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The Busy Bee of Gravity

by Sandi & Dan Finch

 Has anyone ever said you need to be more “into the floor”? Have you felt like you don’t have good balance sometimes or you’re not in sync with your partner?
The problem is probably gravity, or your not understanding how it works. You know what gravity is—it’s Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that explains why the earth revolves around the sun, why the moon influences our tides, why we say “what goes up, must come down.” Throw a ball up in the air and it comes down. Gravity. What about you? Explaining how more complex items move is where the “center of gravity” (CG) comes in. The ball’s CG is its center. Your CG is not. CG is the point at which an object is balanced, like being able to fiddle around and figure out how to keep a pencil lying across a fingertip. 

We can feel the effects of gravity when we practice sway while holding a small ball in one hand. As you swing an arc with that hand down in front of the body and up almost overhead, you realize you have to counter-balance (create a “C” shape through the body by moving your head to the opposite side) so you don’t fall over. That’s sway. That’s also a center of gravity at work. 

Our general CG—the point at which we are most comfortable when we walk—is just above our waist. You don’t think about falling over when you walk. If your center is higher than that, you will feel like you have to speed up to catch up to keep from falling down. Being into the floor means you are in balance when you can move comfortably from flexed legs using foot pressure. As dancers, we need flexible CGs. Different rhythms demand that you shift your “center” up or down to achieve their specific characteristics. Your CG for quickstep is higher in the body to allow your legs the freedom to move quickly. Rumba and tango want your CG to be low in the body so you will be more “grounded.” 

We often talk about a center of levitation, which is a higher point in the chest, which is its own center point for top lines and picture figures. It is probably better named the artistic center. 

Play around with your CG to figure out how to apply it. Imagine a bumble bee flew up your shirt and is now trapped inside, buzzing furiously in all directions trying to find a way out. Imagine he’s up around your neck. Try walking forward picturing your center of balance in your neck. You have to move faster to keep up with your top half to stay in balance. Now imagine he has flown down to your ribs. Walking becomes a little easier because the lower your CG, the more stable you are. 

Now, let him fly down to your pelvic area. Walking now may be a problem; you feel heavy. If he flies up a bit to just under your belly button, you should feel good taking the slow, purposeful steps of rumba with its periodic settling. 

When you rise on your toes, don’t let your CG fly up into your chest. To let that happen means you will be top heavy and out of balance. Your CG may move comfortably anywhere between your pelvis and your rib cage. Practice this. You will find that to keep your CG under control, you may experience a little shifting to the side (like a small windup). Now you are getting creative and artful as well as smart in the physics department. 

You will be most comfortable and in sync with your partner if your CGs match. Good partnering comes from following your partner’s center. How can you match your partner’s CG, though, if you can’t control your own?


From a club newsletter, April 2016, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, January 2019.


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