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Home > Technique

The Pirouette

As evading as it is for some, the pirouette is the crowning glory of a dancer. When a dancer is “on” with her pirouettes, she basically had a good class. The pirouette is somewhat of an enigma: the mystery surrounding this movement involves the journey of perfecting it. Most dancers will admit that even when their pirouette develops; it still isn’t a permanent flawless move. Rather, it is one that needs to be rehearsed quite often to achieve consistency (even more so on pointe).

The pirouette is a turning movement that a dancer learns in a very personal way. This beloved turn will only strengthen if it is begun as less of a power move, and more of a calculated energy level within a solid form of body position. It must start small for it to become more relied upon. By this I mean a dancer needs to master the pirouette positions including prep, execution and landing. No part of it can be rushed or passed by to exist.

To pirouette is a transient ability that requires the utmost balance, body structure and form. It also requires an innate judgment to calculate the exact amount of energy needed to execute it. This energy is determined by the amount of revolutions, the speed and the musical timing. This force is formed by passing from the plié to the passé. It can be preserved by sharp spotting and increased prep energy output along with an occasional “wind-up” between the upper body and the lower core. Some dance veterans forbid the “winding up” before a turn, they consider it “bad technique”. But many well- known performers use it regardless, to provide for multiple turns and can do so without compromising the integrity of the pirouette itself.

There are several different preps, turn positions and landings. Each dance discipline has a unique set of pirouettes to learn. For instance, a jazz dance pirouette requires the knees and hips to face front. Ballet on the other hand requires the knees and hip placement to face the side in a turn out position. One thing that does not change in the basic pirouette, is that the supporting leg must be straight as an arrow, The plié must be the correct depth, the right amount of energy that develops between the plié and the relevé must be just right and the dancer must “spot” as well as “land” the pirouette with finesse.

Many dancers can do quite a bit of revolutions on queue. A pirouette can lose brilliance though when executed in more of a gymnastic sense rather than with an expressive and artistic approach. The pirouette can speak volumes about the soul of a dancer, and it provides quite a feeling of freedom and focus. The pirouette is the rose, it is the sparkle, it is the cherry on top.

Those who have the gift of turning are very pleased and proud, but a great majority of dancers will say it takes major focus and constant rehearsal to attain. It is considered one of the more challenging movements in dance training. The delicate and exciting nature of a pirouette provides it an audience favorite. In the ballet, a series of pirouettes oftentimes end with applause and bravo shouts, and it is oftentimes the deciding factor in dance auditions and employment.

With the pirouette one thing is for sure: practice makes perfect. The magnificence of a polished series of pirouettes is not only the guts, but the glory of a developed dancer. It is what the world’s best dancers have now pushed to a new level and it will remain the movement that is stretched and pulled into greater brilliancy. Consider it a gem, or a token of dedication of achievement – and for those who do pirouettes in their sleep; consider it a gift. A dancer who takes the time to really understand the anatomy of a pirouette can bet they will learn to execute doubles, triples and beyond what they ever imagined possible!

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