It's Truly A Balancing Act!!
I have had this discussion several times this year in regards to dance and balance and how it all works!! With a degree in the sciences this sort of thing greatly excites me but to the rest of the world the connection is not as obvious. Recently, I had a dancer who was struggling with her pirouettes and couldn't figure out why she was falling out of them. We had a very in depth conversation one afternoon about the science behind pirouettes and how she needed to be more aware of this while turning.
When we think of balance, especially in dance, our mind goes to moments when balancing is a challenge – perhaps standing en relevé or maintaining a pose on one leg. But even our everyday movements, like walking, require this ability to balance as well. We are making constant adjustments, using our senses and our muscles, as we stand, shift, change, and move our bodies through space. But walking, standing and running are all things we've gradually learned to balance in as we've gotten older.
When building a vertical tower of blocks, the tower is most stable when each block is stacked directly on top of the one below it. Think of the game Jenga...when you start your tower is nice and sturdy, but as you pull more and more blocks out making it balance on smaller and smaller surface area the tower becomes less sturdy. This is true when balancing your body in a vertical position as well. In dance, this stacking of the body may be referred to as, or considered part of the concept of alignment.
The ankles are stacked directly over your base of support, the knees over the ankles, the hips and pelvis over the knees, rib cage over the hips, the shoulders over the rib cage, the head and neck topping off the tower. When one thing is out of place, something else must counterbalance the misaligned body part.
As I was working with my dancer on her turns I would yell things like "where are your arms?" "your shoulders are crooked," "where's your passe?" These are all things that need to be in proper position to maintain your alignment. If your arms start in a firm 1st position but then drop down by your hips this shifts your center of gravity which throws off your balance. If your shoulders are crooked or now square with your hips your axis of rotation is off. Once my dancer started focusing on these things her turns got so much better.
Another thing most dancers neglect is their eyes. Dancers have a tendency to look down and this also greatly affects their alignment. I always tell my dancers "the grounds not going anywhere" when I catch them looking down. A dancer should always keep their focus at eye level or higher, especially when turning. You have a tendency to travel where your eyes are focused, and this includes down!!
There are so many things to remember when dancing but balance and alignment are the biggest things to remember!! Even the simplest of corrections can make such a huge improvement in your technique and ensuring you do it correctly time and time again will make it a learned movement!! Keep working hard!!