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Pirouette

A Pirouette is a French term meaning to whirl or spin about. In dance, it can be described more thoroughly as a turning of the whole body on the points of the toes or the ball of one foot. A pirouette may be performed in parallel position or in turnout with the supporting leg in releve or in demi-plie. The other leg is brought to passé (retire). It is most commonly found being expressed in the basic to intermediate dance levels. Dancers should note that the pirouette is the basis of any turn they wish to achieve throughout their dance career. The first thing dancers need to know about a pirouette is that the success of it revolves around the strength of their core. When a dancer is turning, body control and alignment are essential for keeping the body tall and in a straight line throughout the entire execution. Whether it is one pirouette or four in a row, dancers must be able to maintain a center of balance in order to keep their body tight and tucked in while turning. In order to achieve a pirouette with exquisite poise, dancers can utilize Myosource Kinetic Bands without having to change their regular routine, yet still reap the benefits that come with added resistance … WOW, right? Below, we will discuss our approach to tackling a pirouette, how dancers can improve their pirouette, and most importantly, why training with our resistance bands is a game changer for dancers of any skill level.

How to Do a Pirouette with Poise

Dancer performing a pirouette wearing Kinetic (Resistance) Bands

Dancers can practice a pirouette on any floor, even carpet. However, make sure practice is done in a safe place, away from any sharp objects or obstacles. Dancers will need proper footwear to turn, allowing good range of motion while also providing support. This includes turning shoes, ballet slippers and jazz shoes. Modern shoes and Dance Paws are also suitable given they cover and support the ball of the foot.

Pirouettes usually begin in fourth, fifth or second position. This is a pirouette from fourth position.

1. Arrange your feet in fourth position with your weight evenly distributed between both feet so that you can push off the back foot. If you are turning to the right, your left foot will be in front. Keep in mind; this stance should not be too wide.

2. Hold your right arm curved and out in front of the body. The palm of your hand should be facing the body with your elbow gently curved to the side. Hold the other arm out to the side, palm forward and slightly below the shoulder. Keep the elbow in front of your body. Arms should be rounded and out from the body as if holding a beach ball with your fingers placed level with the bottom of the rib cage. Keep your shoulders back.

3. Once your body is positioned as described above, you will initiate the pirouette with a plie, at the same time opening up both arms. (Make sure you have a strong plie prep but do not stay in your preparation too long or you will lose momentum, making it difficult to turn.) After plie, you will rise into passé, bringing arms together again. (As you do this, imagine zipping everything back to the center of your body, keeping your arms locked and core tight to allow for a faster turn). After rising into passé, you would turn it. (However, if you are new to this skill, you can start with the passé, taking it into releve to attempt a half turn, then a full turn and eventually with time, 3 or 4 full turns in a row.)

4. As you spot, make sure your head completes the rotation before your body, as this will prevent dizziness and create momentum.


Before attempting multiple turns, try to balance at the end of a single turn before landing. More force generally equals more rotations, but it is also a timing thing. Too much force will send you careening across the room and you will lose control. 

To pull off a pirouette, it is important that you take your time and really focus on nailing the proper alignment and positioning of your body. The success of a pirouette lies greatly in the fine details, so have patience with yourself. Take notice of every single inch of your body as you practice and work towards conquering this dance turn, as very small tweaks in the positioning of the upper and lower body will make or break your turn.Equally, too little power and you'll stop dead in your tracks and fall face first. A lot of dancers get scared with turns or with one specific side and come down too early, so don’t come down too fast and cut yourself short. The proper amount of power comes with experience and you'll soon be able to tell whether you have too much power or not enough.

How to Improve Your Pirouette (Body and Mind Control)

The key to a pirouette is the preparation. If a dancer does not have a good preparation they are not going to be able to turn. Before dancers begin attempting this particular dance turn, they should perfect their retire position first. Often called passé in jazz and modern dance, retire is the actual body position in which the thigh is raised, knee bent with the dancers foot “withdrawn” and placed into the notch at the top of the front of the knee with toes pointed. The dancer should be careful not to over-cross the foot on the leg or under-cross it, leaving a noticeably large gap between the foot and knee is not ideal whatsoever. When positioned properly, the dancer will feel support under the thigh. In a basic pirouette, the leg in passé will be held at a 90-degree angle. Therefore, dancers should always aim to hold their retire higher than they think it needs to be. To keep the releve as high as possible, the dancer can imagine their body being stretched up into the sky from the crown of their head. The placement of the supporting leg is just as crucial and should be straightened; firmly pushing into the ground with strength. Proper alignment of the hips is also imperative to keep the dancers weight in the center. Scientifically, an individual is going to get around better if they are in one line. This can be achieved by keeping the hips flat and forward, thinking of lifting the spine to the roof. The hips should not be tilted back as it will lead to incorrect turns and eventually knee and back problems. Regardless of whether the dancer is doing the “straight back leg in fourth balancing style” or the “two knees bent classical style”, it is fundamental that the weight of the body is placed over the front leg. Leaning forward, not backward, gives the dancer the opportunity to shoot straight up with ease and effective momentum.

The placement of the dancers upper body is also very important for the success of a pirouette. The shoulders should be directly over the hips and pulled back and down to keep the chest open with the elbows lifted. To achieve an open chest, it helps to imagine opening up the heart towards the front of the room, showing off the collarbones. A mistake that many dancers make is bringing their shoulders up during the turn, closing off the chest and breaking proper alignment. Again, dancers want everything to be in one straight line throughout the entire execution of a pirouette.

Body Conditioning for Dancers

Myosource Kinetic Bands are a great strength and conditioning tool that assist dancers enhance their training and maximize valuable practice time. The Kinetic Bands provide resistance and are worn just above the knees during dance conditioning drills and skills training; allowing dancers to move freely in all directions to develop their dance movements, jumps, turns and overall skill set.

Below we have provided just a few of the many conditioning exercises dancers can act upon while wearing the Myosource Kinetic Bands to develop a tight core, increase lower body strength, enhance flexibility, expand range of motion and build the endurance needed to perform an entire routine flawlessly. For access to our full workout routine, purchase our DVD linked at the bottom of this page, Body Conditioning for Dancers.

Plie, Releve In Passe

This exercise works to improve your balance and pirouettes.

• Starting in a parallel first position, plie down (keep spine nice and straight just as you would if you were doing a pirouette)
• Tuck pelvis under, tighten core, press shoulders back and down and elongate the neck
• Raise arms up in front of you
• Start in plie
• Releve up in passé and down in plie
• Raise up in passé and down in plie
• Releve up in passé and this time, HOLD for 4 counts (find balance) and plie
• Alternate to left leg
• Raise up in passé and down in plie
• Releve up in passé and down in plie
• Again on the third, releve up in passé and HOLD for 4 counts (find balance) and plie

Tips:
• Every time you work up (releve) into passé, really try to push against the resistance to get your passé higher and higher
• Each time you come down into plie, push the standing leg into the ground, working to increase balance
• This is a great exercise to see where your weight is. Are you falling forward, are you falling backward? If you can’t just do a releve and come down, you certainly will not be able to turn.

Recommended Reps with the resistance bands:
Releve 3 times, hold 4 counts on the 3rd releve
Alternate legs right to left
Repeat entire exercise 2 times on each leg

Halves and Quarter Turns

To improve your general balance in pirouettes, you can practice doing halves and quarters because it requires an extreme amount of body control. With a quarter of a turn, you have to have enough momentum to turn and yet enough strength and control to stop yourself. This exercise is very difficult; so do not be discouraged by the challenge. It is all about using your core strength to stop the turn short.

• Starting in fifth you will tendu, plie, quarter turn, fifth
• Tendu, plie, quarter turn, fifth
• Tendu, plie, quarter turn, fifth
• Tendu, plie, quarter turn, fifth
• Alternate legs

Tip:
• No matter how far you are turning, you really need to focus on bringing the opposite side of the body with you. If you do a pirouette and leave part of your body back, you’re not going to be able to get around.

Link back to dance main page for resistance training information, tips, aids, and videos

Recommended Training Aids



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