Many dancers know by now that pirouettes can feel different from day to day. Sometimes, we have an amazing turning day. Other times, we feel as though we can barely get around for a single rotation. This inconsistency is a natural feeling for a training dancer. However, with the right tips and tricks, we can build a foundation for strong, consistent, technical turns.
Here are our 7 technique tips for pirouettes:
Take advantage of your preparation
The preparation is where the whole turn begins -- so use it wisely! Make sure you achieve your deepest plié with both heels pressing into the floor. Avoid the temptation to “wind up” for your turn. Instead, practice to find just the right amount of push and force that you will need to execute the turn you want. In the preparation, your posture should be lined up and activated exactly as it will be in your turn position.
Get to your turning shape quickly
As you move into the turn from the preparation, it is crucial to get to your turning shape quickly -- whether that be a retiré, attitude, or more contemporary position. From your deep preparation plié, send the energy of the working leg down into the floor to arrive at a full relevé, and push off strongly with the working leg to move it quickly into a high, clear position. The sooner you get to your turning shape the better, so that the movement of the working leg cannot throw off your balance as you continue the turn.
Maintain alignment with full-body engagement
Every turn is a balance, so keeping the body aligned and engaged is key. Align your shoulders and ribs directly over the pelvis, and keep the rib cage knitted together by engaging your highest abdominals. Connect your arms into your back by dropping the shoulders and “locking” the shoulder blades into place. Imagine all the energy in your hips and working leg spiralling down toward the floor while the energy in your abdominals, back, and torso spirals up toward the ceiling. This oppositional force will keep you long, strong, and in control.
Another important element for successful turns is the spot. However, simply making sure that you are actively spotting is not quite enough. You have to be sure that you are spotting in an intelligent, specific, and rhythmic way. First, you have to go into the turn knowing exactly how many pirouettes you will execute and how many counts you have until the landing. That will inform the speed and rhythm of your spot. From there, breathe to relax your head and neck so that you can whip your head with precision. Make sure that you choose a spot that is slightly above your eye line, so that your head and eyes stay lifted. If you spot the floor, that is where you’ll end up.
Stabilise your ankle in relevé
As we mentioned earlier, the energy in the bottom half of your body should be spiralling down toward the floor in your pirouette. This will ensure that your standing knee remains fully lengthened and your ankle stays aligned in the relevé. If you have a tendency to wobble, sickle, or pronate, you will have trouble achieving consistently successful turns. Use a Theraband daily to strengthen your ankles and calves, and you will greatly improve your turns.
Finish with intent
No matter how amazing your pirouette was, you have to finish beautifully. There is nothing more disappointing than watching a dancer execute a flawless pirouette only to throw away the landing. As you see your final spot and bring your body around to complete the final rotation, lift everything (your abdominals, your eyes, your working leg, and your relevé) even a tiny bit more with a little bit of extra activation. This will give the end of your turn suspension and allow you to land gracefully. You want to give the audience the sense that you chose to stop turning, rather than allowing gravity to make the choice for you.
Like anything else, pirouettes come with practice. Take all these tips into the studio with you and work hard to implement them every single time you push off into a pirouette. Be honest with yourself about what went wrong and what you can improve. Then, try again!
Xx Team BoPPA
Let us help you reach your turn potential! Contact us to enrol for a BoPPA class today!