Turns, when executed properly are wonderful to watch, and feel even better to do- and love or hate them they are a staple of your language as a dancer.
They are also a tricky beast, as when you’re trying to do mutiple pirouettes what works for your body one day might not be the thing that makes you sail round the next. Oh cruel world! So no matter whether you’re just trying to transition from one pirouette to doubles, or having nailed doubles move on to 3,4 or even 5 revolutions, the conundrum remains the same:
How do I master more turns?
Set Your Sights On The Prize- How Many?
When you’re wanting to do mutiple pirouettes, setting the intention gives you the motivation and focus to put the practice in and be resourceful. Busy day- can I grab 5 minutes to practice here? Doing the dishes- practice a balance. Waiting for the kettle to boil? Can I practice some turns while I wait? Don’t be afraid to be shameless in your pursuit of dancing, I will quite happily tap dance to myself while waiting on a train platform, or practice a quick turn at work when there’s nothing to do (I was working in Starbucks at the time.) It’s liberating to not mind.
One dancer who takes incorporating practice into your daily routine is Kylie Shea, she is EPIC and one of my dance heroes and you can check out how she uses dancing in everyday settings via instagram in a way that is equal parts genius and hilarious!
So yeah, when it comes to practice it’s not always about how hard you sweat, bitesize chunks in between serious practice can be king.
Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail.
By this, I mean that preparing by breaking down your goal into manageable accomplishments and steps can help. Below are some things you can try to get the ball rolling:
- Practice balancing- the longer you can balance in a position the better chance you have of turning in said position.When you turn, your proprioception changes, so doing this allows you to practice both strength and weight placement before you add in the momentum.
2. Practice your balance in different positions. This opens up more versatility and allows you to explore what’s required of your body in different positions e.g. a turn a la seconde will require different placement from one in retire or arabesque. Pay special attention to the position you want to nail.
3. Be honest about where you’re at- you can’t get from A to B if you don’t know where A is. I always take time in between jobs to spend some time reconnecting with my technique. For example, if you’ve just come off a holiday park job the choreo doesn’t normally require many turns so you may feel a little rusty compared to if you’re in college doing them in every class. With this in mind, it is important to make sure your turns are clean before attempting more pirouettes- it is infinitely better to do a clean double than get your body into the habit of a messy triple. Readdress technique, get your turning foundation strong- then you can reach for the sky!
4. Open your arm just before you go- this can give you more of a sense of ease into the turn.
5. Don’t forget familiarising yourself with the basics is also about reminding your body memory! This is powerful!
6. Releves are the best medicine! Doing lots of releves will increase both strength and stamina. You need to have the stamina to repeatedly balance in turns. As you get tired it’s common for balance to start to go because you can’t hold yourself up, so start with as many releves as you can muster and build up.
The Turn Itself- How To Do Multiple Pirouettes
- Use a deeper plié- you’d be surprised how much more impetus it can give you to get round. Careful not to hesitate in the plié though, otherwise it can lose that power. Think ‘down,up!’
- Think of turning towards the back leg. This helps keep you on balance and then turns can just happen. Sometimes when you focus on force it can throw your weight back and the force can end up outweighing the amount needed to get round.
- Think about maximising your turnout by pushing the knee back and thinking of that as helping you get round.You can also use your preparation e.g. your dégagé to the side and to the back, to engage your turnout and give you the best set up. (Obviously this particular point applies to ballet pirouettes as opposed to those in jazz which take place in parallel.)
The turn itself:
- Like a drawstring, think of drawing a line with your toe up your leg- this will ensure that you keep your turn compact and that your toe remains where it should be- under your knee for the duration of your pirouette.
- Use blue tack! Actually use something on the wall to practice spotting. Keeping that focus point small and specific can make the world of difference.
- Think of a rhythm to your spotting e.g. 1,2 (accent on the 2) for a double.
- Ensure that as you spot you keep your head relaxed. Think of the feeling of shaking your head from side to side and then mirror that level of ease and lack of tension.
- Think of engaging your core and keeping your ribs lifted and forward. Also, be aware of your arms and the connection between your hands and your belly button. All of this will help keep you on point with where you need to be as well as keeping the right muscle groups engaged.
- Be aware of your habits, even if they’re small. For me, I have a tendency to throw my weight back, or tilt my head slightly. What do you notice yourself doing which might be hindering your progress? Particularly with regard to the head, it is the heaviest part of the body, so making sure it is straight and that your chin is slightly down, rather than tilted can garner a big result from just a small adjustment.
- Keep your hips level. If you tilt the hip of the leg in retire it can throw you off to the side so thinking of that hip as pushing down in opposition can help to counteract this tendency.
- Aim to always hit that finishing position. A good turn needs a strong finish!
- If a turn does go wrong in an audition situation, don’t be apologetic about yourself. This is often a hard one as it’s so much harder to hold your head high when you muck something up (it’s definitely something I have to continually practice) but it’s important to finish it strongly and professionally, being mindful to not let it show on your face.
Trick Or Treat- Still Struggling To Do Multiples?
- Practice doing however many turns you can do comfortably (single, double etc) and aim to hold that position at the front for an extra fraction at the end. By delaying your landing by a second, you are able to stretch your capacity gradually and inch you’re way closer to that extra turn.
2.Practice doing an extra HALF turn e.g. 1 and a half or 2 and a half pirouettes. You can do this by spotting to the back so think a half turn and then when you reach the back, spot from that point as you would a normal pirouette (so the back becomes your point of focus and the direction you will finish your turn in.)
3. Get used to the feeling of turning more revolutions in space. There are two things you can try for this:
- For a second, throw technique out the window (shocking I know!) and think back to when you were little and just used to turn for fun. Now with that feeling of free fall, just step onto one leg and spin, seeing how many turns you can manage. This can work like magic- just spinning and using pure momentum without any technical impositions. You can still spot and at the same time get the feel for executing more turns.
- Use a turning board. You can even get one personalised like here. I don’t push products that I don’t already own so I can safely say this is a great device and if used properly can be a great tool and a lot of fun. By using this, you can train your body mind to get the feeling of multiple turns in space. It can help you engage your core and keep your body weight forward whilst turning, as well as practice hitting and holding a particular position plus much more. The main thing however is that you’ll start to gain confidence and familiarity in executing more pirouettes successfully.