Good balance is an essential trait for any dancer. Whether you’re practising en pointe or you need to maintain a difficult position for longer, it can often seem that other people have a far better sense of balance than you.
It’s easier, of course, if you have visual feedback and can see yourself in a mirror but most of the time you have to depend on your natural ability, especially when you are doing a show.
Our natural balance is controlled by several sensory processes, including the inner ear, and perfecting it can be challenging for some dancers. It’s not impossible, however, once you understand the mechanism more fully.
We have several proprioceptors around the body which help define and manage movement, however big or small. When we depend too much on visuals, we tend to use these aids to our balance much less. That’s why working on balance without having visual cues can achieve a lot more.
Face Away from the Mirror
If you want to improve your balance for different moves, it helps to turn away from the mirror and abandon visual cues altogether. Another way to do this is to close your eyes when you are performing a particular move.
Instead, you need to concentrate on those proprioceptors and let them define your balance. This can be quite difficult at first but once you get used to doing it you should find that your ability begins to improve.
The first thing you will find is that you start to lose your balance more often. Don’t let this put you off – it’s perfectly natural. The temptation is to tighten up or grip more to avoid falling or stumbling. This is not what you should be doing. You need to have a stable foundation and avoid overstraining. For example, gripping the tendon at the top of the foot can throw us off balance quite easily.
When we’re focused simply on maintaining balance we do so at the expense of the aesthetics of a particular movement. It takes a lot of practice, but some exercises will help improve things.
If you are a dancer who lifts your partner, then working with a weighted ball can help improve your form. Stand on one leg in a parallel plie, holding a weighted ball above your head. Move this forward and backwards and from side to side and then in a circle. You can make this slightly more difficult by looking up at the ball.
Another exercise involves completing a fondu with the eyes closed. You can also complete a jumping arabesque and other moves without using the mirror to check your form. Doing this helps you to concentrate on the movement of your body rather than the visual stimuli and gives you a greater understanding of the other cues that affect balance.
It’s important not to be put off if you continue to lose your balance. Again, it comes down to practice and eventually becoming sure of your movements. Over time, you will find that your balance improves greatly, and your dancing becomes more assured and graceful.