One of the first challenges new dancers face is learning to spin without falling off balance. The trouble is, good and consistent spinning is a direct result of correct technique, and alas this is rarely taught formally in clubs.
I will be covering the technique aspect in a separate article, but there are a couple of spinning “cheat” drills that you can use to gain immediate improvement.
The main instrument our bodies use for balance is called the vestibular system and it is found in the inner ear. This sensory organ combines its data with what our eyes are seeing, along with that gained from our sense of touch. In dance this is usually through the nerve receptors on our feet (which is the main reason it’s harder to dance in heels – less foot surface in contact with the floor) but also through the connection to our partner.
Some people have better functioning vestibular systems than others. Those with postural misalignments in the upper part of the spine and neck region may find that theirs is compromised – equally it can be the case that a dysfunctional vestibular system is the cause of tension and spasm of the neck muscles.
So how do you know if your vestibular system is making the job of spinning harder than it needs to be?
There are two simple tests you can use to tell.
Feduka Step Test
- Try a couple of spins to give yourself a reference point to evaluate improvement.
- Stand in the middle of a big space where you have room to move and no furniture that you might bump into, it’s useful to have another person just to keep an eye on you when you do this.
- Close your eyes.
- March on the spot for 100 steps, making sure that you bring your knees right up to hip height.
- Don’t open your eyes until you have completed the 100 steps.
- When you do open them, make a note of where you are relative to where you started. Any deviation is an indicator that your vestibular system is dysfunctional.
Oculo-Vestibular Reflex Test
This is a test to determine how well the eyes and inner ear are combining their data to help your balance, and it also works as a drill to fix it. If you feel that your spinning isn’t quite switched on, this can be done in seconds. You should see an immediate improvement. It may in some people have the opposite effect to begin with so be a little cautious the first time.
- Again, try a couple of spins for reference.
- Hold a pen vertically in front of you at eye level about a foot away.
- Keeping your eyes fixed on the pen, turn your head slowly from one side to the other.
- Start to gradually speed up. If you feel dizzy, or any stiffening of your neck muscles stop straight away. You only need to do this for about 10 seconds in any case.
- Try spinning again and note any difference.
This won’t fix everyone, particularly if you do have postural misalignment of the neck and spine or hips. If you suspect this is the case, why not get assessed properly at the Dance Injury Clinic?