Professional Tips to Improve Your Pirouettes

by Danielle Hernandez on September 27, 2018


Pirouettes are an essential element of not only ballet but other dance forms like jazz too. Most dancers will benefit from these simple tips to perfect their turning and pirouettes to present a more confident and graceful dance performance.

If you are a dancer, turns – especially –pirouettes are a must-have in your skill set. Pirouettes are among the most challenging yet most beautiful of dance steps. When a dancer tries to do a beautiful and controlled double pirouette from start to finish, it tells a lot about the alignment, spot, and timing. IT also tells you if the dancer has everything that is needed to do multiple pirouettes. 

Pirouette is a turn, in a position, around an axis that you create with your body. To be able to continue around multiple times on your axis- similar to spinning a coin on a table, your body must stay aligned. If you lose your alignment, your body's position gets distorted, and you will lose balance, just like the coin wobbles when it fails its axis.

Pirouettes are also performed in other dance styles like Jazz or contemporary dance, where the raised knee is usually turned in.

In ballet, however, pirouettes form an integral part of the finishing routine, where they are performed in a series of two, three and even more to bring in the crescendo and finish with a flourish.

Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate dancer, looking to improve your turns, here are some tips to help you! We know you have a general understanding of how to do an "en dehors” pirouette in retiré. But these tips aren't just for en dehors and can be used for almost any form of pirouette! 

Think of Yourself as A Flat Coin - 

Think of yourself as a flat coin

Unless bent, a coin is flat, which allows it to turn around its axis while spinning on a table effortlessly. Stand in front of a mirror in retiré and try to turn 90* to the side, repeat the position and turn and look into the mirror. What do you see? If you are flat in both the positions, you are spinning like a coin, not like a wobbly soup can, nor a square block. 

Stay Firmly in your Pirouette Position

Avoid having different positions of your body through the turn each time you spot. For cleaner pirouettes, once you establish your retire leg and begin, don't move. Don't fidget around, or lower your hip or change the position of the foot on your leg. Unless the move calls for the arms to go into another position, you should try to show the same position at every point in your pirouette. If someone took a continuous picture of you, the only thing that would change in each image would be your head spotting around. 

Get to your Turning Position in One Count- 

Get to your turning position in one count

For all types of pirouette, try to get to your retire position fast. The faster you get to the correct position, the less chance of momentum throwing you off balance as you're turning around. Try these Turnout Boards by American Dance Supply for improving your turning. 

Forget that you have Arms 

Pirouette is done with your body, not arms. The most common mistake is to focus more on your arms, and whip them around while you should be doing the exact opposite. If you throw your arms around, your torso becomes misaligned with your legs. Your whole body should be making the pirouette position, arms in pirouettes are used just because you can't keep them away, they are only for decoration! Focus on your standing leg, make sure it is straight, and your retiré' leg is properly attached nice and high.

For Easier Spotting, Focus on your Chin - 

If you focus on keeping your chin level, you will be having a better-aligned head and neck- which will make your spotting smoother and pirouettes easier. 

Your chin should be parallel with the floor. It will ensure that your head can turn around your neck more smoothly. If your chin is dipped too high or too low, it will throw you off your alignment and be challenging to balance and turn on your axis. You may be told to keep your head and neck better aligned, and for that, the best way is to keep your chin parallel to the floor.

Create an Axis - 

Take a look into the mirror and focus on keeping your neck in-line with your spine. If you have to force your neck back, that means your posture is always out of alignment. For pirouettes, it is essential that you are aware of the line of your neck. See if, while turning, your neck sticks out forward, out of alignment with the spine. If that happens, you will not be able to spot correctly, and your turn will not be clean and effortless.

A helpful image is to think of a rod between the back of your head, into your neck, all the way down your back through your standing leg and into the floor. This is your axis, and that’s where everything should be. Engage your core to help maintain proper alignment (ribs, spine, pelvis, hips). Your core strength helps improve your technique and keeps your injuries at bay as well. 

Strengthen your Ankles and Legs to get Stable Pirouettes 

Strengthen your ankles and legs to get stable pirouettes

If your calves feel tired after relieving just a few seconds, that means you need to try some therapy band like these Loop Bands By American Dance Supply to improve the strength in your ankles and calves. Merely flex and point with this band around your foot, an excellent exercise for both your ankles and calves.

Focus on fully stretching your standing leg when you relevé. Use the Barre, try some fondue exercises while going into relevé, ensuring a fully straightened foot to get to your highest demi-pointe. 

Loosen your Neck while Spotting- 

Don't force your spot in pirouettes. Like any other step in ballet technique, where you are required to engage your muscles, make sure you don't tense them. It works against you, causing you to lose your balance. If your neck muscles are tensed, you will end up thrashing your head around to make an active spot. If you wish to improve your pirouette, keep your neck loose, and allow your head to move around quickly and smoothly while you spot. 

While Turning, Avoid Double Preparation 

If you do a double preparation to get to the fourth position, then make another adjustment to get to next fourth position and then try to turn, your dancing will appear less fluid and confident. Any pirouette-only requires one preparation. Keeping only one preparation will add more clarity to your dancing and get you sooner on track to improving pirouettes.

Balance and Preparation- Two most Important Components of Pirouettes 

Balance and preparation - two most important components of pirouettes

Having balance and preparation in tandem for consistent pirouettes is important. While your preparation, try to be on balance- Maintain it as you plié for the preparation. It might seem obvious, but most dancers disconnect balance and preparation, assuming that balance only happens when they relevé and begin turning. On1dancewear has just the right product- Pirouette Master Turning Board. Get into your preparation, stay on your leg, and hold it for 8 counts, try to feel that you are in a strong position and most importantly, on balance. Then, try doing a double pirouette. 

Don’t Practice on Off-Days 

We all struggle on some days. The steps get right. Take heart; even professional dancers get caught up sometimes. Don't get stuck on doing a certain number of pirouettes at all times. If you are falling out of your triples, take a deep breath, and go back a little. Try a double; even a single will do. Don't keep practicing on your off-days and put pressure on yourself. 

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things do not seem to change, and this can be extremely frustrating.

Remember that a fantastic pirouette has more to do with core stability than with your legs. 

If you have watched a dancer doing beautifully clean, multiple pirouettes, you must have observed her superb alignment and position. I am not trying to overwhelm you with all these tips to improve your pirouettes. Read them all, but when it comes to applying, take one or two at a time until it becomes your second nature. 

Whether you are struggling with mastering pirouettes these tips, and very soon you will be on your way to doing singles, doubles, triples and even more! 







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