Pirouette : a rapid whirling about of the body; especially : a full turn on the toe or ball of one foot. As one of the most common steps known to the average person, the pirouette is a skill that takes many years and dance technique training to accomplish successfully. This advice can be used in a turned out or parallel position. Below are several of my turning tips to help create a consistent, smooth turn.
- Pirouette Preparation: One thing I have noticed as a guest teacher, is that many students do not know how to execute pirouette preparations properly. Whether in a ballet class or jazz class pirouettes are a skill that is worked at the intermediate level and above. However, it seems that the emphasis is not being made on the preparation or balance, but ONLY the pirouette itself. The problem with that way of thinking is that now your students do not have a pathway to set them up for proper technique/alignment before the turn. These preparation steps help give your dancers the ability to transition between dancing and executing turns/tricks. For example, tombe pas de bourre is most common in ballet class, starting from a small 4th position or 5th position. I like to use the old school Six Count Pirouette in jazz class: Cross right, open left, step right, cross left, step right, left-prepare. Starting the pirouette, from a jazz 4th position. The preparation should be learned before the actual turn in order to obtain the alignment and proper positioning in the passe releve.
- Body Alignment: CORE IS KEY! Engaging the core and thinking about proper body alignment will not only help your turns, but also your overall dancing. When in a pirouette passe position, you want to have a connection between the passe leg, back and abdominal area. When learning the pirouette, arms should be in a strong first position, in alignment with the sternum, shoulders down and a long neck. I tell my students to think of their highest releve, then connect that releve from the bottom up: ankle, knee, hip, rib cage, shoulders, neck and head. Continuing that length up the back of the supporting leg going up the spine and down the front of the body. The passe leg is pulling up, connecting to the belly button and arms. All of this must happen immediately before you even start the turn itself. It is best to begin with just a releve balance to get centered. Once the proper alignment is accomplished while balancing, you are only then ready to turn. After all, a pirouette is a balance. 😉
- Spot: A clean spot can make or break your turn. When spotting for turns, it is important to focus the eyes on a specific point. When in front of the mirror, looking directly in your eyes is the best way to get a precise spot. That way, when you don’t have a mirror, you eyes are naturally used to spotting at your eye level. Another thing to remember is to make sure you keep your head facing front as long as possible, then whipping the head around quickly. Many times, I tell my students to envision their head inside a small box and the only way it can move is by looking right or left (depending on the turn). Many times the chin can be too far up or too far down throwing the spot off it’s axis. Even some dancers tend to tilt the head. You want your chin to always be in exact alignment when spotting to create the sharpness and focus needed to prevent dizziness and provide crisp, consistent turns.
There you have it, a few tips to get your pirouettes on the right track. Stay tuned for more of my advice and tips about dance!