Improve Your Balance

Exercises That Increase Equilibrium and Improve Dancing Ability

Two people dancing ballet with onlookers
Cuban National Ballet in practice.

Mark Downey Lucid Images / Getty Images

Balance is the ability to maintain the center of gravity of the body while minimizing postural sway. It is a state of bodily equilibrium characterized by complete stillness, void of opposing forces on all sides.

Balance is achieved through the coordination of three body systems: the vestibular system, motor system, and visual system. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear, the motor system is made up of muscles, tendons, and joints, and the visual system sends signals from the eyes to the brain about the current position of the body.

However, staying balanced isn't a matter of staying rigidly in one spot, balance is found by continually shifting the body to make subtle adjustments. Dancing requires these quick changes in the positioning of the body, especially in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Because the eyes are not fixated on a single point, a good balance is necessary to make smooth, complete moves.

Key Elements of Balance in the Body

Dancers must have a good sense of equilibrium and balance, especially if their movements require spins or jumps, as it's very easy for a dancer to misstep and fall, possibly injuring him or herself in the process. As a result, dancers should focus on these two key elements of balance in the body.

First, a dancer should strengthen their core, or torso and mid- and lower-back muscles, through exercises like pilates or yoga in order to develop stronger core stability. Basically, exercises like yoga help people gain better control of the movements of their bodies associated with the stomach, torso, and mid-to-lower back.

Posture is also important in maintaining proper balance while dancing, so it's important for dancers to be aware of their posture even when not on the stage or dance floor. If a dancer is slouching while eating dinner, for instance, that behavior is likely to be repeated when dancing, which could offset the dancer's center of gravity.

Exercises to Improve Your Balance for Dancing

If you think your balance could use a little improvement, the following exercises should help. Stand next to a chair or wall in case you need to catch your balance.

  • Standing barefoot, slowly rise onto the balls of the feet, pressing the toes down into the floor. Concentrate on centering the weight of the body somewhere between the heel and the big toe. Try to pull up and out of the joints, but maintain relaxed knees. Lower the heels slowly and repeat.
  • Stand on one foot on a hard surface without locking the knees. Divide the weight of the body equally between the heel and the ball of the foot. Stand in this position for one minute, then switch to the other foot.
  • Stand on one foot with the weight of the body divided between the heel and the ball of the foot. Pick up the heel and slowly turn to the left (about a 90-degree turn) on the ball of the foot, then stop and lower the heel. Repeat a few times, then switch feet. Once you’re comfortable with small turns, try whole turns.

If you lose your balance during these exercises, try to get it back quickly with the least possible adjustment. Reach out and lightly touch the chair or wall with your fingertip. When you feel steady, let go and try again.