expressions. It allows our visceral self to interact with the outside world.

Just like pulling the tablecloth out from under neatly set table, you could, in theory (if there wasn’t so much stuff holding us together), pull one’s tongue out and have in your hand a long chain (or train) of myofascia connecting us down to our feet.

Nice mental picture, eh? Kind of reminds me of a certain Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. where Scratchy gets his guts pulled out. I was pretty much raised by The Simpsons.

Consider the expressions, “I had a gut feeling”, or “it took my breath away”. As it turns out, the muscles deep in our abdominal cavity(transverse abdominis, diaphragm, iliopsoas and QL), as well as the heart, are connected fascially to the muscles of our faces.

I’ve never considered that, in terms of functional anatomy, a “gut feeling” and how it can influence our facial expressions, could be explained. Tightening in the abdominals and diaphragm can cause contraction up the chain into your facial muscles, and form what others see as your facial expression- their perception of your state of being.

It makes me think about how peoples’unique facial expressions are developed over time. Have you ever known someone whose smile was a little crooked, or who had one eye that was more expressive than the other? Or how some people seem to have a more animated face, and how some people have a “poker face”?

You can think of someone’s facial expression originating from their feet, where the DFL begins (or ends). How you feel the world through your feet, and how you react to it, through your gut , can influence how the muscles of our face become “toned”.

As a dancer, this can explain why things like pointing your feet, and having that wonderful connection of your feet to the floor can give you a real, visceral feeling through your belly. And it can explain how when a dancer is really moving with her core engaged, that her face just seems to “dance” too.

Have you ever seen a dancer who looked startled, weird, or just had a facial expression that didn’t match the dancing, or what the rest of her body was doing? I have (and I was one of those dancers).

When you are really “feeling” your core working for you, using your breath, and letting this experience travel up and down the line freely, to your face and feet, you are dancing with your whole body- dancing from your toes to your tongue.

It also explains why dancers who never learn how to use their breath seem disjointed. They just don’t look right. Remember, the diaphragm is connected to your abdominals- They work together. An energy blockage (or fascial adhesion) at one point in the line will affect your performance.

To be even more specific, your diaphragm is fascially connected to your psoas major. And when do you need to use your psoas major? Oh, just every time you want to lift your leg above 90 degrees…

Now my question is, does this feeling or energy originate from the core, and travel up and down the line to the feet and face? OR does the energy originate in your feet, and how you feel the world with your toes, and travel up to your face and tongue? Probably a little bit of both. Especially as a dancer, for whom the foot is an expressive part of the body.

I’ve even had a dance teacher ask us to think of our feet as a “tongue licking the floor”. That image doesn’t seem so weird anymore…

But the point is that a dancer who’s body is integrated structurally, and who has full body awareness (be it of Anatomy Trains theory or not), will have fewer energy blockages along this line, and will be able to feel the free flow of energy, and emotion from feet, to core, to face, and with their breath coordinated with their movement.

This dancer will dance with not only her body, but her visceral being– from the inside out,  from toes to tongue. This dancer will appear charismatic, expressive, and more interesting to watch. Her movement will be stronger, more stable, more fluid. This dancer will have better balance and control, because she will be dancing using her core muscles. You will want to be this dancer.

Also kind of explains how when I get excited about something I wiggle my toes and smile and feel all tight in my belly and chest.

I just blew my own mind. The deep front line- The line of physical-emotional expression. Thanks Tom.

PS, you have no idea how many times I mixed up “facial” and “fascial” while writing this.