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WHY Is “Turning From Your Centre” Good for Dance Balance?

Fall out of a turns one too many times and you’re likely to hear the phrase “turn from your centre” from your instructor. Presumably it does good things for your dance balance, but many of us – me too – occasionally forget to explain exactly how it helps.

For those of you scratching your heads, your “centre” refers to your centre of gravity, located around our belly button. When you’re asked to turn from there, we are saying your dance balance depends on it being the first part of your body which starts rotating.

All turns use “rotational energy”, which is a fancy way of saying we use gravity or muscles to turn our body to the right or left. What messes up our dance balance the most is, which part of our body should we start with? Let me explain with a quick physics lesson.

Most of us don’t realize how hard our body works to keep us upright. Our legs and torso have quite a lot of weight (no offence), and can easily throw off our dance balance when they’re in motion. Fortunately, our midsection helps to stabilize the upper and lower halves – otherwise walking would look like something out of a Monty Python Sketch.

Useful as our core is, it can’t work miracles: swing an arm or leg quickly around the body, and you’ll feel it start to pull you over. But that’s exactly what newer dancers do – swing from the legs or shoulders. Turning from the centre on the other hand, maintains our dance balance by turning both halves at the body at the same time.

So, how do we get used to turning from the core? For Latin or rhythm dancers, the most common way is to focus on turning your hips, since they are the most obviously-mobile part of your body close to the core. Practicing your Latin hip action helps you build awareness of this motion.

For smooth dancers, the focus is a bit higher, on the ribcage, not the shoulders (although these will move a bit too). Remember: Hips or ribcage need to start rotating before the rest of the body catches up.

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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