There are a lot of pieces to think about when you do a turn. Many dancers struggle with perfecting each piece at the same time. Forget about one part and you look like the leaning tower of Pisa.
If you don’t have a strong foundation, everything on top is just going to be chaos.
Whether it’s staying high in relevé, keeping the legs straight, the passé in place, or not letting your working leg swing around like crazy, each piece contributes to turns that wow the judges. And you can’t forget about engaging the core, keeping the hips square, and the arms in place.
Whew — it can be exhausting.
The one complaint that I hear repeatedly from coaches and dancers is leaning in turns. Leaning can throw off timing and your dancers’ ability to complete a single, clean turn before they even make it to a double or triple.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to help dancers stop leaning in their turns is to build up core strength by training their bodies with anti-rotation exercises.
What are anti-rotation exercises?
Essentially, anti-rotation exercises train one side of the body at a time while challenging the stability of the opposite side of the body. The focus shifts to keeping your core stable while you lift or move other parts of your body. The most simple way to do this is to do a plank and lift one leg or arm off of the floor.
Anti-rotation exercises help your dancers build strength and stability in their core so they can resist forces that are trying to move or rotate the body in a way that’s not helpful.
In short, these exercises are sure to help your dancers pull up for their turns, keep their bodies stacked (shoulders over hips), and keep their core engaged. While they’re rotating, these exercises also help with explosive power in different directions for more advanced turns and jump combinations.
3 Anti-Rotation Exercises to Improve Your Turns
Here are 3 of my favorite anti-rotation exercises you can do at your next practice.
I recommend that your dancers do the 3 exercises below, in a row, before you start practicing turns. Do each exercise for 30 to 40 seconds or 20 repetitions of each.
Remember to warm up your dancers’ feet, ankles, and glutes for nice, straight supporting legs (because that’s important too).
Alright, let’s build core strength.
- Begin in a side plank with your right arm straight, and your right hand directly under the right shoulder, supporting the body. Straighten your left arm and rest it on top of your left leg. Your legs should be stacked with your right foot on the floor.
- Lift your left leg and extend your left arm above your head. Bend the left arm and tap your elbow to your knee. Then extend.
- Repeat for 20 elbow to knee taps or for 30-40 seconds.
- Then return to your beginning side plank. And repeat on the other side.
If your dancers are having trouble getting into their plank with stacked legs, try having them keep both feet on the floor with the legs touching front to back and the feet touching toe to heel. This makes it easier to balance when getting into their side plank position.
- Start in a plank position on your toes and hands. Remember to keep the hands directly under the shoulders.
- While holding your plank position, alternate lifting your legs, four times — right, left, right, left. This is a simple lift and lower movement.
- Then bend your arms so you’re in a plank position on your elbows and toes.
- Alternate lifting your legs again, four times — right, left, right, left.
- Straighten your arms to return to your plank on your hands and knees.
- Repeat for 30-40 seconds.
Be careful not to let your dancers drop the lower back, because then they aren’t keeping the core engaged. Then it’s not an effective anti-rotation exercise to improve turns. Remind dancers to really focus on keeping the core muscles tight and working throughout this exercise.
- Lay on your back with your arms straight, besides your body, resting on the floor. Bend your legs so your feet are flat on the floor. Then lift both legs so they are at a 90° angle. Your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor and your calves should be parallel to the floor.
- Straighten your left leg and extend your right arm above your head. Your left leg should hover a few inches above the floor. Touch your right knee with your left hand. Do these movements simultaneously.
- Then switch so your right leg and left arm are extended and the right hand and left knee are touching.
- Repeat for 30-40 seconds.
- Then return to your beginning position with your arms relaxed to your side, knees bent, and feet on the floor.
If you start to see a space between your dancer’s lower back and the floor, have them lift their leg higher off the floor until they build up their core strength. The stronger your dancers get, the closer they will be able to hover above the floor safely.
Ready for strong, clean turns?
It’s true, there’s a lot going on in a turn. But now you’ve got the beginnings of a plan to strengthen your dancers’ turn skills.
Use anti-rotation exercises to strengthen your dancers’ core and train their bodies to resist forces that can throw them off during a turn. Before you know it, your dancers will be able to pull off triples in a la seconde.
Pay close attention to be sure that your dancers are engaging their core during each exercise for maximum effect.
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