We frequently take our balance for granted. Yet, it’s a key component of dance, so why not focus on the fundamentals of improving yours? You may not be rushing out to join the circus and walk on your head, but having the skill of a tightrope walker the next time you hit the dance floor wouldn’t hurt. We’ve listed some simple strategies to enhance your balance, both on and off the dance floor, below.
Balance is described as a condition of bodily equilibrium marked by stillness and the cancellation of opposing forces on all sides. Three mechanisms essentially coordinate our balance. The first is the vestibular or auditory system located in the inner ear and functions as a “carpenter’s balance” to keep you upright. The second balancing system employs sensory nerves known as proprioceptors found in muscles, tendons, and joints. They provide awareness of your body’s position in three dimensions. Finally, the visual system delivers messages about your body’s status from your eyes to your brain.
We all have a ‘good balance’ to some extent. Who can’t walk in a straight line or manage a flight of stairs with some clutter underfoot? But it’s when you’re comfortably shifting from one foot to the other on the dance floor that things get complicated! It’s incredible to watch someone with excellent balance. Their ability to stand on one leg so, especially en pointe is something to be admired. So, how can we all achieve such an outstanding balance?
Core strength is vital for mobility and balance. All of the muscles surrounding and connecting to our trunk are referred to as our’ core.’ It makes no difference how powerful your arms and legs are if the forces to which they are attached in your centre are not equally as strong. It requires love and attention to support and strengthen your core. Consistent strength training workouts are necessary to keep your core strength at its peak.
Aside from our core, our posture is an essential component of balance. The spine and pelvis serve as the foundation for most movement and support most of our body weight. Posture awareness aids with mobility, extremity control, and proper weight placement for optimal balance. Posture may not usually imply a stiff vertical spine. Instead of thinking about locking the spine into place, think about engaging the muscles around the spine and directing it where it needs to go. It is incredibly vital to have a good posture when completing turns.
When we first start dancing, we are amazed by how dancers can perform several pirouettes without becoming dizzy or collapsing. However, it is only when we begin to understand how to turn for ourselves that we realise they are not just holding themselves precisely, but they are also spotting. Spotting is an excellent approach to enhance and support equilibrium. Finding a focus point and focusing your gaze on that location on the wall or rear of the theatre will help you maintain your balance for a more extended period. Just keep an eye out for the ground!
We’ve included a few activities you can do to enhance your coordination, muscles, and reflexes for some simple strategies to maintain your balance:
- Stand with your feet parallel and your hands on a chair, table, or wall. Balance and roll up to demi-pointe. When you are comfortable in the posture, remove your hands from your support, find your equilibrium, and then close your eyes. With your eyes closed, notice how it becomes more challenging to balance. Concentrate your concentration on pushing down into the ground with your legs, activating your core and keeping energy in your arms. This will help you maintain your balance.
If you feel comfortable executing this exercise on both legs, you can try it on one leg to put your balance to the test.
- Play a game of catch while balancing on one foot for more pleasure. If that feels too easy, you can increase the difficulty by standing on demi-pointe.
- Another fun way to improve your balance is to improvise on a piece of music. Rather than thinking of choreography, imagine you’re trying to explore the whole room. Have someone randomly pause the music or use a ‘freeze dance’ app. When the music stops, challenge yourself to freeze and balance whatever position you find you’re in. The more off centre you are, the better!
Improvising a piece of music is another enjoyable technique to improve your balance. Instead of concentrating on choreography, pretend you’re attempting to explore the entire room. Allow someone to pause the music at random or utilise a ‘freeze dance’ app. When the music stops, try to freeze and balance in whatever posture you find yourself in. The further you are from the centre, the better!