This is something I say in class that makes new people look at me as though I have lost my mind.
Not quite. This is the analogy I use to explain a way of feeling one’s balance, and it often works! Possibly because it comes across as sounding so bizarre. As long as it works, I don’t really mind how.
When dancing ballet, especially when doing upright pirouettes, one’s centre of balance should be very tightly gathered into the middle of the body in a straight vertical line. Many try to seek this by wriggling their bodies and by trying to “push in” some parts of their bodies into a straight line. I usually tell my dancers that they should feel their centre of balance gathering into the middle of their body and then pull it straight up through their heads.
This is the point when I explain to them how they cook spinach in Japan. Unlike the normal manner in the UK, spinach is sold in bunches and the leaves are a lot bigger than the ones you find in bags labelled “baby spinach leaves”. They would be about ten inches tall and thick. To cook them you would very quickly put them into boiling water for a minute or two until they are blanched. After that, they need to be squeezed. Hard! Usually you would hold the bunch of spinach up by the roots and squeeze it from the roots downwards, making sure the leaves do not twist or break. The bunch has to be very thoroughly squeezed so that by the time you have finished, it can stand up like a tree stump!
I often describe this process and tell my dancers to think of their centre of balance being squeezed in a similar way, but from bottom to top. Many find this quite useful. This image makes a really big impact because it is such an odd thing to hear in the middle of a ballet class.
I have been trying to think of an opposite image to my analogy for a while and it dawned on me! Candyfloss! (Cotton candy to our American readers.) It has a stick in the middle and soft fluffy stuff loosely wrapped around it. Although it is pretty and is certainly delicious, our ‘balance’ cannot be loosely and widely wrapped around our body while we are turning.
So everyone, don’t be candyfloss and make sure you squeeze your balance like you would spinach!