Ballroom Turns And Dizziness


Spinning on the ballroom are like drinks at the bar: one or two feel great, but too many and you might take a hard trip to the floor. Fortunately, there’s a number of ways you can cure your dance dizzies, or at least recover more quickly when they come upon you.

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Dizziness on the dance floor is actually vertigo, or motion sickness. We all have small balls of fluid, located in our inner ear, that flow with every change of direction and give our body the sensation of movement. The trouble starts when we quickly stop after a turn. The fluid continues to slosh about for a while longer, creating that ‘world spinning’ sensation. So, how can we counter our body’s natural reaction?

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Spotting: The Dancer’s Cure-All

One of the first things most dancers are taught about avoiding dizziness is how to spot. Spotting literally means to pick something in front of you before starting the turn, and quickly snap your head around as the turn completes (if you’re neck hurts after doing this, you turned your head too quickly). Here’s how it works.

  1. Pick a spot at roughly eye level, like a picture, or your partner’s tie.
  2. As the turn begins, leave your head behind, continuing to point your nose at the spot.
  3. When your body can’t turn any further without unscrewing your head, snap the head around to refocus on the spot again.

The fluid in your ears reacts to turn length, but less to turn speed. So a fast head turn actually makes you less dizzy then a slow gradual one.

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The Alternative: Building a Tolerance

Studies show that dancers who practice turning frequently, gradually reduce their feelings of dizziness. Their brains are trained to ignore the signals coming from the inner ear, and rely more on other senses to get them through without a crash. It’s a less dramatic solution, but not every turn can be spotted, especially as you move into more advanced spins. Other tricks that can reduce dizziness include:

  1. Let your eyes blur until your return to your forward position. Focusing on objects traveling past you will increase your dizziness.
  2. Avoid alcohol before dancing! If both can make you dizzy, imagine what will happen if you pair them together.
  3. Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Being hot and sweaty, especially on a crowded floor, can create dizziness even without turning.
  4. Take a break every third dance to get some air.

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For the Leader: Reducing Your Partner’s Dizziness

I, sometimes, get a request from my follower to turn her less, especially if she’s relatively new to dancing. How can a leader protect his partner from dizziness?

The first way is to simply do as she asks. It’s worth while to practice a number of patterns that don’t involve much turning, especially in a faster dance like salsa.

The second is to include turns in both directions, and to alternate them when you dance. For instance, following up a ladies broken left turn in salsa, with a right underarm turn. This method doesn’t work for everyone however, so tone it down if she starts to sway or hang on to you.

Author: Ian Crewe [Dance-Envy]
Photography: DanceSport Photography
Exclusively for Dance Comp Review