From pirouettes to adagio, the art of dance is full of breathtaking techniques that never fail to impress. And, to perform them correctly, dancers need to fully develop one of the most fundamental skills of dancing: balance.
As a beginner dancer can tell you, this is easier said than done. Knowing how to move your body is one thing, but trying to coordinate this movement in time to music in a group while obeying the laws of gravity is something else entirely. Having great balance is something that most people have to develop, and it starts with understanding.
Balance is a biological process that is dynamic and imperceptible, manifesting itself in our bodies as subtle, continuous adjustments. These adjustments never stop; they happen whenever we walk, and even when we stand still. Because it is something we normally take for granted, balance usually only needs to be specially developed when it comes to specialized movements used in sports and dancing.
A good dancer makes use of balance to switch positions in a smooth and controlled manner. To improve this innate skill, try following these practical tips:
A mirror is essential to dance practice; they are absolutely necessary for improving your form. Mirrors provide immediate feedback that allow dance students to instantly evaluate their movement, correct their placement, and properly assess the line of their bodies. And yet, if we depend on them too much, a mirror can actually become a hindrance, something that is especially true when it comes to balance.
Balance is a dynamic process that requires the coordination of three sensory systems, one of which is your eyes. By regularly using a mirror during practice, we get used to making adjustments from seeing our own reflections. Unfortunately, mirrors won’t be available during a real performance.
For this reason, young dancers should try practicing without a mirror. If you’re in a room with a mirror, try changing your direction to face a non-mirrored wall. Once you’ve practiced with a mirror to evaluate your movements, try testing your movements on your own without looking at yourself.
Remember: Dancers don’t dance for a mirror; they dance for an audience!
Not using a mirror is just the beginning. Not only do dance students need to stop relying on their own reflection as a reference, they should get in the habit of finding a focus point, something that can help keep your balance.
To do this, dancers should find a spot on the wall or a light at the back of the theatre. Just as with spotting—the technique that keeps a dancer’s head and eyes constantly oriented by rotating the body and head at different rates—a focus point helps dancers control their balance by providing a fixed point of reference.
Keep your head up and away from the floor, and your balance should continue to get better.
Balance is an automatic process that tells your body how to adjust based upon sensory inputs. Although this is not exactly a muscle you can exercise, there are other muscles that can be developed.
In addition to a strong lower body to provide a solid base, dance students should prioritize developing their core muscles. By having strong core stability, dancers can gain better control of body movements associated with the stomach, torso, and mid-to-lower back.
Something else that dancers need to develop is good posture. Since slouching can offset the centre of gravity, a dancer should constantly be aware of their posture, making automatic corrections whenever it can be improved. Combined with a strong core, a good posture will go a long way in improving your balance.
The barre joins the mirror as one of the most useful tools available in a dance studio. And, just as with a mirror, the usefulness of a barre can be abused if students rely on it too much.
Start practicing with the barre; rehearse the movement until it can be performed naturally and smoothly. Then, once the student feels comfortable enough, try repeating the movement in the centre of the room without it. This will help encourage the student to make movements on her own. This way, dance students can wean themselves off the barre and start performing movements independently.
Dancers need to find their balance throughout demanding movements that include turns and spins. As such, dancers need to develop their balance under similarly demanding circumstances by putting themselves in challenging situations.
You’ve gotten good at performing your movement in a brightly-lit room. To challenge yourself, try doing this movement in dim lighting or with your eyes closed. Make it difficult for yourself by practicing on an uneven surface such as a tumbling mat. Take it even further by testing your physical limits; maintain your pose for longer than necessary, or try to go a little further than your reach.
The point is to put yourself in progressively difficult situations in order to test your balance without putting yourself in danger. Challenge yourself, and you may be surprised at what you find.
Want to find out more dancing tips? Read our blog to find out how careful dance practice helps you learn faster, or learn about the benefits of dancing for your preschooler. CDM Dance & Music offers online dance classes and a full recreational dance calendar. Contact us to find out more!