Updated: Aug 28
Knowing where your weight is, and where it should be, is crucial to learning to dance.
One image that I find particularly useful in helping dancers to get a better understanding of weight placement is what I call ‘the glowing ball’ analogy.
I’m not sure if I read this somewhere, or if I came up with it myself, so apologies if I am not providing appropriate credit.
What is the ‘centre of gravity’?
The ‘centre of gravity’ is an imaginary point within any object around which the force of gravity is concentrated. In the human body, it is located somewhere inside the pelvic bowl. Imagine that your pelvis is like a fruit bowl, but instead of having fruit in it, there is a small, glowing orb of energy, or a ball. This is your ‘centre of gravity’, or COG.
From the COG, imagine there is a line that travels straight down to the floor. This is the line of gravity (LOG). The point where the LOG hits the floor is a useful indicator of where your weight is.
Your feet, or whatever is bearing your weight (it could be any part of your body that is on the floor and bearing part of your weight). If you were to trace a line around the body parts that touch the floor, you would be able to see your ‘base of support’.
The larger your ‘base of support’, the easier it is to balance. That’s why it’s easier to balance if you have your feet apart and both are firmly place on the floor, compared to standing on one leg. And why it is easier to stand on one leg with your whole foot on the floor than it is to balance on one leg while on demi-pointe, or en pointe.
The closer that spot where the ‘line of gravity’ hits the floor is to the middle of your ‘base of support’, the easier it is to balance. If the line of gravity hits the floor at a space outside of your ‘base of support’, you will be off balance, and that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to hold.
Centre of gravity and dancing
So how does this help with dancing?
It is particularly useful whenever you are finding it difficult to balance. For example, if you are performing a weight transfer, such as a chassé, temp lié or posé in ballet, or basically any step where you shift your weight from one leg to the other, you need to ensure that your shift your weight so that the glowing orb that is your ‘centre of gravity’, is directly over the leg you are balancing on.
Similarly, if you find yourself having to grip the barre when performing a grand battement to second, it probably means you are allowing the glowing orb to move out towards the leg that you are throwing up in the air, or that you are just not adjusting the placement of your pelvis for begin on one leg rather than two.
Imagine that glowing orb shifting slightly towards the barre as your battement leg extends so that the line of gravity would now fall in the centre of your supporting foot (or even better, in the centre of the ball of your supporting foot) rather than the place that would have been between both feet when they were both on the floor, which is usually just outside the heel of the supporting leg.
Another example is thinking about how to balance on one leg, or demi pointe, or en pointe. To maintain that glowing orb directly above the centre of your ‘base of support’ means you need to ensure that all your body parts are stacked directly above that point. The glowing orb in your pelvis will be placed directly above the line that goes down to the ‘base of support’. Your ribcage and head should also be stacked up directly above the pelvis so there is a straight, perpendicular line between the crown of your head and the tiny spot in the centre of your foot, the ball of your foot (if on demi pointe), or the tip of your pointe shoe (if en pointe).
Centre of gravity and a tower of blocks
It may take quite a lot of control in your core and turnout muscles to keep all these body parts aligned, but it takes less effort than trying to balance without this stacking of body parts. Think of a tower of blocks. If they are all stacked perfectly the tower will stay upright, but if some of the blocks are sticking out of the tower, it is much more likely to topple.
So next time you prepare to transfer your weight from one leg to another, or to extend your leg in the air in a developpe, grand battement, high kick, or pirouette, or before you rise up onto demi pointe or full point, think about the glowing orb and how you need to shift your weight to ensure it is placed directly above the centre of your ‘base of support’.
Centre of gravity and fast movement
The glowing orb analogy is also useful for performing quick movements. The less movement in the line of support, the easier it is to move quickly. Sometimes you might do a movement where you step back, and then forward again. A common example is when doing a high kick / high brush exercise like you’d come across in a jazz or contemporary class:
Step forward (left)
Kick forward (right)
Step back (right)
Step back (left)
You will be able to perform this movement more quickly if you keep the glowing orb fairly stationery. When you step back, step back onto the balls of your feet instead of flat feet, without shifting your entire weight backwards. If you do this, your ‘line of gravity’ will be slightly forward of your ‘base of support’. Yes, you are less balanced and will want to fall forward, but this will work to your advantage as you are able to then very quickly take that final step forward before the kick without having to move your whole pelvis forward again.
Centre of gravity and turning
The glowing orb image also helps with turns. If an object (the dancer) rotates around its centre of gravity, it can balance at that point. This is why it is super important when doing turns, like pirouettes, for the dancer to ensure that their entire body, including their head, is in a vertical line which is perpendicular to the floor. If there is any leaning, the dancer won’t be able to maintain balance and will fall out of the turn. In theory, if the dancer is perfectly balanced around their centre of gravity, they can continue turning indefinitely, gathering momentum through the use of spotting and possibly arms. Of course, in the real world, there is friction on the floor that impedes this idea of perpetual motion, and the dancer’s muscles will need to play a role in keeping everything aligned and placed correctly.
Next time you are dancing, see if it helps to visualise your centre of gravity as a glowing orb, and I bet you’ll notice a significant improvement in your balance.