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How to Improve Your Pirouettes

Since Baryshnikov demonstrated a laconic eleven pirouettes, mre than twenty years ago, dancers and dance students have become obsessed with turning multiple times. Gone are the days when a perfectly performed double pirouette en dehors on pointe was the norm. it is now well and truly passé (excuse the ballet pun).

Students are now encouraged to spin and turn to their hearts content at a very early age to prevent a fear of turning, and the use of turning boards has increased exponentially with the amount of good pirouettes that young students are now achieving. However, good basic technique has not changed since the first dancers started their pirouettes and every student must start at the barre, then progress to the centre practising a strong relevé held over at least four counts, continuing to the perfect single, and only then progressing to the double and triple turns.

Never practise for too long as getting dizzy is not helpful and can lead to the turns getting worse and worse, and morale and self confidence sinking to dangerous levels. Try and finish pirouette practise on a good turn and internalise that feeling for the next practise session or class.

If your turns just won't work, remember there may be external reasons such as hormone imbalance, a cold or sinusitis. Just practise some good balances in passé, and strong relevés, and leave the actual turning if possible.

Here are a few of my favourite tips:

Remember to coordinate your relevé, your arms and your passé perfectly and PULL UP, PULL UP, PULL UP.

Take off from a properly placed and good plié with the heels down but the weight predominantly on the front leg.

If your relevé is weak, take the time to strengthen your ankles, this will really improve your turns and remember if you don't achieve the full height of your relevé, or you are sickled/pronated, this can ruin even a single turn.

Use your back and your core muscles and maintain a strong and straight alignment during the turn and again PULL UP, PULL UP, PULL UP.

A strong use of turn out equally on both legs will ensure safe aligned and reliable turns. Use the correct turn out muscles in the preparation and feel that the muscles you are using are the ones you will need during the turn. In other words, THINK AHEAD with your muscle activation.

Turning is all about balancing so practice balancing the position in which you want to turn as much as possible to reinforce the brain patterning.

Spotting is crucial. If you initially have problems, then try and use your nose instead of your eyes at first.

The arms should maintain a strong correct position throughout the turn. Once the technique has been fully mastered, many dancers slightly foreshorten their first position to achieve more turns.

Visualisation is the key to good turns. Imagine yourself doing a beautiful, clean pirouette using all the basic technique as often as possible.

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