You know how you get those amazing dreams where you’re doing pirouettes with 10 revolutions or more? It’s the dancers equivalent of the more common flying dream, sigh… For most of us this is a feat best left to the likes of Baryshnikov, however one tiny little piece of plastic could get you much closer to that dream than you previously thought possible. I am of course talking about the turn board.
Turn boards have been the rage in the dance world ever since seen in the dance documentary First Position. But did you know that they were originally created with ice skaters in mind? This is because ice skaters primarily operate on a flat foot and due to the ice are mostly performing much faster turns. They also largely depend on making use of both centrifugal and centripetal force whereas dancers off the ice rely more on opposition. But does this mean we can’t harness the power of the turn board for dancing? I don’t think so. Like most dancers, I’m always keen to find anything that can transform my dancing life and get me towards my next goals. For pirouettes, I do believe that this can be that thing, providing it is used mindfully and with certain considerations in mind as an adjunct to actual pirouette practise. So let’s talk:
What Is It?
A rectangular curved plastic board slightly longer than your foot. It is designed to reduce friction with the floor therefore allowing the dancer to experience more turns in space and greater momentum. Now let’s have a look at it in action. Check out this clip below of Maddie Ziegler using one!
Looks pretty fun, right? Needless to say she makes it look effortless. But this is a great way to get the feeling of more turns and get yourself to a place where triples, quadruples and more feels within reach!
So down to business, let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can decide whether this could be something worthwhile for you.
- Great for practising spotting and getting the feeling of more turns in space.
- Allows you to work on maintaining the correct position whilst turning, without the complications of a releve. This is important as turning throws your proprioception, so it’s a good bridge step when trying to achieve more turns.
- Allows you to practise engaging your core when turning and make sure you are keeping your weight forward whilst you turn. This is a great way to practise ironing out habits- my go to that I have to watch is the tendency to throw my weight back so for things like that this is perfect.
- Can practise more turns in lots of different positions, so if there’s a particular position you’re struggling to turn in, or get the feeling of momentum, this is a great starting point.
- Versatile whether you want to practise ballet turns (turned out) or jazz turns (parallel.)
- Allows you to work on specifics- making sure your supporting knee is pulled up each time, and that your toe in retire connects to the right point under your knee.
Things To Be Mindful Of:
- It can be slippery so take it easy if you’re new to it the first few tries, or particularly if you’re relatively new to dancing.
- Remember, you will be using more power when you releve in a normal turn without the board, so be aware of the difference whilst practising.
- It may be tempting if you practise with one too much to turn on a low demi point, so make sure when it comes to real pirouettes you are pulling up and rising through the full stretch of your foot onto a high demi point.
- Best used on marley or laminate flooring. It can be used on wooden flooring but is very slippery so be careful!
- The only real disadvantage is that you are practising turns on a flat foot, so be aware that when you turn in releve your weight distribution will be slightly different, and it will mean you are turning with an adjusted centre of gravity to what you would a real pirouette.
So How Do I Use One?
1. Step onto the turning board, making sure your foot is in alignment with the board.
2. Check that your weight is deposited through the middle of the board. (Because the board is curved on both ends this is how you want to be positioned for a stable turn.)
3. Prepare in pirouette position.
4. Start by using the support of a barre or something similar before giving yourself free rein in the centre.
For a more visual representation, take a look at the video below:
Do I Give It A Whirl?
My advice would be to use the turn board for dancing in conjunction with your normal turning practise. As long as you are aware of using it alongside rather than instead of, a turn board can be that little piece of magic you need to nail those extra revolutions. Single and double pirouettes, eat your heart out! But don’t take my word for it, experience is king; so have a go and let me know how you get on.
If you fancy investing, I’ve listed some options below:
Basic Turn Board: