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Pirouettes in the hot seat!


LinMM
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Well this will be hard to judge without seeing the people in reality but here goes

Pirouettes en dehors first

Most teachers will stress the importance of holding the position on Demi pointe strongly before turning and that pirouettes are about going "up" not "round". Once you've got this balance that's 3/4 of job done etc they say. Well I can hold the balance starting from 5th and 4th quite well now so should be able to turn but somehow as soon as I do I go off balance and don't seem to do even a single turn and arrive with the leg still in retire position. I do watch that incoming arm isn't throwing off balance but find it difficult to judge exact amount of force to use. I am also not sure that once trying to turn my supporting leg is staying pulled up. I can't decide whether technical probs or just a general "fear issue". Occasionally they come off so body has the knowledge somewhere but again why are pirouettes likely to,be so inconsistent?

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There are in total a series of articles - let's start with this one....

 

Placing the Pirouette

 

It is a very common occurrence for the student to fall off a pirouette – or any other turn for that matter.  Most often this fall is toward the back.  The very act of turning seems to tip the weight backward.  Yet it is this very movement that will destroy any hope of smoothly controlling and landing the pirouette.  And, the beauty of the pirouette is not merely in the rotation, or number of rotations, but in the smooth finish.  No one will care how many rotations you do, if you fall out of it.

 

The key to the pirouette is in the preparation.  From whatever position you begin or end the pirouette, the weight must be forward.  Let’s take a simple pirouette from fourth position, right foot back, going en dehors (back toward the right foot which will be lifted into retiré).  The natural desire is to “throw” the weight backwards toward that right foot even though it will be the left foot that will be supporting the weight.  In the preparation itself the weight must be forward on the front foot (left).  Even if the weight feels evenly divided, a bit more weight should be on the forward foot, and the ensuing impetus (the push for the pirouette) should be forward. 

 

To test this take the fourth position, right foot back and do a simple relevé, with the right foot coming into retiré (passé).  Don’t turn.  Just try to maintain the balance in relevé on the supporting right foot.  See where your weight is.  Is it over the ball and toes of the left foot?  Can you maintain that balance for a couple of seconds?  If you can’t maintain it in a simple relevé balance, your chances of maintaining it in a pirouette are probably nil.

 

Let’s go back again to the preparation in fourth position, right foot back.  Your left arm should be in seconde and the right arm is curved in front of you (devant).  Just as you prepare to push off for the turn – what has happened to your left arm and shoulder?  Have you twisted them to the left in preparation for the push off?  In other words are you “winding up” for the turn?  If this is the case then already, before you even begin, you are out of alignment.  As a teacher watching you, I already know that the smooth execution of your pirouette is virtually impossible.  Remember it is not your arms that turn you.  You may be asked to keep your arms over your head – or crossed on your chest.  The push for the pirouette is in your leg that is going into retiré, the turnout of that knee, and your spotting head. 

 

After doing the simple relevé balance to see where your weight is, try to do quarter turns – just turn one quarter of the way around, and see which way you fall.  Do you fall toward the back?  Then you were not over the ball of your foot.  Are you falling forward?  That is much less of a problem and it will most naturally correct itself.  But the ultimate aim is to go up to what feels, when you are first trying this, VERY forward, and then just come down to a flat foot of the supporting left leg (right leg still in retiré).  

 

Whenever I had trouble with my pirouettes I would go back to these basic exercises.  A simple relevé up and then just come down on your standing heel (right leg still in retiré).  I knew if I could do that – land on one foot – I would have no trouble at all in finishing my pirouettes on two feet.  And, there are times when the choreography calls for finishing a pirouette on one foot – with the other foot going somewhere else – like into arabesque or attitude (devant or derriére). 

 

The real brake, the real way to stop a pirouette is with the heel of the standing leg coming down.  Another crucial lesson is to learn just how much (and how little) energy you need to turn. It’s like driving a car, if you go faster it takes longer and is more difficult to stop.  The amount of energy you need depends more on the condition of the floor (slippery/sticky) and your shoes rather than the number of rotations.  You have to learn to use the precise amount of energy necessary to bring you to relevé and initiate the turn  and no more - and then let your head do the work.

 

If there is interest the others are:  

 

Pirouettes and Hormones

Pirouettes are Psychologiical

Pirouettes - It's all About Energy

Pirouettes - Left and Right

Spotting the Turn

Pirouettes and Breathing

 

Hope this first one helps.....looking forward to any discussion - questions....comments....

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Thank you very much anjuli, I enjoyed reading that and will definitely have a go later! Pirouettes are definitely one of the things I struggle with most. For some reason I find it harder to hold the retire balance than others like attitude etc. I can do a quarter turn quite well so think it may be partly a strength issue? Also find it easier turning to the right. I have also been taught that it's easier to go from a small 4th position and a larger 4th by different teachers?? Perhaps it might be because one floor is much 'stickier' than the other?!

I would be very interested in all of the articles, I need all the help I can get!

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Thank you very much anjuli, I enjoyed reading that and will definitely have a go later! Pirouettes are definitely one of the things I struggle with most. For some reason I find it harder to hold the retire balance than others like attitude etc. I can do a quarter turn quite well so think it may be partly a strength issue? Also find it easier turning to the right. I have also been taught that it's easier to go from a small 4th position and a larger 4th by different teachers?? Perhaps it might be because one floor is much 'stickier' than the other?!

I would be very interested in all of the articles, I need all the help I can get!

 

Let's take the issues one at a time:

 

It is much more difficult to hold a balance in which the body occupies a small space such as retiré rather than a large space such as attitude - hence a tight rope walker uses a pole to spread the balance.  The same holds true about the preparation: 4th is easier than 5th.

 

I don't see pirouettes very much as a strength issue - I see it (just my personal view) as a placement issue and also an issue of controlling the amount of energy invested in turning.  One has to learn the exact amount of energy needed to turn.  This energy calculation is addressed in another of the articles.  However, if you have little trouble with quarter turns - then see how much energy it takes to do a half turn - then 3/4 of a turn - and finally a whole turn.  A entire rotation does not take four times the energy as a quarter turn - just a bit more - because the completion of the head spot will provide the rest of the energy.  The state of the floor and shoes does have to enter into the dancer's calculation of energy needed for a turn. 

 

The right/left business is covered in another article - but one should know that just about everything we do is done differently on one side than the other: handedness, feet, smile, snarl, chewing, eyes, etc. - so of course that includes turning.  One side seems so much easier whilst the other is almost like turning into a wall.  But the dancer has to learn to do both - though one will always remain more comfortable with one side than the other.  Soloists will usually be given the choice if possible which way to turn. 

 

I'll put the next article in tomorrow.....but please feel free to add, subtract...contest...inquire...and discuss....

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Applause for whoever wrote that breakdown for pirouettes - it is absolutely spot on! I think pirouettes are all about co-ordination and the push off, plus the releve, the head, the arms all coordinated together all at the right moment are what in the end makes a good pirouette.

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Applause for whoever wrote that breakdown for pirouettes - it is absolutely spot on! I think pirouettes are all about co-ordination and the push off, plus the releve, the head, the arms all coordinated together all at the right moment are what in the end makes a good pirouette.

 I am replying to this - not to claim the applause - but to clarify that I wrote all the articles - so there are no copyright problems.

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Pirouettes are one of the few dance movements that are all about the mechanics - not to say that emotion or psychology cannot affect the mechanics, because they most certainly can - but from a purely mechanical point of view, for an object to rotate, it is all about forces. One of the most crucial forces is gravity. For an object to balance inequilibrium, it's centre of mass (CoM) needs to be directly above it's base of support. In a human standing on two feet with arms down by the sides in a neutral posture, the CoM is somewhere between the belly button, and the lumbar vertebrae L4/5. I teach my students this as soon as they are old enough to understand the principle. 

 

When your base of support is large, it is easy to keep the CoM above it. The CoM also changes as you move your arms/legs. In order to perform a secure pirouette, the dancer must first establish (and learn to feel) where their centre of mass is, and how to get it placed over the (now small) base of support. Hence practicing the preparation into balancing in pirouette position over and over and over again. This must be so rehearsed that the dancer can do it successfully every time.

 

OF course that is only half of the battle, because once one starts to turn, more forces come into play, which threaten the delicate balance of centre of mass/base of support. The dancers who are the most successful turners are those who do not allow any peturbation of their arms, body, spine or legs, that might move their centre of mass. Because of the small surface area of the base of support, it only needs a slight change in arm position, a lift of a hip, or a lean of the head to shift the CoM so that it is no longer securely above the base of support. The moment that happens, the dancer will feel off balance. A seasoned successful turner may be able to counteract this and 'save' the turn but it is usually at this point that the turn will fail.

 

I have learnt so much about turning recently by watching good turners on youtube. Whatever you feel about the competition scene in the USA, those kids can TURN! The most successful keep their arms, back and body locked and are completely on balance.

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Inspite of my successful balances in retire position just the other day one of my teachers remarked that when turning(from 4th on this occasion) I was already going into the turn with the retire leg still not off the floor!! So I really concentrated on snapping up that leg and on one occasion did a really good one and I noticed that my retire was in a better position more to,the side so my brain clocked that this could be useful!! I think this is one of the things you mentioned when pushing off Anjuli. I will practice the exercise where you leave the leg in retire and then come down.....as I think I usually do this simultaneously and Ive got a thing about even if doing one pirouette one should see that finish before placing the leg down into a hopefully neat fifth.....obviously if choreographed differently then one follows that. Just talking about bog standard pirouettes! I am much better at turning in pose turns(to the right at least) I wondered if that was because one is stepping out onto a straight leg.....because the use of the plié in a pirouette is another issue....how deep and how timed!!

drdance yes I do understand what you re saying about the mechanics of it and sometimes one understands this in ones head....it's just how to get this firmly into the body!! There's also a very good book about "the line of aplomb" among other things by Roger Tully called "The Song Sings the Bird" this has some useful things about turning but more when a the barre. I've always been told its the incoming shoulder which turns you.....hence not to take the arm back behind the shoulder(if turning to the right this would be the left shoulder) but when I watch YouTube videos of some of the Russian dancers they seem to extend the arms each time rather than just lock into first position.

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Let’s go back again to the preparation in fourth position, right foot back.  Your left arm should be in seconde and the right arm is curved in front of you (devant).  Just as you prepare to push off for the turn – what has happened to your left arm and shoulder?  Have you twisted them to the left in preparation for the push off?  In other words are you “winding up” for the turn?  If this is the case then already, before you even begin, you are out of alignment.  As a teacher watching you, I already know that the smooth execution of your pirouette is virtually impossible.  Remember it is not your arms that turn you.  You may be asked to keep your arms over your head – or crossed on your chest.  The push for the pirouette is in your leg that is going into retiré, the turnout of that knee, and your spotting head. 

 

My own take on this is slightly different, in the preparation like in your example my right arm becomes straight following a Rond de jambe of the right leg to the back, this creates a longer line, it’s not until rotation commences that the right arm begins to curve. The other point that’s not mentioned, unless I missed it, its starts with a plié. At least the first quarter turn the plié appears to rotate as both feet go onto demi-pointe, and their heels swivel pass each other before getting to the push-off point which significantly adds momentum to that turn.

 

The reason I raise this, when I first started trying to do these turns, mostly from a DVD but with some help from my teacher, as this was not part of our normal class at that time. I was reasonably successfully doing single turns with the Left standing foot, but it was starting to get a little tired, so I decided to swap feet as I probably should have done earlier. On my first attempt I did one and half turns, so I set a three quarter point as my next target, and did it easily. I just could not believe it, so I decided to try a double, Bingo this seemed easy peasy, I tried it another couple of time and it was no problem, then I had to pack-up my practice. By this time I was really on a high. I can remember if it was the following day or the day after, after class I wanted to show my teacher my doubles, I was so proud. They were a disastrous I couldn’t even do a single en dehor properly, I was trying harder and harder until eventually I completely lost my balance and went over. My teacher nearly had heart failure as she was on crutches after pulling ligaments in her leg. Fortunately from my Ta Kwon Do days I know how to fall without even sustaining a burse.

 

Later when I got home, mystified why my pirouettes were so different, then I spotted it, I had not allowed the plié to rotate. That restored my singles which now are virtually effortless, but for some reason the doubles elude me and that is extremely frustrating after once being able to do them. I am not sure if that’s loss of confidence due to that fall, I don’t think it is but who knows. But something is definitely different.

 

My Pirouette en dedans are also effortless but are also stuck at singles. I guess its practice practice practice.

 

So I guess  “Pirouettes are Psychological”

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I am not and have never been a dancer so all the above is a mystery to me- but amazing serendipity- I was just about to post a query about pirouettes for DS who has spent his evening moaning to me about how he can't 'get' his pirouettes (meaning more than 2). So before I copy out all of the above for him (which looks both erudite and useful) can I just check that there is no special technique difference between women and men? I suspect part of his problem is growth adjustment, as in 18 months he has grown almost 6 inches, but he is deeply frustrated (his teacher just says 'it will come' but he's not too happy with that... :(

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Not quite sure what you mean by the rotating plié Michelle. Is the sequence this lets say turning to the right from 4th: you place the push off leg(right leg) into fourth opening arms to,second as you initiate the movement and then the right arm in first as foot placed down the left arm staying in second; then there is a plié....you are still facing the front; next there is a push off the right leg into retire and a simultaneous bringing in of the left arm and it is only at the push off that the rotation starts; then there is the whipping of the head round to finish the turn both arms in first now; the final part is placing the right leg from retire behind you into 5th so you are then ready with the left leg in front with you facing the front!!! (I never thought I would be writing about pirouettes like this).its difficult breaking it down but I think the plié itself isn't rotated. However I would like to know how deep this plié should be etc

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Well, many issues here....let's take them one at a time...

 

I don't like to think of the arms as locked as said in a post above.  The body is certainly still - except for the head.  But while the arms can certainly throw off a pirouette - they are not part of the mechanics - they are an "adornment" as my old Russian (pre-Vaganova) teacher used to say.  Indeed, I remember dancing a piece in which the arms changed position during the turn.  In the first rotation they were held in front and in the seond rotation were held over the head.  As for the body, I would rather think of it as engaged rather than locked.

 

Shoulders:  If you are turning to the right, you must, while carefully keeping it level, open that right shoulder - not hugely - but a bit.  If you try to turn right and the right shoulder is pressed inwardly forward, it will stop your turn like hitting a wall.  In fact, when a dancer is turning very fast and needs to stop instantly that is one of the things to do - pull the shoulder forward and  in.  On the other hand, if one is turning to the right that left shoulder needs to come with you - if you leave it behind (allow it to fall behind your line of balance) it, too, will stop your turn.   

 

Try doing a pirouette with your arms in front of you and then when you end the pirouette see if your arms are still in front of you in the same place they started.  Usually when we are having problems we find we ended the pirouette with the arms slightly askew to the left (we let them behind) or to the right (let them get ahead of us). 

 

While pirouettes are certainly based on principals of movement - I don't see them as mechanical.  They have to be fresh, danced, musical and alive.  (more on that in the article on breathing). A pirouette also has character - from a quick snapped finish to a slow unwinding line.  They are just as nuanced as any other movement in the ballet.

 

If you are falling off in retiré either to the back or to the side - you have not gone fully up onto the demi-pointe and fully forward on the demi-pointe.  It is possible to go up - and still not be foward enough.

 

As for the plié preparation - you should not be turning whilst in that plié - that's part of the wind-up no-no just as using the arms to wind-up.    The real impetus for the turn comes from push into the rise onto demi-pointe and then is completed by the head.  I have seen it demonstrated that if one can remain in a balanced rise on demi-pointe, one could keep rotating just by the spot of the head.  The problem is that we tend to panic and destroy that balance.  The body knows how to balance, but our emotional brain often interferes with that knowledge.  The depth of the plie should be your normal demi-plié - unless one's is abnormally deepl.  It also depends upon the timing of the music.

 

About practicing pirouettes....  Usually the first few are practice, the next several are our best and then they tend to go down hill.  The trick is to stop practicing them at their best so the body will remember that success.  But, the next time don't automatically expect the experience to be the same.  The next class - you are a different person.  Hormones play a big role (which is in an upcoming article) as well as your mood, state of health, sleep, etc.

 

Which brings me to the question of pirouettes and the male dancer.  Men are almost always better turners than women.  Their bodies have much more of the "V" shape than a female's body (which goes in and out front and back).  Men tend to turn a bit more slowly and therefore the timing (music) is different.  A growth spurt will certainly have an impact - his line of balance has elongated.  Generally speaking - shorter dancers have an easier time of it when it comes to turns.  But, then, there are many marvelous tall men who turn wonderfully.  Watching a professional male dancer turn is a well....er...real turnon!:)

 

I hope I've said something here which helps.

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Hi Lin:

No it doesn’t happen quite that rapidly, you don’t need huge amounts of energy. At the commencement when you drop into a plié, but you are standing on the balls of you feet, as you first rotate your body, both heels are free to rotate clockwise, this last for about the first quarter of a turn then there is the push-off of the back leg into retire whilst the front supporting leg goes to high relevé. Then when you come down you quickly Pas the non-standing leg to the back, drop the standing leg and land in a long 4th with the arms out stretched like a second arabesque (nicely).

Edited by Michelle_Richer
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Gosh I never knew reading about pirouettes could be so interesting......and how I agree with you Anjuli about men pirouetting. I was in a class in London recently and although it was not an advanced class there were three dancers from the Royal Ballet in it. The two men both did fantastic pirouettes with great controlled finishes and I just wanted to be able to do them like that!! But then who wouldn't!! In class on Saturday in Brighton we were doing a little enchainement with some pirouettes in the middle to music by Vivaldi and in that context my pirouettes came off much better....albeit only singles....but they were fast in the setting....I sort of enjoyed them in response to the music but I wouldn't have dared for two as some successfully did!! So onwards and upwards as they say. Am certainly going to perk up.this week in class when we get to pirouettes!! I also get the bit about practising......I think this is similar to the piano if you over practice a piece it starts to go downhill and I often find that the first time I play a piece is the best time before my head starts interfering with it all!! Are you saying Anjuli that you open the right arm before bringing both into,first then? This does seem to,be what I'm seeing on the Russian videos. With the plié some teachers say its only a brief quick down while others say to really use the plié (not sit in it but really use the Demi plié to push as well though would like to bring this up.later with en dedans pirouettes particularly. Anyway lots to get ones teeth into so far.

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Are you saying Anjuli that you open the right arm before bringing both into,first then? This does seem to,be what I'm seeing on the Russian videos. With the plié some teachers say its only a brief quick down while others say to really use the plié (not sit in it but really use the Demi plié to push as well though would like to bring this up.later with en dedans pirouettes particularly. Anyway lots to get ones teeth into so far.

No - you don't open the right arm (turning to the right) unless that is what the choreographer wants. I am saying you can't keep the right shoulder tight - pressed forward. You can't allow it to fall back - but can't keep it pressed forward. Try it. Try turning to the right while pressing your right shoulder forward.- its just about impossible to turn. Sometimes when we get tense we press our shoulders forward and that defeats our purpose.

 

The same is true of the leg in retiré - it, too, has to open up into the direction of the turn. If it is pressed forward you can't turn toward it. Think of it like a sail - sailing you around.

 

The depth and timing of the plié depends a lot on the tempo of the music. It has nothing to do with the number of rotations. Sometimes the longer we plié, the longer we have to think about things and mess them up. I find pirouettes go best when the body is allowed to remember what it knows.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Men are better turners than women mostly because A) they learn to turn at a younger age, B) they have stronger abdominals and back muscles so can keep their bodies still, C) they tend to be less 'scared' of turning than women and D) they have wider shoulders than women.

 

I disagree that a males body goes in and out less than womens, particularly if you look at professional ballet dancers. These days women are flat chested while the males have more muscular glutes. The width in the shoulders helps though - if you look at a spinning top, it is successful in spinning because it is wide at the top, and gets narrower. But that's mechanics again!

 

By the way - when I mentioned the arms earlier, I do realise that many pirouettes require changes to the arms and indeed leg lines, mid turn. However I teach my students to have their arms 'locked' into their backs. Whether you like the idea or not, it DOES make a difference! 

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I am not sure how one would accomplish a change in arms during the pirouette if one is taught to lock them into the back. And I do realize that whether I like something or not is of little consequence to anyone reading my post - it is just my personal view and nothing more. I may question other views - but I do so with respect for the speaker - and I at no time said it wasn't valid or workable. I simply stated my preference.

 

As for the comparison of female to male body types for turning, even though in the professional female ballet dancer the chest area is flatter than the general population - it is, generally speaking not replaced by muscle - just has less fat. And whatever amount of breast there is is more than on the male. Likewise, though the female professional ballet dancer while not usually having the same hip girth as the general population, it still tends to be wider proportionally than the male dancer. His narrower hip width to wider shoulder wdth gives him that "V."

 

However, that being said (with all the variations thereto) I was speaking of, and addressing the female student from the general population who takes ballet class and sees in class how wonderfully men turn.

 

As for men being less fearful of turning - with that I agree. But, then, success breeds confidence.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Pirouettes - it's psychological

 

For some reason pirouettes often present difficulties that are just as much mental outlook as physical control.  Many of us start at minus zero when it comes to learning this very beautiful and useful ballet movement.  If the teacher says: "Today we are going to work on pirouettes" all too often our initial, almost automatic, internal response is "Oh no!"

 

If that's the case you aren't starting from a level playing field.  You've just placed yourself below the zero.  You now have to psychologically climb up to zero - and hope to end up on the plus side.  A positive attitude will start you off on the positive side of zero.

 

If your mental response is: "Okay - it's time to work on pirouettes" - then you are at least giving yourself the benefit of starting from a level playing field.  That in itself is good part of the battle.  Don't lose the battle before the trumpet blows.

 

To test this theory out with  new classes of adults and a new classes of children I decided that when I introduced pirouettes I would tell the class: "Today we are going to start learning about pirouettes - they are one of the most fun ballet steps to do. Everybody loves pirouettes."  

 

These beginners had no prejudice against pirouettes, no prior knowledge that pirouettes were difficult or scary or any such negative feelings.  They accepted my word. 

 

Both these classes ended up being quite terrific at pirouettes.  It was a graphic illustration that the mind and its perceptions do indeed govern the body. 

 

Another instance....I had a teenage student who really feared doing turns going to the left.  However, in one recital she was part of a group going down the diagonal doing very fast turns to the left.  As she was about to take her place and begin she was standing next to me in the wings and she was almost in tears about the upcoming left handed turns.  I said to her:  "Suzy (that actually is her name) this is a breeze for you because it's your "good" side."  In the heat of the moment and the general nervous excitement of performance, she took me at my word, assumed I was correct, and did the best left handed turns she had ever done. 

 

We had a good laugh about it afterwards.  It also taught all of us a lesson how the mind can hurt our performance - but also how it can help. 

 

Likewise, one time I had a performance and was coming down with a flu/vius/cold.  By the time I got to the stage that night i was running a temperature of several degrees and my mind was shutting down.  But, the body still carried on and without the interference of all those pesky mental doubts, I did a triple attitude turn on pointe - something I never quite was able to do again.  (And, no, I would never allow my students to dance while ill).  That incident showed me how great a part our mental view - psychology - plays in how we set ourselves up for success or failure.

 

Turning is a very natural process.  Observe small children in a play yard - they often turn in circles.  As we get older we simply accumulate more "baggage" as to what we like and what we don't like, while at the same time increasing our expectations of what we want to accomplish.

 

Think of pirouettes as a process of baking a cake.  You learn the recipe.  You learn to line up the ingredients.  You learn how to put the ingredients together.  If nothing has changed in the body (cake) like illness, hormones, etc., the recipe will almost (nothing  works all the time) always cook up.

 

The recipe:

 

One correctly placed preparation.

 

One smooth push-off.

 

One strong supporting leg.

 

One strong spot.

 

Two arms where they are supposed to be.

 

One body correctly aligned.  

 

One supporting heel coming down to stop the turn.

 

You end up with:

 

One smile at a well done pirouette.

 

Remember, when you are practicing pirouettes the first few are a usually good, the next few are probably your best, but then it begins to go downhill.  If possible stop the practice while the pirouettes are good so both your body and mind remember the positive feeling.

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Well just off to class now and for once will be really ready for the pirouette section after all this lovely advice so far and I will try to keep positive!! In fact tonight I will be annoyed if we don't do pirouettes rather than the usual sense of relief if they're missed for some reason!!

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Drdance, I like your comment about “These days women are flat chested”, well this gal certainly isnt, not too sure what that says about symetry and blalance, but hey, the body positioning has the ability to compensate.

 

This is an extract from the Finish Jhung Manual that supports his DVD “The Art of Teaching 2, Turns, Exercise 5.

 

I have excluded the movements beyond point 8 as not being really relevant to our discussion.

 

 

To Begin

  1. Face the mirror in 5 position with your left foot front and your arms en bas.

 

Musical Introduction

  1. Over Counts 1 and 2 remain still.
  2. On Count 3 “Breath” with your arms.
  3. On Count 4 bring your arms to en bas.

 

The First Set of 8 Counts:

  1. On Count 1 Demi Plie and make a pas de cheval with the L foot. Step forward on your L foot and stand with the R foot pointe tendu back. Raise R arm to fifth, open your left arm to second.

 

Grip the floor with your L toes so that you pull your hips forward as you stretch up strongly.

 

Twist your spine to the L so your L arm points to corner 6.

 

Your L hand is slightly behind your L shoulder

 

  1. On Count 2, remain on straight legs in the tendu position, keep the L arm in second, lower the R arm and stretch it forward in the arabesque position.

 

Stretch the L shoulder and arm farther back as you stretch the R arm forward.

 

 

  1. On Count 3, grip the floor with your L foot. Pull your body down so your L knee bends over your toes, lower your R heel with the R knee straight. Keep arms in position.

 

Resist the Plie, stretch up the back of your neck

 

Keep both hips up and forward; use the muscles in and around your pelvis.

 

  1. On Count 4, with your weight on your L foot, turn the Plie so your hips face corner 2. Your R foot will be in pointe tendu. Keep your head over your L shoulder. Your L arm points to corner 8. Your R arm points to corner 4.

 

This is “The End of the Plie”

 

 

  1. On Count 5, continue the promenade en dehors, push down so your L knee straightens. Place your R foot in retire devant  (in front of your knee). Carefully bring arms to first position.

 

Stretch your L shoulder over your toes

 

Keep your L hip pushed forward over the ball of the L foot so that you are able to move the heel.

 

  1. On Count 6, continue the promenade so you face the mirror.

 

Keep your ears up and back on your shoulders

 

  1. On Count 7, continue the promenade to corner 2 and then demi-plié on your L leg, stretching your R leg back in fourth position. Place the R foot flat on the floor. Stretch your arms to third arabesque (R arm forward, L arm second).

 

Reach for corner 8 with your L shoulder and arm

 

Reach for corner 2 with your R shoulder and arm

 

  1. On Count 8, Stretch your body line

 

Although the example video below is not the exercise that the text refers to it is a good illustration.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2-qRFM_g_I

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Loving all the advice :-) I think my arms are part of the problem as I can control the turn better without them. I feel much more enthusiastic to try now that I know some of what I may be doing wrong. Anjuli have you thought about compiling your articles into a book? You should if you haven't already. Could we possibly have the article on spotting next? X

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Loving all the advice :-) I think my arms are part of the problem as I can control the turn better without them. I feel much more enthusiastic to try now that I know some of what I may be doing wrong. Anjuli have you thought about compiling your articles into a book? You should if you haven't already. Could we possibly have the article on spotting next? X

It has been suggested to me - many times to publish in hard copy book format. But, getting anything published is a huge hassle and I am old and retired. Also, I enjoy the feedback/discussion which I wouldn't get by writing a book. Thank you for the thought.:)

 

I have written a book which was serialized online - a true story of a family member. Again, many people told me to get it published in hard copy, but I just don't want the hassle.

 

As you requested.......the article on spotting.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Spotting Lends Coherence to the Turn

 

The major components of turns, in my opinion, are the following:

 

Preparation: first, second, fourth (broad or narrow - open or closed) or fifth position (with or without tendu as part of the preparation)

 

Impetus (the push off from the floor)

 

Stability (balance while turning)

 

Rotation (the turn itself)

 

Spotting - gives the turn coherence

 

Finishing with control.

 

As every dancer soon learns spotting will keep the dancer from getting dizzy, will keep the dancer informed where he/she is, can add rotations to the pirouette and will aid in the balance of the turn. Certain rules have to be followed. The head has to revolve on a level plane. It cannot be held too high nor dip down. It should not deviate from that level plane during the entire turn.

 

I think that the most important thing the student has to learn about spotting a turn is to truly “see” what is being spotted – not just look – but really “see." If one stands in front of a mirror one can spot one’s own eyes. If the dancer is spotting on a diagonale it is not enough to simply look at the corner – an object must be chosen – this object should be eye level and kept within view and become the aim of the spot. And truly seen. It must make an imprint on the brain.

 

An interesting exercise to help achieve this is to have a friend stand downstage on the diagonal and as the student does a traveling turn, such as chainés or piqués, have the friend flash up fingers. As the dancer turns she should be able to call out how many fingers are raised each time. That way one can tell if the dancer is truly “seeing” the spot. I used to do this regularly with my students in class. Everyone needs a reminder now and then. Practice it with the easier turns first.

 

If one takes a baby’s toy – a top – and spins it, one will notice that as long as the top maintains it stability the rotations continue, until the force begins to dissipate and the top begins to wobble and finally stops. So it is in pirouettes. Men are especially good at multiple rotations in pirouettes and it is fun to watch them. I have read that the initial force for a pirouette is usually only enough to last for about 3-4 rotations, after that other dynamics come into play.

 

If the dancer can maintain his balance, then he can produce additional rotations beyond 3-4, simply by spotting his head. I have watched this done in class and found it fascinating. I have a tape of Baryshnikov doing this for 12 rotations. Since no other movement can be allowed to happen, as it would destroy the balance of the pirouette, only the head is free to move and continue the rotations. The entire thing is very rhythmical. The head does – look – snap – look – snap –

 

The body usually goes where we look. When we ride a bike or drive a car, there is a tendency if we look off to the side, to drive in that direction. This is true of pirouettes, too. So, the student has to learn to spot where she wants to go, and where she wants to end up. If she is asked to do a pirouette with one and a half rotations, which finishes upstage, then she begins the pirouette, and as her eyes pass upstage, she leaves the head there, and snaps the head around ending the spot upstage, where the pirouette also ends. She has to truly “see” that upstage spot as she passes it.

 

Doing moving turns, chainés or piqués for instance, in a circle (which is usually spotted as a square) or figure 8’s, the student has to find a spot for each change of direction. We go where we spot.

 

Once again the spot gives coherence to the turn.

 

We can divide turns into various categories - en dehors (outward - away from the standing leg) en dedans (inward - toward the standing leg), moving turns (chainé, piqué/posé,), turns sur la place (in place - pirouette or detourné).

 

But we can also categorize turns in other ways:

 

from one foot to one foot (piqué),

 

from one foot to two feet (piqué soutentu),

 

from two feet to two feet (detourné/soutenu sur la place),

 

from two feet to one foot (pirouette).

 

and a turn done on no feet - tour en l'air.

 

I have just given one example for each type though there are more, and I realize some of us may call them by different names.

 

There are also turns that are large jumps like sauté Basque. Turns can begin and end in all the numbered foot positions - as well as ending on one foot such as attitude (derriére and devant), seconde, and arabesque.

 

But all turns have one thing in common - the spot of the head. It is the "brains" of the turn. An exception to this is a slow arabesque or attitude turn.

 

An interesting way to prove this to students I found, is to set a combination of piqués/posés (en dedans) and fouettés down the diagonal - alternating. For instance, piqué, piqué, fouetté, fouetté. On the first two piqués the spot is to the corner and this is a moving turn, but for the fouettés the spot changes to the front, as this is done sur la place. Yes, I know that fouettés can move, too, but not for this combination. I found this change of spot direction, illustrated to the student not only how the spot lends credence to the turn, but how it moves it along the ground, or not.

 

The spot lends intelligence to the turn - the student must control the spot.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Thanks Michelle for the video I found that very useful and it confirms something Ive noticed watching Russian videos....she extends both her arms out right at the beginning of the turn and brings them into first during the turn. I personally find this helps more than having the arms in third with right arm in front and then just bring the left arm in. The latter works well if just doing a balance but if turning I seem to do a better turn with this extension of right arm as well ......so,briefly both arms are in second and you can see this on the video. Talking about turning to,the right of course!!

Anjuli at the end of the class this evening I practiced the exercise you suggested of just coming up onto demi keeping leg in retire and then lowering the supporting leg while keeping the retire. This proved beyond a doubt that I am not fully coming right up onto demi as found it quite hard to control the supporting leg down and keep the retire because my weight wasnt forward enough. It's much harder than coming down off the supporting leg and bringing retire leg down simultaneously. You definitely need more strength to do this so will keep practicing. I'm a bit tired right now but do want to ask about the en dedans turn as well. So perhaps tomorrow.

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Anjuli at the end of the class this evening I practiced the exercise you suggested of just coming up onto demi keeping leg in retire and then lowering the supporting leg while keeping the retire. This proved beyond a doubt that I am not fully coming right up onto demi as found it quite hard to control the supporting leg down and keep the retire because my weight wasnt forward enough. It's much harder than coming down off the supporting leg and bringing retire leg down simultaneously. You definitely need more strength to do this so will keep practicing. I'm a bit tired right now but do want to ask about the en dedans turn as well. So perhaps tomorrow.

 Yes, coming down off demi-pointe with control on the supporting leg, is the true test of your balance.  it's also very handy when you need to end in a position such as attitude or arabesque, or even to step directly into an arabesque, etc.  Once you get that you will truly be  in control of your balance. 

 

When we rise to demi-pointe we often forget that we must also go forward not just up.

 

Lots of luck with it!

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