Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Favorites: Pirouette tips!

As many of you know, I love studying pirouettes and I'm fascinated by the science of turns.

The basics: Alignment, momentum, controlled landing.

The finer details: Spotting and arms.

The necessities: Strong ankles, strong core, strong back.

I was watching a group of my students turning this week and was surprised by the number of them that were hopping on their landing.

(NB: this is different from hopping during a turn. In that case, the most likely culprit is a bent knee or lack of spotting.)

Landing a pirouette is tricky stuff. I always tell my students not to wait until the last second to think about the finish. Many students do a single or double rotation and then suddenly slam on the brakes which, like traveling in a car or plane, usually results in a bumpy landing.

courtesy Chloe Smith, Creative Commons license
There are a couple of ways to approach the end of a pirouette:

1. Anticipate the finish by rolling down at the 3/4 mark, rather than waiting until a complete turn is made.

2. Complete the turn in the "up" position; that is, finish in retire on a high releve and then roll down to your fifth or fourth position.

In either case, it's crucial that you roll down through the foot and don't simply drop the weight.

From my observations, students hop down from pirouette because they lose their turnout which is typically a result of a change in their vertical alignment (that long straight pole from top of head through spine down to center of the support leg).

You change your vertical alignment when:

A. Your core collapses. Solution: hold your abdominals up and maintain a strong connection between ribs and hips.

B. Your pelvis tilts and doesn't recover. Solution: don't let your lower back hyperextend as you reach your passe leg to the floor. Stay pulled up the front of your body.

C. Your ankles roll. Solution: maintain a high releve and roll through your entire foot. Practice ankle strengthening exercises outside of class, including springing up and rolling down from a passe releve.

D. You don't bring your arms around with you in the turn. Solution: keep the shape of the arms throughout the entire turn and only open them when you want to finish the turn.

One last thing to consider: pirouettes, especially multiple pirouettes, are not rigid shapes rotating in space. Minor adjustments must be made during a turn, whether that means pulling in or opening the arms, pulling up the abdominals or engaging the knee and heel to stay in a high releve.

Happy turning, beautiful dancers~


Cindy Cripe said...

Thanks Leigh for the "no hop landing tips." I will try them today.

Leigh Purtill said...

Excellent, Cindy! I hope they work for you. :)