March 2014

Spotting and Neck Rotation

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March 2014

Featuring how to improve your turns and spotting with better neck movement, a quote from Daisha Graf, and summer dance intensives in St. Louis.

 Spotting while turning requires balanced neck rotation

The cervical spine, commonly referred to as the neck, is capable of four types of motion:

• Flexion – Allows the head to face downward

• Extension – Allows the head to face upward

• Rotation – Allows the head to turn side to side, looking over the left or right shoulder

• Lateral Flexion – Allows the head to move toward shoulder while facing forward

The cervical spine consists of 7 bones called vertebrae, each of which plays a unique part in facilitating proper motion. The atlas and the axis, the two uppermost vertebrae, are able to rotate more than any other vertebrae in the spine. As such, the atlanto-axial joint is responsible for nearly all of the neck’s rotational motion.  A person with proper rotational movement should be able to turn his or her head to the left or to the right and have the same range of motion in either direction. If the atlas and axis are slightly stuck, called a segmental dysfunction, the rest of the vertebrae in the neck have to compensate for this in order to complete the motion. Since the remaining vertebrae are less capable of this type of movement, the range of motion will be restricted in one or both directions.

Full rotation of the neck requires not only freedom of movement for the vertebrae, but proper muscular function as well. The muscles involved in rotating the neck are:

• Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) in the front of the neck

• Suboccipitals wrapping around the sides of the neck at the base of the skull

• Longissimus capitus,  splenius capitus,  upper trap, semispinalis  capitus, and levator scapulae all located in the back of the neck



When a dancer turns, he or she keeps the head still while the body spins under it. If the dancer is turning en dehors (clockwise) on the left leg, the head must first go all the way to the left, then quickly go to the right.  Without proper neck movement, spotting becomes slow and limited. This can turn a double into a single or make one side much weaker than the other.

Testing Rotational Function of the Neck

With your body still, rotate your head as far as you can, first to one side, then the other.  Next, while looking forward and keeping your head still, rotate your body as far as you can, first to one side, then the other.  Compare the two sides.  Is one side able to turn more than the other?  Do you feel pain when rotating to either side?

Improving Neck Mobility for Better Spotting


While either standing, sitting, or lying on your back, look as far to the left as you can, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat to the right. Continue on both sides 3-5 times.

*Never allow anyone to help you stretch your neck unless they are a professional.


Stare at an object and slowly turn your body while maintaining focus on the object as long as you can. Once you can no longer see the object, rotate your head as quickly as you can and refocus on the object. Repeat several times in the same direction before switching to the other side.

Click her for a PDF March 2014 Spotting

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