Why Do We Dread Pirouettes?

3:04 PM

Why are dancers so afraid of turning? Every little girl's favorite pastime is putting on a "twirly skirt" and spinning until she falls down (oh c'mon, don't tell me you didn't). And what's more fun that grabbing your best friend and spinning them around to see which of you falls first? Turning is an amazing phenomenon. When done properly, a dancer should look like her body is turning and her head is not moving. A ballerina doing 32 fouettés makes everyone excited, even audience members who don't know the significance behind them. Why are they so hard, and why do they scare us?

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Well, almost everything done on two inches of satin is scary. But still, turns don't have to be hard. Some people are natural turners, some people have to learn to overcome fear when they turn. Turning is very psychological—I have bad turns on the right and good turns on the left. But when I don't think about it and I just turn, my turns on the right are fine. It's when I psych myself out that I can't turn. Doesn't everyone have a "bad side?"

Over the years I've learned a lot of tips about turns. Different people teach turns different ways: I have found that as long as you figure out what works best for you, it's correct.
I love auditioning for The Rock School, because every time I take the audition class I learn something new. The first time, I learned the key to turns: "The only difference between one pirouette and six pirouettes is how many times you spot your head." The "simple" idea of turns is this: push down from your hips, lift up in your ribs, turn out, and spot. That's it.

As far as the preparation, when turning from 4th position, there are three ways to start: straight legs, bent legs, and front leg bent with back leg straight. Both knees bent enables you to find your center and get your hips square. Both legs straight keeps your energy up, so you're not sitting in a plié and putting your energy into the floor, One leg bent and one leg straight gives you more turnout and a higher relevé. I turn best when I do the last one. But some people turn best with a different preparation. Experiment and find what works best for you.

Here's another simple tip: if you're turning and you fall a certain direction, it probably means your center of balance isn't right. If you're on your right leg and you fall to the left, your hip is probably raised higher than it should be. If you fall forward, you're probably dipping your head too much or have your arms too high. Remember: a pirouette is nothing more than a balance and a spot.
Here's a video by Anaheim Ballet on some tips to get you started turning. I've tried their advice and it's wonderful!

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