This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of Pointe.
Having trouble balancing onstage in spite of rock-solid centeredness in the studio?
The change in visual perception, mostly due to blinding stage lights, negatively affects your dynamic balance, the stability you need as you move through space.
Recent research published in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science found that a group of pre-professional ballet dancers were able to improve their dynamic balance after just four weeks of doing exercises with their eyes closed. The series of balance tests was integrated into participants' daily technique class, and those who did the exercises with open eyes didn't show any improvement in their stability.
You can't control the stage lighting, but you can train your body to balance better in conditions that limit your vision. Leading up to a performance, practice dancing with your eyes closed for short portions of barre and centerwork (just make sure your teacher is okay with it beforehand). You're likely to have better balance control, even if the stage lights make you squint.