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Juilliard Dance

 
Published: January 1, 2008
Category: technique

Improving pirouettes: Five teachers' tips

by Rachel Straus

"A lot of careers are made from people's ability to turn," says WILHELM BURMANN, who teaches professional level ballet at Steps on Broadway. He advises the following for improving en dehors pirouettes.

* When you turn to the right, your left hand and fingers--which are in an elongated second position--should energetically move back and in.

* Think of picking up your foot, not your leg, when going to passe. This keeps your hip down.

* Never rest your toe on your knee in passe. Keep moving your thigh open and back to the ecarte position so it's actively turning out.

* Think of the double pirouette as one turn: Imagine the first rotation as a releve to the front, which sets you up on one leg.

* Never hold your breath. Try humming the music in silence and through your entire body.

FINIS JHUNG teaches a systematic approach to turning at Broadway Dance Center and The Alley School. He says that a good preparation makes for a good pirouette.

* Use a long fourth-position preparation to engage your pelvic muscles and to place your body weight over the leg you will balance on.

* Always go to the deepest point of your demi-plie before lifting your working foot off the floor to go into the pirouette.

* Slow down the closing of the arms if you want an effortless-looking pirouette.

* Think of your pirouette as a downward spiral into the floor.

* Never drop your head, tilt your pelvis forward, or stick out your tailbone.

NANCY RAFFA is a ballet mistress for American Ballet Theatre. Raffa's approach to pirouettes is based on her early training with Madame Gabriela Darvash, who "taught that there is a formula for everything you do." Raffa builds on Darvash's pedagogical approach.

* Once you create the turn's momentum, get up on your axis point, and arrive in a position that is in one line, feel the energy of the spiral. It will help you to balance.

* In pirouette, the spiral is created by pressing the air with your knee and by feeling your body as a three-dimensional figure in space.

GERMAN ZAMUEL, who directs his own school in Colorado Springs, CO, coached Prix de Lausanne gold medal winners Christopher Wheeldon and Tetsuya Kumakawa. For Zamuel there are no hidden secrets to improving pirouettes.

* Pirouettes come when you practice them daily.

* When you turn, everything from your supporting toe to your hip point should go up, while everything from your shoulder point to your hip should go down.

* In your balance, stand on a high releve and press into the floor.

* To go from three to four pirouettes, use more energy through your entire body.

* Before you start your pirouette, you should see its completion. Your brain needs to know where your body will finish.

LAWRENCE RHODES is the director of the Juilliard School's Dance Department. Known for his own beautiful turns, Rhodes tell his students to "relate to turning as a physical act that you greet with pleasure."

* An ideal turn is not a spin. It is an up and down action that is articulate, clear, and in its own way communicative.

* Turning happens in the back, and the back includes the pelvis. For consistent turns you need a stable and organized torso where your sides are relaxed.

* Turning happens in a line. That line could be a passe, an arabesque, or an attitude. You need to get from your preparation to your line in one swift movement.

* Don't get ahead of yourself when you turn. Do each part of the turn--the preparation, the balance, the landing--fully.

* You have to be free in the head and the neck so you can spot.

* Overcoming fear is key. Don't get nervous. Get physical.

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL

1. The Ballet Companion by Eliza Gaynor Minden (Fireside Books/Simon & Schuster) Pirouette tips from Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy

2. The Art of Teaching Ballet by Gretchen Ward Warren (University Press of Florida) Pirouette tips from David Howard, Gabriela Darvash, and other luminaries

3. Fernando Bujones in Class (Kultur video)

4. Finis Jhung

VIDEOS:

a. Intermediate/Advanced Turning Class (with Michele Wiles)

b. The Art of Teaching Turns

c. Turning Connecting Movements & Turning Jumps

d. The Art of Pointework 5--Pirouettes

a. Pirouette Class 1-8 En Dehors Center Combinations

BOOK:

a. The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: A Guide for Teachers & Students (edited by Rachel Straus)

Copyright 2008 Dance Magazine, Inc.

 

 

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