Everything is a Question of Balance
Balance is one of the most important skills to have for dancing. To improve your balance, the first thing to be conscious of is what you do when you try to balance: this realization goes through the observation of your habitual behaviour to create a movement. The preparation of balance is also as important as your strength: a balanced movement requires a minimum of effort.
A typical person has their centre of gravity above the navel, in the middle of the body in a horizontal plane. To keep a balanced position, the vertical projection of the centre of gravity have to be within your base of support, which supports the weight of your entire body. Bigger your support base is, there more your balance is secured. Smaller it is, more your balance becomes unstable. That’s why you have the maximum of balance when you are lying and the minimum en pointe.
Three systems exist to control balance: the proprioception (plantar, skin, tendon, muscular, ligament, joint... receptors), the vestibule (in the inner ear) and the eyes. The body is naturally subjected to rocking, but we are able to adapt our position by reflex: the postural motor function aims to control the balance of the body and its position in space. Working on the position of the head to stabilize the visual field is crucial. For example, to achieve a pirouette, it is necessary to have a fixed point to hold your dynamic balance. A good work of the way of holding your arms and head secures your balance.
When you lose your balance, you already wonder what was wrong; you also become more anxious and tighter for the next time you will try to keep your balance. The fear to not be able to stay on your balance is the main factor which explains why you have difficulty in finding it. It makes your muscles tense and your movements difficult and irregular. On the contrary, to keep calm and confident will help you to move with fluidity and control. Sanity is also as important as physical exercises.
To improve your balance or neuromuscular coordiation, you can play on several different factors:
eyes opened or closed
intrinsic movements, that is to say you can move your head, your arms, your trunk, the other leg if you are on one foot... You can use some little materials like weights in your movements
extrinsic movements, like being pushing gently by someone else, to receive and throw a ball... Everything outside yourself which could cause the movement of your body
proprioception: you can use a foam pad, a swissball, little balls under your feet...
the base of support: on two feet or one foot, spread or closed feet, one foot in front of the other, on demi-pointes, on pointes...
You can mix every factor together. For example, on one foot on a foam pad with a weight which passes from a hand to the other one around your body. No time to improve your balance? Try to integrate it in your daily living! When you brush your teeth, stay on one foot and close your eyes. In the street, walk one foot in front of the other one like a tightrope walker. So many possibilities, be creative!
Challenge your balance sometimes in extreme manners could be beneficial to improve your general balance and gain in assurance. Now, the key to success is to transpose your balance practise into dance, closer as much as possible to the reality of a show, with all these lights pointed at you and this big and dark space which is waiting for you. So, keep smiling and be self-confident, the stage is yours!
Photography: Robert Watson
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