When I work with dancers, many respond to my question, “what is your biggest challenge?” with “how can I improve turning on my own?”
In ballet technique, singular turning is an essential ingredient, a challenging flourish that adds energy and excitement to choreography. But for much of my training and performing career, it was my primary nemesis.
To be fair, it was for most of us the thing that tended to go wrong. Falling ‘off point’ or stumbling out of a turn was disturbing both for the dancer and the audience. There was a collective Ohhhh….! that signaled both sympathy and disbelief; wondering how this could happen when money was paid in expectation of a flawless performance.
There is a video somewhere (Ugh! I saw it) of me during a solo, falling to the floor in the middle of a pirouette. Back when I was a ballet dancer, there were no Iphones or digital cameras. There was film and the emergence of what we today know as a video camera. Imagine having that rare chance to be filmed with the new fangled thing and then falling!! Definitely not a record I would want to show my daughters.
And they have asked many times for a video of their Mom dancing. Although there is some record, I’m thankful that I have no idea where that embarrassing record could be!
Here is what I have learned about improving turns:
- Turning is a function of overall organization in the whole body. (I can help you with that).
- Turning has as much to do with your visual field as your muscular engagement.
- Turning is about being aware of tightening before turning. (See #1)
- Turning is about practicing it within the context of what becomes before and after.
- Turning is part of a phrase, not a separate thing. (See #1)
- If you get dizzy, ramp up your visual field, look WHERE you are going. Know your limit on multiple turns.
For example, you and your partner are dancing together and break apart to do side by side chaines turns. It’s important to not focus on the revolution, but on the direction of your eyes, either ‘spotting’ or ending the turn facing the ending direction, which may be different from the direction you started in.
If balance is your main trouble spot, consider letting go of tension in your neck and shoulders. Don’t be afraid of being off balance by reducing tone where you don’t need it – experiment with this new approach until you sense a flow with your choreography.
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