Dancing or no, balance is the difference between looking graceful or awkward. I’ve often heard the best way to improve balance is simply by practicing the activities that challenge you in the first place. Fair enough… But a few fundaments won’t hurt either.

First, The Shoes

Balance is built from the ground up, so if you want to improve balance, it’s time to invest in some decent dance shoes. Assuming you already understand the importance of suede leather soles, make sure your shoes have a steel shank, providing extra support and stability.

If possible, test your shoes before buying them. Make sure the bottom feels flat and not uneven. Try a few steps, and make sure your foot doesn’t move around inside the shoe. For brand new shoes, err slightly on the tight side, as leather tends to expand over time.

Wear the socks and bring any insoles you would normally wear dancing when trying the shoes, to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

The Posture

How do we hold ourselves? We’ve talked about good posture to improve balance here, but a few reminders:

Feet – Focus on keeping your weight rolling through the centre of the ball of each foot, between the second and third toes.

Knees – Keep them soft, to absorb the impact of your steps. Make sure the weight-bearing knee is directly over the ball of your foot.

Hips – A slight pelvic tuck keeps your butt from sticking out, or your lower back from curving inward. Imagine a bowl of water resting between your hips on your pelvic floor (the space directly between your legs). No spilling!

Back and chest – Flattening your back against a wall to maximize contact will keep your spine straight and over your lower body. The chest also puffs out slightly, by pulling the bottom of the shoulder blades towards the spine (but not arching the spine itself.)

Head – Stretch straight out from the spine like a tree from soil. If a position requires the spine to curve, the head will curve with it.

The Muscles

None of this is possible without the appropriate muscles to hold you in place:

  1. Feet – The peroneal muscles wrap around the arch of your foot, and are crucial in stabilizing your ankle, for instance, from spraining if you step unevenly on the ground.
  2. Knees – Softer knees requires stronger hamstrings and quadriceps, which take on more of the upper body weight. They also help with leg extension for those beautiful ballroom lines.
  3. Hips – The abdominals and glutes constantly work to keep the hips in correct alignment. The abs are also the crucial turning mechanism for the body, because they are located in the body’s centre of gravity, and won’t cause you to overbalance.
  4. Back and Chest – The back muscles have a number of balancing functions, including assisting hip stabilization, opening and raising the chest, and supporting the spine so you stand tall.
  5. Head – The head is supported by the neck muscles, which keep the head high over the spine. Weak neck muscles can cause the head to move and pull the body too far forward.

Now that we’ve examined the ‘nuts and bolts’ of improving balance, time to look at exercises that strengthen our ability to stay upright in motion…