CriticalDance Forum

Teaching pirouettes
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Author:  Bekkie [ Mon Sep 01, 2008 12:05 am ]
Post subject:  Teaching pirouettes


I am a student teacher and would love to hear about any great ideas on how to teach pirouettes properly.

Thank you!

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Sep 02, 2008 1:42 pm ]
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I always started with proper spotting first. If the students can get spotting down, they are halfway there.

Author:  Bekkie [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:18 am ]
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Thanks LMCtech,

The problem is that some of them are older and have formed bad habits already. Do I take them back to the basics of spotting etc.?

What would you suggest the best way of teaching spotting is?

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:38 am ]
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Ahh, bad habits. It's probably not a bad idea to do a review of good spotting techniques. It's always good to review the basics. I always started with students turning easily in the center without any thought to what they are doing except for the head. Focus only on the head. Look at each student to see what they are doing and how they can improve. Then give them homework. Spotting is something they can proctice outside class without risking injury.

Author:  Dean Speer [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 1:59 pm ]
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I agree that spotting is critical for making good pirouettes -- the rhythmic whipping of the head provides speed as well as focus and "intent."

Also at the top of the list would be the coordination and syncronization of what should be the simultaneous use of the push off, the rèlevé, and turn itself. This takes a lot of concentration, care, and thought. One common "fault" is that the supporting heel begins to turn before the lifted leg/foot has completed pushing and making the pose. A less common one is just the opposite -- making a pose and *then* trying to turn.

One other thing to watch for is to coach and "encourage" students to be all of the way up on their foot [rèlevé]. Too often they are not quite all the way up. I fix this by coming along the barre and putting my own foot under their arch [while they are up] and press up with my toes. It's amazing how easy this fixes it and also how often it needs to be done.

Dancers also need to *not* be tense during turns. This will retard the speed and block them reaching their full turning potential. Relaxed necks and quick heads for spotting.

Ideally [if you are facing en face] you should be in the pirouette position by the time you've made 1/4 turn [facing the side]. This then means that 3/4 of the turn [a single] is in the position itself.

I have found that the order of difficulty for turns are: from fifth, from second, from fourth. En de dans, according to physics is supposed to the easiest way to rotate but most teachers and students begin with en de hors.

I like to emphasize speed of the turn, its finish, and of course, preparation. Encourage them to go beyond what they believe they can do. I recently pointed at one of my teenage students as she was about to launch off into turns from fourth, intoning, "TEN!" She did 8. She was a little surprised and delighted to find she could do it (she was also one who needed to get all the way up on rèlevé). I now call her "Ashley TURN Turner" which she gets a kick out of.

When they get the basic mechanics going, get over any latent fear of turning, and enjoy them, then you've got fabulous pirouettes and dancers who enjoy them and present them well.

Author:  Bekkie [ Thu Sep 04, 2008 10:17 am ]
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Thanks LMCtech and Dean,

I will definitely try your tips in the next class!

Author:  Joanne [ Thu Sep 11, 2008 1:27 am ]
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I think definitely taking it back to the barre and just practising the mechanics with no turn as Dean has said would be a good start. Then you could continue this in the centre so that to see that correct positioning is achieved before attempting to turn.

Another thing I used to look for is where the weight distribution is. Students would quite often take the weight too far back or forwards which would throw the turn off.

Also areas that can cause individuals problems - looking down or hunching shoulders. Some students are almost apologetic when they perform pirouettes, deciding before they start that they won't make the turn, therefore showing this in their demeanour.

Also use of arms, whilst they shouldn't make the turn they certainlyassist and some work on their placing can be really helpful to some students just struggling to get the turn fully co-ordinated.

I also found that just practising turn in general also helped with general spotting and turning confidence and getting them to become second nature.

Author:  Beth Kurtz [ Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:40 am ]
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The releve passe from 5th or 3rd position. From a closed position, the body doesn't need to go anywhere but up, and can land in the passe perfectly placed -- hips square, weight in center between the legs. In my experience, the biggest mistake is the student sitting too far sideways into the standing leg when doing the releve -- throws the whole thing off balance. Perfect placement must be achieved in one beat, at the moment of releve.

The student should do the releve passe, without turning, many times at the barre, many times in the center, until they achieve perfect placement at the top of the releve every time. Then arm movements can be added. The big mistake in using the arms in pirouettes is failing to separate the arms from the shoulders. If the shoulders twist in the preparation the placement will be thrown off in the releve. The arms should move independently -- open one, close both, with no twist in the shoulders.

Once the perfect releve passe from the closed position can be done consistently, it should be done with a quarter turn. The releve position, arms and all, should be perfect every time. Then move on to the half turns and full turns. The biggest arm mistake in the full turn is letting the arms drag back behind the body. That will stop the turn in its tracks and throw off the balance. The end of the turn, still on releve, should be in a perfect position, arms and all.

Then the turn can be tried in 4th position, the problem being to achieve the same perfectly placed position from there as from the closed position. The body now must go both forward and up. Inside turns are the same -- perfect placement must happen in one beat, at the moment of releve.

There, I've said my piece! :D

Author:  Bekkie [ Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:01 am ]
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Thanks everyone!

It's great to be able to share thoughts on training with other teachers :D

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