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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Getting better balance


LM_rose

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LM_rose

Hello. I have been struggling with my balance for quite a while. After years of ballet, I still can barely balance on one leg in releve. I have tried everything. Foot strengthing, ab and leg strengthening, practice balancing, and more. I just can't seem to find it. I am really starting to get discouraged. Does anyone have any tips/exercises that are helpful? Thx. 

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Miss Persistent

Balance is all about physics.  If your centre of gravity (your pelvis) is placed directly over your base of support (your leg) then theoretically, you should be able to balance. Alas, it is never that simple as our bodies are complex structures that have many moving parts!

Of course speak with your teacher if you can’t work out why you have difficulty balancing as they should have some insight looking from the outside.  There are far too many technical reasons you could be having difficulty balancing and without seeing you it’s impossible to start helping with corrections.

Other things can affect balance also like the inner ear and eye focus - if either are affected it can have a knock-on effect on your balance.  As a basic first step I would try some propreoception exercises like standing with your eyes closed on a soft surface, forcing your brain to find its balance without the help of your eyes. If you usually wear glasses, but don’t in class it can also affect your balance.  

I would just go right back to basics. I always say to my students “it’s no use practicing falling!” Where one tries to balance but just repeatedly topples sideways out of pirouette position.... Start small. Find your balance on two feet flat, then two feet on releve, then one foot flat, then one foot with a petite retire etc. build it up slowly and steadily and don’t aim for open position balances until you can securely perform them on the whole foot.

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LM_rose

Thank you. My teachers have said that I lean in sideways with my hips, or my ribcage is open, or my ribcage is tilted to the side, or something like that. In passe they are correcting me about leveling my hips out, and I try but I don't know why they lean that way. Could you elaborate on how the ears/hearing could effect my balance? 

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Redbookish

One of my teachers does a "settle in" routine before we start barre. I find it is really good for getting into my body. It includes standing on one leg, with our eyes closed - around 45 seconds on each leg. It is a challenge! But if I do it regularly, I wobble less & less.

In addition to the physics elements Miss Persistent advises (one of my teachers says that, too!) could it help to consciously use your abs to help stabilise you? One teacher uses the cue: zip your stomach up behind your ribs. That helps me to stop flaring my ribs.

I also find really thinking of being UP on my supporting leg hip helps - I visualise really pushing my hip forward by engaging the glute muscles on that side. I have a tendency to arch my back and let my pelvis tip, so I have to do a lot of conscious work on that.

Strengthening your glute muscles by doing simple glute bridge exercises can help.

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  • Administrators

Interesting about the "settle in."  Recently I've been working with a (virtual) personal trainer, who is a former ballet dancer.  Lately she's had me do just what you are describing Redbookish.  It sounds simple, but when eyes are closed, it is a humbling experience!  

My trainer said that at her most recent company this was one of the things dancers were required to do as part of an annual fitness evaluation.

 

mom2

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Miss Persistent
On 4/22/2021 at 9:47 AM, LM_rose said:

 Could you elaborate on how the ears/hearing could effect my balance? 

I'm not a doctor, but my basic understanding is that there is a very complex system inside your inner ear which your brain uses to reference balance.  It is link with your eyesight for reference points.  Basically it's like an internal gyroscope that keeps us upright day to day.  So if either your inner ear system, or your eyesight is affected it can stop your internal gyroscope working properly.

As for why your hips/ribs aren't level - we can't say without seeing you.  You would have to work with your teachers or practice carefully with a mirror to find and strengthen the correct alignment.

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Redbookish
12 hours ago, mom2 said:

but when eyes are closed, it is a humbling experience!  

I'll say it is! I've been doing class on & off with this teacher for 3 or 4 years (now twice weekly with Zoom/pandemic classes) and I still wobble a lot, especially on my left leg.

My teacher reassures us every class, saying that everyone wobbles, but that it trains our proprioception, and also trains the intrinsic muscles of our feet. 

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