Hilary Kaplan, RAD examiner and co-principal/co-director of Alegria Dance Studios shares her tips for perfecting your pirouette.
Why do audiences love pirouettes? Perhaps it’s because the human body is patently not designed to spin. Maybe it’s the danger factor… balancing on demi pointe or pointe is precarious in itself, but when you add rotation, the stakes are so much higher. Or maybe it’s just the sheer spectacle.
Strong turns are a vital part of a professional dancer’s skill set. The very thing that makes pirouettes so impressive, however – the risk factor – can also make them daunting for the aspiring dancer.
So what can you do to get on top of your pirouettes?
Nina Levy spoke to Royal Academy of Dance examiner and co-principal/co-director of Alegria Dance Studios Hilary Kaplan to find out the errors she sees most frequently and her top tips for correcting these.
Common faults and weaknesses
- The student is off balance.
- The student is not engaging core muscles and holding turn out.
- The student is not co-ordinating the arms, head and eyes.
- The head inclines in the spotting action and eyes are not clearly focussed on something specific.
- The pirouette position is not sustained.
- The student uses - almost whacks the arms - into position to give them impetus for the pirouette.
- The student does not control the ending of the pirouette.
- The student does not use the floor in the take off to get impetus.
Tips for improvement
- Pirouettes are about balance/ aplomb. Ensure weight is centred over the supporting foot and practise the position you will be turning in without the turn on flat and then on demi pointe.
- Ensure core muscles are engaged as it is imperative that the body is held in 1 piece securely while executing a pirouette.
- Ensure that all turn out muscles are activated throughout the pirouette which will prevent the foot from slipping before take-off in an en de hors pirouette, assist a smooth turn en de dans if supporting inner thigh is leading the pirouette, establish a strong pirouette position for the control throughout the turn.
- Ensure that the pelvis is directly under the shoulders and that the raised leg is held in the joint.
- Ensure that the arm muscles are engaged correctly to acquire the correct position and that the arms are not moving around loosely.
- The take off for a pirouette is like a jump off two feet so aim to use the floor - push with both feet simultaneously and establish the pirouette position quickly.
- Practise basic spotting exercises for the head and make sure the head is used rhythmically.
Want to know more about the latest research into pirouettes? In the April/May issue of Dance Australia, Nina Levy speaks to researchers and teachers about the science behind pirouettes. Read an excerpt from that story here.
Top photo: West Australian Ballet's Kymberleigh Crowley pirouetting in The Nutcracker. Photo: Tony Currie.