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Tips and Exercises to Improve Ballet Pirouettes

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/5/2011

Pirouette is French for "spinning top." Simply spinning is not enough, learn how to spin with grace and control. Discover tips and exercises to improve ballet pirouettes in this article. Proper warm ups are extremely important, as is mastering the basics and developing a strong core.

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    What is a Ballet Pirouette

    A ballet pirouette is a controlled turn performed on one leg. This can be done on pointe, or on demi-pointe. There can be a single rotation or several in a row. It also important to master spotting in order to control your pirouettes. Spotting is done by fixing your eyes on a single spot and rapidly turning your head to maintain your equilibrium, which is especially important when performing traveling turns across the floor.

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    Tips to Improve

    Pirouettes take a lot of strength and control to perform. In order to improve and master a pirouette, it is important to practice the fundamentals of ballet consistently.

    • Engage your abdominals to maintain control and proper alignment while turning.
    • Relax your neck when spotting. Keeping a loose, tension-free neck will go along way in performing graceful pirouettes.
    • Keep your eyes off the floor, or there is a good possibility that is where you will land. Spot an area off in the distance at eye level to keep yourself on your feet.
    • Use a minimal amount of push to begin. Use your core strength rather than a big push that can throw a pirouette off.
    • Maintain the position of your arms. Engage the muscles in your shoulders and upper back to keep them raised properly.
    • Begin in a wide plie position for the most power.
    • Choose when to stop the turn. Maintain control to achieve a cleanly executed pirouette.
    • Visualize a beautiful pirouette. This tip for improving ballet pirouettes may seem unnecessary, but keeping your mind focused on how you want the turn to look really does help.
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    Exercises

    All your ballet work up until this point is necessary to perform ballet pirouettes. Begin by evaluating yourself. After attempting a pirouette, are there certain aspects that definitely need work? Balance, strength, and posture are three main areas to consider, and work on if necessary.

    Balance exercises include the basics. Work on practicing battlements, kicking motions, with and without the barre. Spend time doing plies and working on rising up on the balls of your feet while maintaining perfect posture and control.

    If you begin tipping to either side when rising up on your toes, check your body to see if the cause orginates in your core muscles or in the strength of your feet. Work on abdominal exercises and continue performing releves, or lifts, to strengthen your feet. Hold on to a barre if your balance is very off.

     

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    Techniques

    Like a top, a pirouette is designed to have you spin from a single point on the floor. Keep your body tight and in proper postition throughout the turn in order to maintain the physics involved in performing a pirouette.

    • Hold your arms in position. If your arms fall out of place, it will throw the spin off, just like a top will wobble and stop if something is hanging off of it.
    • Keep your momentum going by pulling all your muscles inward and upward.This means to lengthen the spine, press down on your tail bone, tipping the pelvis slightly up, and holding in your stomach.
    • Find your center to perform a tight turn. Picture an imaginary cord from the top of head through the toe of the foot that is in contact with the floor.