Challenge every pair to invent as many off-balance positions they can think of, while physically connected to each another.
Each person should aim to achieve a balanced position by supporting the weight of their partner.
After several minutes, invite some pairs to demonstrate their favourite off-balance positions.
Video Transcript for Off-Balance
presented by Karl Rohnke
I need you two to act for volunteers if you don’t mind.
Okay. And this is pretty much up to you how much you want to participate in this action because it’s physical to a certain extent.
When you first get a group together and you’ve gone through some of the icebreaking types of things and you want to get them to a point where they’re close, maybe even some un-self-conscious touching, and something they probably haven’t done before, in fact you can even talk about rock-climbing and how this might be considered to be an exercise for rock climbing for the term counterforce.
So what I’d like you two to do is to make physical contact somehow, elbows, hands, leaning against one another where counterforce, that is the leaning against one another like if we lean back like this and put one foot off the ground, counterforce is holding us up. That is the force that we’re exerting between one another.
Be as creative as you can be or want to be in putting yourself in those positions where you’re using counterforce to maintain a position. So let’s see what you’ve got.
(You want everyone to watch us?)
Yes. Basically, yes.
(What would you like to try?)
Exactly. That’s perfect. That’s good.
(people clapping for Off-Balance)
And look how much trust there was in something like that, the lean in, trusting one another they’re not going to fall or let each other go.
See if you can come up with something that’s unique and different that uses that counterforce. You got a pole here, you can use that. Back off. I didn’t mean that. Forget the pole.
Okay, if you have two and you want to do it, if you want to get three people involved in your counterforce movement or even more, give it a try.
(people attempting to Off-Balance one another)
How To Play Narrative
Invite everyone to find a partner who, let’s say, is as tall as they are.
To begin, ask each person to stand facing their partner and firmly grasp their hands or wrists, or whatever point is most comfortable.
Explain that you want them to invent as many crazy, off-balance positions as they can think of in which each person is leaning backwards or forwards to the point that, if it weren’t for his or her partner, they would fall in a heap on the ground.
Make a few comments about not placing too much strain or pressure on their partners, and keeping a safe distance from other couples and certain eye-gouging protrusions.
Then – and this is always the hard part – stand back, and leave the rest up to your group’s imagination.
After a few minutes, invite a couple of pairs to share their favourite creations, encouraging the rest of the group to try them out.
When ready, move on, or swap partners to invent more.
Practical Leadership Tips
Framed correctly, you will observe some extraordinarily, harmonious working relationships develop. Mingle among the balance-impaired and encourage them to explore different balance points of the body – one leg, back-to-back, tippy-toes, etc. There’s no right answer – it’s all about learning to play, support and trust.
Initially, I suggest starting with a partner of a similar size, but to be honest, this is not necessary. Any two people, no matter their respective size, shape or weight can achieve an off-balance position. As with any relationship, it just takes a little ‘give and take.’
Like Moon Walking and Human Spring, you are well-advised to present this wonderfully inventive activity in the correct sequence. Out of place, and you risk discouraging your group’s participation, or worse, hurting them. But let’s not go overboard with the warnings – this exercise is not inherently dangerous and can be performed very safely. Remember, that preparation and approach is everything.
You could integrate Off-Balance as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short dose of physical activity and stretching.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to successfully achieve a balanced posture may speak to the benefits of being adaptable and resilient because the desired result can take a long time for some partners to achieve. Trial and error, safety consciousness and teamwork are also useful reflection topics to consider as a part of this exercise.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Off-Balance could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Quad Balance: Invite one couple to join with another to form a group of four people, performing similar off-balanced feats of engineering.
Anatomy Balance: Nominate a particular body part to be the only point of contact which a pair may use to secure an off-balanced position, eg ankles, elbows, little pinkies, etc.
Group Balance: Take a look at Yurt Circle and Keystone to explore a couple of fun whole-of-group balance exercises, which significantly ramp-up the trust-building factor.
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Useful Framing Ideas
When you first learned to ride a bicycle, it must have seemed at one point that you would never get this balance thing right. Yet, with enough practice and patience, it suddenly just clicked, and you never looked back. One moment you’re not balanced, and the next you are. I would like you to consider this process of practice and patience in this next exercise…
If you live in the world of “How does a plane stay up in the air?” you are probably a lot like me and look at certain engineering wonders of the world and wonder how they work. Many of these engineering marvels are feats of extraordinary balance. Well, today, we are more interested in extraordinary feats of off-balance…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, partner balancing stunt:
What did you notice when you made your first attempts to balance?
What strategies did you use to help you successfully balance?
Describe how it felt when you achieved that perfect point of balance.
How might this exercise reflect the work involved in a healthy relationship? Give examples.
The inspiration for Off-Balance, and many more fun partner exercises, was sourced from the following publication: