Balance is absolutely critical in dancing. In ballroom and other partner dances, it is particularly critical given the impact of one partner’s balance on the other. Think of improving your balance by focusing on the 6 parts of your body that impact it the most. These body parts are your eyes, ears, head, core, arms and feet.
If your movement is so fast that your brain is not able to register all the changing information quickly enough, it will not know what position is best to balance you. With this you may get dizzy and lose balance all together. This tends to happen when turning, especially when turning very fast or multiple times. Here you have 4 main options:
- Spot to reduce the amount of information to your brain down to two main chunks. Spotting does this because you keep your gaze in one spot as long as possible, then quickly move to the next.
- Blink more quickly, to put small rest breaks between the points of information sent to your brain.
- Intentionally blurr your vision, again to limit over-stimulation from too much information to your brain.
- Practice repeated fast spins, because you can build up tolerance for almost anything the more you do it.
Sinus congestion feels a lot like your ears are plugged, and can also impact your balance. If this happens, you have 3 main options:
- A salt and water nasal spray can help to clear nasal passages which are linked to the ear canal.
- You can yawn, swallow or chew gum to clear pressure that may have built up from high altitudes or mild allergies.
- For stronger allergies and congestion, you might need an antihistamine. If you take antihistamines, drink plenty of water since your throat and respiratory passages will likely feel dry.
There are many ways to misalign your head, but also many ways to counter-balance it. You have three main situations and options here as well:
- Keep your chin parallel to the floor or at a right angle to your body. This will immediately put your head in a balanced position. It also looks strong and elegant.
- If your step or choreography requires your head to briefly go back, forward or to one side, make sure that your core is particularly well engage, and keep the misalignment as brief as possible if you are moving. It will also help your balance if there is some counterbalance in another part of your body. Typically this will happen quire naturally, unless you are tense.
- When a follower in ballroom does a stretch, there should still be a perfect triangle from the head as the point on the top or the triangle, to the shoulders as the 2 points of the base. This needs to be maintained even with the left turn of the head, to ensure that the neck stays straight, and able to balance the head.
Your core is much more than your abdominals. In very general terms, it includes the front, back and side muscles in your entire torso as well as the pelvic area. When the core muscles work together, they support stability. When one or another is much weaker or less engaged that the others, you are less stable. Consider the four main requirements for core engagement:
- The muscles that are most likely to be too relaxed are the muscles of the pelvic floor. Until muscle memory is developed, most people have to consciously engage them as in Kegel exercises, which are similar to activation the muscles to stop urination
- Engage the abdominals by thinking of bringing the belly button to the spine.
- Engage the back and side muscles by keeping your shoulder blades down, your back flat, and your rib cage compact and not puffed out.
- Exercise your core even when not dancing. Even bit of advantage here helps a lot.
If the core is engaged, the arms should be free to naturally amplify your movement and connect appropriately to your partner. The major risk is when you are in a closed or contact position, and the partners’ connection is too strong and tight. Consider these two points:
- Even when partners are in perfect unison, a move with a very slight difference in timing of one partner, can sabotage the balance of the other. Arm tone cannot be too strong or too soft. It has to be “just right”.
- A similar result will occur if the leader “steers” a step with arms as opposed to leading with the body and allowing the arms to follow. Even the sharpest move that may look like arm lead (think tango) is actually a body lead. The arms do not move, they remain in the same position relative to the body and simply re-position in space because the body moves.
You have probably heard the term “stand on your foot”, “get your weight on your foot” or some colorful variation as in Vol 1, 2 or 3 of The things that dance instructors say.
There are two main things here:
- Truly it is impossible to move with balance unless your weight has a single focus point. Split weight (where your weight is equally divided between both feet) is a static or transitional position. If you try to move without full transfer of weight to one foot, you will literally be in conflict by being in-between standing and moving and will become off balance.
- Your foot position is also important. Even if you start a step on the side of your foot, remember to have the base of the foot flat before you move. If not you may cause injury as well as imbalance.