Turns: A Dancer's Worst Nightmare

Turns can be a dancers worst nightmare. Some people turn naturally, but even they have to work at pirouettes and fouettés.

We’ve talked about visualization—which is a major key in being able to turn well—but I’m going to let you in on a few turning secrets that I’ve collected over the years from Carolina Ballet, a Kirov Prima Ballerina, The Rock School, and David Howard!



Spot Your Head
Spotting is really what makes you turn. Try to do a pirouette without spotting: you’ll find that you probably fall, you don’t have nearly as much centripetal force, and you totally lose your orientation. Not only does spotting keep you from getting dizzy, the force of whipping your head around is what actually makes your turn clean and sharp. From The Rock School: The only difference between one pirouette and ten pirouettes isn’t balance, force, or turnout—it’s how many times you spot your head.

Energy Up, Power Down
Let’s say you’re doing a basic en dehors pirouette. You tendu to second, drop to fourth. Are you in a lunge? A plié? Or are your knees straight? An excellent trick for getting your turns to start off with the right amount of power (not too much, not too little) is to keep your legs straight when you drop to fourth, and then do a fast energetic plié right before you spring up to relevé. This keeps your energy from sinking down into the floor, and you can focus on going up instead of raising up from a sinking position. Then, when you actually do plié, imagine someone is holding a string on top of your head and pulling it up, even when you move down for the plié. This lengthens your spine and keeps your energy going up. From Carolina Ballet: No double-plies: one quick plié with energy up, and push down into the floor.

Using your arms to your advantage
Ever seen ice skaters when they are in an arabesque position, and then they pull in their limbs and they twirl really fast? While still keeping your arms round and lifted, try crossing your wrists when you turn. You will be amazed what a difference it makes in the speed of your chaînés. From Galina Panova, Prima Ballerina of the Kirov Ballet: cross those wrists for faster tighter turns.

Slice and Scoop
This trick is especially nifty for continuous pirouettes and fouetté pirouettes. Instead of just opening up your arms into second, turn your wrists so your palms are facing down, so you slice through the air. Once they’re out there, visualize yourself shooting lightning bolts out of your arms. This will stabilize your fouetté and re-establish your center of balance. Then, when you close your arms again, turn your wrists back in and scoop the air until you’re back in a first position arm (or, as mentioned above, crossed arms). This gives you just a bit more oomph to your turn. From David Howard: Slice and Scoop for extra power.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's article, exclusively about fouettés!

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