Whether you’re a coach or a dancer, I’m sure you’ve been frustrated by the inconsistencies of your pirouettes.
You can nail a single or double. But when you go for the third or fourth rotation — everything falls apart.
We’ve all been there.
But there’s hope!
And the end of this blog, you’ll know exactly what to do to hit your turns, every time.
Why You’re Falling Out of Your Pirouettes
Whether you know it or not, the lack of consistency comes from a lack of strength. You may have a beautiful, high passé and gorgeous technique. But if you don’t have the strength to keep your heel up and your arms supported, everything is going to crumble.
This usually happens as soon as your body starts to feel tired — by your third or fourth rotation.
How To Improve Your Turns
Even if you tell your dancers to “pull up” during their turns. They may not understand exactly what you’re asking them to do.
Try these exercises to help your dancers build the “right” muscle memory. And you should see less hopping and flailing arms as a last-ditch effort to save crumbling turns.
Turns require strength in almost every part of your body. It’s not so much a secret but… a few minutes of strength training focused on a specific area can go a long way.
When strength training, specifically for turns, focus on:
- ankles for a higher relevé
- adductors for a passe that stays in place
- hamstrings and glutes for a straight supporting leg
- core and upper back to keep the upper body stacked while rotating
This exercise isolates the feet and ankles so your dancers stop falling out of their turns.
- Pretend you’re standing in the middle of a clock. Put your hands on your waist for balance.
- Start with the right foot in coupé.
- Plié and point on the floor to the 12 o’clock, the 3 o’clock, the 6 o’clock, the 11 o’clock, and the 7 o’clock. Similar to a rough, rond de jambe motion.
- Repeat three times.
- Then repeat on the other side. This time it will be at 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 1 o’clock, and 5 o’clock.
- Repeat three times.
It can be a little tricky to remember the “times” on the left leg. Take your time to think about where your dancers are going to point next or follow along with a dancer-fitness video. (That’s the easiest way.)
One Leg Deadlift
This exercise strengthens the hamstrings which help with bent and hyperextended knees. Use a yoga block, water bottle, or another object that your dancers can easily pick up off of the floor.
- Place the yoga block on the shorter side so you don’t have to reach as far to tap it. It should be about a foot in front of you.
- Start in a passé with the toes spread out on the floor, on the supporting leg/foot.
- Plié on the supporting leg. The upper body and bent working leg should move simultaneously so that they are parallel to the floor.
- Tap the yoga block.
- Quickly pull the body back into the beginning passé position.
- **Optional** Relevé after returning to passé or touch the floor to make this exercise more challenging.
- Continue for 40 seconds. Then repeat on the other leg.
This exercise is great for helping your dancers learn how to pull up by building muscle memory. So the next time you give the correction to pull up, they’ll know exactly what you’re asking and you’ll see improvement.
These are a go-to for developing a stable, straight supporting leg.
- Start by grounding your foot on the floor by spreading out the toes. Bring the working leg into a passé in parallel. (no turn out)
- Plié while crossing the knee of the working leg behind. Gently tap the floor with the pointed foot. Just like the lunge a bowler does after throwing a bowling ball.
- And go right back into passé.
- Continue for 40 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
This helps strengthen your dancers’ weaker side and be more intentional with their movements. And, of course, it also helps prevent injuries.
Plank and Row
Works the upper body and back so your dancers have better control and strength in their arms. This allows them to open and close their arms as sharply as needed, with more control.
- Start in a plank position on the floor.
- Bend one arm at the elbow, and lift the arm behind the body. Like you’re trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together.
- Lift the arm as far as you can, then return to the plank position.
- Repeat with the other arm. Continue alternating between arms for 40 seconds.
Remind your dancers to lift their belly button toward the spine so the back is as straight as possible. Be sure the arms are brushing the obliques, staying close to the body. They should feel their back muscles squeezing as they lift each arm.
Let’s Improve Your Turns Together
Do you hit your turns by themselves, when you practice or during center work? But as soon as turns are added to a combination or at the end of a routine, you start falling out of them?
These exercises build your muscle endurance which gives you the ability to stay in relevé and keep your arms lifted even when you’re already fatigued.
That means straighter legs, higher relevé, and a passé that stays put so your turns are clean and strong.
Try the exercises above as a circuit.
Start with 40 seconds of each exercise with 20 seconds of rest in between.
Looking for exercises that hit all of the muscle groups?
Watch How To Stop Falling Out of Your Turns to improve your pirouettes.