If you want to improve your balance, you need to get to know your own body. Specifically, you need to find your center.
“Center” is a word that gets thrown out a lot by dancers, and there are a lot of conflicting definitions. Here’s the pragmatic take: there is an area inside your body that simply cannot move away from your feet. If it moves more than about 6″ from your base of support, you either step to catch yourself, or you fall over. Knowing where that spot is within your body is incredibly important for controlling your own balance.
The Drill: You can do this drill alone, but it can be helpful to have a partner watch you and find your center area.
Stand up straight with your feet together and parallel (not turned out). Through this drill, you will keep your feet together, and your entire foot should be on the floor. No lifting the heel or twisting side to side!
Start by tipping forward. Without letting your feet move or your heels come off the ground, find how far you can tip forward before you are about to fall. When you think you have found that point, move another inch forward. If you are in the right position, that extra inch will cause you to start falling. (At this point, you can move your feet to catch yourself!).
If you imagine your body as a series of horizontal slices stacked on top of each other, you want to find which slice contained the area that started to fall when it moved forward of your feet. This is where a partner can help by watching you from the side. This area will probably be somewhere between your chest and solar plexus, but the location of your specific zone will vary based on your body.
Now, go back to standing up straight with your feet together, and tip over your side. Again, your goal is to find the zone that can’t tip past your feet without taking you with it. With any luck, the zone you find from this direction should be pretty close to the zone you found when tipping forward.
Once you’ve found this zone, you have a great start to finding your balance. You should be able to manipulate the rest of your body in crazy ways as long as you keep that zone above your feet. (In a future drill, we’ll do just that!) When you next go out to dance, be aware of where this zone is throughout your dance. You will find that, whenever you feel off balance, this zone has moved away from your feet.