Balance isn't some mysterious skill that you have to separate from the rest of your training and cultivate on its own.
No, balance comes from body mastery. It requires having the strength and coordination in your muscles to make all the necessary micro adjustments that keep you on your leg. And, it involves being familiar enough with your own body to know intuitively what to do when you feel yourself falling off your center. Your body simultaneously knows what adjustments to make to bring you back on your balance and has the muscular strength and control to make those adjustments happen.
There are a few Bulletproof Ballerina exercises that are awesome for improving balance...not because they have you practice the skill of balancing itself, but because they train the strength and body mastery you need to level-up in your balancing game.
Sure, you could practice balancing for hours on end every day, and your balance will improve. We've all seen the videos on Instagram of the dancer balancing forever alone in the studio or perched on a Bosu ball. And sure, it's an impressive show. But, what you don't see is how many takes it took to get that one epic balance. Some of us don't have time for that. This type of trial-and-error repetition is the long route to your balancing goals, and it usually doesn't hold up in the real world. Let's not forget, when you're performing, you don't get multiple tries at hitting your pose. You don't get a redo. And, you don't get all the time you need to set yourself up for a successful, calculated, calm balance. It's make or break when you're on the stage. So, it might help to have the tools that will assist you in that kind of situation.
What about with your pirouettes? If you have the muscle power to pull your body upright into your ideal pirouette position right away without wasting time trying to find your placement and coordination, you're going to get a more solid rotation out of your turns. Plus, you bypass the feeling of being scared right before you take off. When you are confident that you can hit your ideal position right on top of your supporting leg in an effortless instant, you don't have to fear your leg buckling or your ankle giving out underneath you. This frees you up to really attack your pirouettes.
Now, let's look at partnering. What happens when your guy has you off your leg? All your balancing repetition is not going to save you when the man (or woman) you are relying on to do a promenade pulls your center of gravity way out in left field. You usually either have to abort the mission or risk your ankle crumbling under the strain of a not-so-anatomical angle. But, with enough strength, you actually have the ability to "pull" yourself back to where you need to be...not in the sense of fighting your partner, but in guiding him when he is at a loss for where you need to be to get the job done.
The point is that maybe improving your balance doesn't actually require you to practice balancing. There are seemingly unrelated exercises that can help you feel not only more on your leg but also give you the ability to pull yourself back on your leg should you find yourself in a less than ideal situation. Improved balance is one of the benefits my Bad Girl Ballerinas experience from training. They often don't realize they are improving in that area until one day they find themselves effortlessly balancing in passé at the barre, their usual struggle and teeth-gritting focus gone. Their bodies "all of a sudden" seem to know what to do to keep them on their legs.
Hmm, it's interesting how decades of practicing your balance in class every day can leave you wanting more. But, after incorporating a little Bulletproof Ballerina training into the mix, you find yourself at your next level with your balancing skills. Funny that. Something must have been missing all those years;)
Photo credit: Rachel Neville Photography