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Ballet Talk for Dancers

stuck, stuck, stuck


pleiades

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I'm posting this in technique rather than buddy board because, Major Mel and Ms. Leigh, I would love your feedback as well. I feel as though I'm making progress in a number of areas, and feel good about that. But when it comes to turns I am still extremely erratic -- there are days when my en dehor pirouettes (singles) are so solid that they could easily be doubled and days when I feel off kilter. The same goes for piques. My en dedans turns are almost always frustrating.

 

To a certain extent I know intellectually what my problems are, but I simply cannot seem to make the transition from knowing in my head to executing in my body. I would love any suggestions for getting over what is starting to be an incredibly frustrating hurdle.

 

Thanks so much.

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Pleiades, as an adult dancer holding down a "day job", you are often faced with repetitive tasks which counteract ballet. Duck under the desk for the fallen paper - lean on the counter for support while waiting for the copy machine or godknowswhat - stand for interminable times on your heels - and ever the sit, sit, sit, of so much of modern work.

 

When you do a pirouette, it's nothing more than a balance with a turn involved in it. Same for tours en diagonale like piqués or chainés. You have to leave the workplace or the home behind you and be up on top of yourself to balance at all, let alone turn. Think of yourself in a new workplace, where the work is all alignment, alignment, alignment, and placement, placement, placement. You have a lot to overcome, but it can be done. Just going into a class today from a desk job makes me snap to attention, and suddenly, everything cracks into place.

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There are thousands of reasons why a pirouette can end prematurely. Can you explain your problems intellectually?

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Thank you both for your replies. I'm a bit more fortunate than most in that I have my own business and relatively flexible hours so I spend less time sitting behind a desk and bending down for copy paper than a standard 9-5. Nonetheless. . . yes it is about placement and alignment. Here's what I'm noticing.

 

Despite my intellectual awareness that throwing myself back leads to no good and much bad, I still do it on occasion. Those turns can occasionally be saved. However the ones that cannot, are the ones when, in addition to that, I also don't push strongly enough into the floor on releve. There you have it. Welcome to my nightmare.

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Pleiades, I had a teacher, Douglas Wassell, who always invoked the image of a revolving door, with our spines being -- well, the spine of the door -- and he told us to see each side of our backs as two panels of the door, changing place with each other. It must have been helpful, because after he left the studio and I wasn't taking class with him, my consistent, solid en dehors doubles to the right and (occasionally to the left, and once in a while a pretty decent triple!!!) :) deteriorated to not-so-hot (and only occasional) doubles in mere months. :confused: Then to singles. . . :eek:

 

Although Mel is right. This coincided with a time when I wasn't subjecting my body to the abuse of a typical desk job. That didn't last, either. ;)

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Placement and alignment are important for beautiful, clean turns.

 

However, have you ever watched an intermediate/advanced natural turner? I'm lucky to take class with one, and he can pull off five (or more!) rotations with a low demi-pointe, crumpled arms, and making a face at himself as he spots in the mirror. (he can do clean turns when he makes the effort) I've learned a lot from watching him, and what it boils down to is that:

 

1. Relax! Your position does not have to be perfect while you are learning the feeling of making multiple turns. Try exhaling while you turn or think about relaxing your shoulders. Also, see #2.

 

2. Turns are fun! I decided to think of turns as being fun, even though mine are pretty bad (but getting better - on a good day I now have a good triple to each side on demi-pointe). At first this was hard for me, so I would do really silly things like think "wheeeeeee!" as I turned, relaxed and sloppy. It has helped a lot. Try smiling too. If you fall over (or almost), think "ha ha! that was fun. Let's try again!"

 

3. Spotting is really, really important. You need a relaxed neck to spot and a relaxed, slightly sloppy turn is great for practicing spotting.

 

I'm not saying that turns should stay sloppy forever. In my experience it was easier to first get the feeling of doing lots of turns really relaxed and then cleaning it up than to be so concerned about placement and alignment that I overthought the turn or tensed myself up in anticipation. Since you're frustrated with your current approach, maybe it will help to try something new.

 

And really, try to have fun. Thats why you're there!

 

jayo

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right on jayo! ;)

 

I am not a "natural" turner at all. One of the most effective ways I've found for improving turns is exactly what Jayo said - watching people who do seem to turn naturally, try to learn from them, and relax!!

 

That being said, my problems in turning seem to be similar to yours Pleiades. One thing that seems to help is focusing on ONE correction, rather than going though the whole checklist of things that I should be doing when I turn. One of my teachers gives me a lot of corrections about the alignment of my torso. When I try to concentrate on all the things she's telling me, to be honest, I just don't turn well. But when I remind myself to push down hard into the releve and keep my knee straight, all the other stuff seems to fall into place and I turn well...

 

So maybe there is one thing that you can concentrate on, or one particularly useful image that you can find that will help the other things fall into place.

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Thanks again to all of you. Absolutely everyone of you made terrific sense, although I think, Jayo, that if I would just relax a bit there might be some improvement.

 

I'll keep you posted.

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I think there are two important principles for all of us who are trying to develop some semblance of dance technique that we should keep in mind. First, we vary each day in the quality with which we perform a skill. Baseball pitchers don’t pitch no-hitters every day. Basketball players don’t make baskets with consistency. Same with we dancers and turning. Some days are better than others.

 

The second has to do with progress. Progress in developing physical skill isn’t linear in the sense that we get constantly better and better on a nice schedule. We improve. We regress. We get back to where we were and improve a little more. Then we regress some more. It is a bumpy road. But over the long haul, if we persist, we get better. Up to a point that is. After 8-10 years of diligent and hard training a physical skill, we aren’t likely to improve much more no matter what we do.

 

Also improvement seems unrelated to what we do in training. We may work on a specific technical aspect of a skill and see no improvement at all. And then there are times when the technical aspect of a skill improves almost by magic and we seemingly did nothing to cause that improvement.

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Thought I'd let you know that after an unusual three days off (consulting project), my turns yesterday and today were dead on. Ours is not to reason why. . .

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  • 4 weeks later...

One last update. Last night my teacher told me to start doubling my pirouettes and told me my piques were better than they'd ever been. I actually managed one clean double, but that was out of a bazillion tries.

 

The real joy is that I feel like I can consistently land a single to either side.

 

Thank you all for words of advice and support.

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Guest sissonne

pleiades,

I have a great book called Inside Ballet Technique which has a section on imagery and visualization which really helped my pirouettes when I was having the same problem.

 

I'm sure you could find it on Amazon. I think I bought mine in a bookstore (shame on me for not ordering it through the link on BalletAlert!). It's $16.95. The line below the title reads, "Separating anatomical fact from fiction in the ballet class," which pretty much says it all with reference to the book's content. I found it very helpful in more areas than pirouettes.

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Wondrful thread--

 

Pleiades, thank you for stimulating so much useful and helpful discussion.

 

you remind me of my teacher who said "Push straight down" -- hte key to turns was to push straight down. it would let you relax enough that spotting is possible -- so remember, and push straight down into hte releve.....

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Good thread!! :)

When I do pirouettes, I try not to think too much, but always 'picture' in my head those 3 things:

 

- from the waist down, nail the leg into the floor as if you wanted to perforate the ground with your demi or pointe.

- from the waist up, lift yourself to reach for the ceiling.

-glue the working leg to the knee

 

:D

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