I’ve had days, sometimes weeks, when it seems my personal pirouette pixie has gone on vacation.
May Day! May Day! Every single turn crashes and burns.
Sometimes it just takes a new thought, word of advice, or image to get things to fly right.
Other times I realize that I just need to relax. Stress, fear, and tension are real turn-killers.
And let’s face it, when I’m not getting to take as much class, or not practicing turning as much, the technique starts to slip.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too. Or maybe you feel your own little sprite hasn’t shown up for a single day’s work, ever.
Either way, here are some tips to get you through that don’t involve magic fairy dust.
Plié. No matter how you prepare for pirouettes (two bent legs, elongated back leg) plié deeply with the weight forward over the toes.
Experience calm before the storm. Take a moment of stillness before you release your energy in the turn.
Quickly release the foot from the floor (like a tuck jump or pas de chat without the jump) and think of the foot withdrawing to the knee, rather than lifting the knee to place the foot.
Opposition. Think of pushing or drilling the leg down into the floor, meanwhile think of the chest, shoulders, and head spiraling upward into the ceiling.
Connect your ribs to your pelvis. Practice this when you balance. Place your thumbs at the front of your body on your lowest ribs. Place your pinky fingers on the “hip bones” – the ones that push into the floor when you lie on your tummy. Bring the thumbs and pinkies, and therefore the ribs and pelvis, closer together. This aligns the ribs and shoulders over the pelvis and keeps you from falling backward.
Don’t think about spinning. Think about going up and coming down.
Don’t start the turn before the relevé (moving your heel). Don’t start the turn after the relevé (no momentum). Start the turn the moment you start your relevé.
Get there. Arrive. All at once. Into a space, like a Jell-o mold, that’s shaped exactly like it should be.
Imagine a connection, a thread, between the lifted knee and the opposite shoulder. When the knee goes around, the shoulder comes too.
Be 3-dimensional. Allow your whole body to touch or brush or move the space all around itself.
Breathe and float, even if it’s fast. No tension.
Imagine a crayon attached to the lifted knee. It draws a circle around you as you turn.
Know where you are headed. For pirouette en dehors, when the right leg is lifting, the knee traces a clockwise pattern. When the left leg is lifting, the rotation is counterclockwise. For en dedans, pirouettes with the right leg lifted rotate counterclockwise and clockwise when the left leg is up.
Flawless landing. See yourself at the end of the turn; calm, arriving at just the right moment, with just the right of momentum to get you there.
Be quick and precise with the spotting action of the head. To do this the head must be loose and free at the top of the spine.
Use your eyes like a search light as the head whips around at that faster speed. (More on spotting here.)
What do YOU do when The Pirouette Pixie skips town?
Share your tips for the perfect pirouette.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.