Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers to close ×
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Spotting tips please!

Kate B

Recommended Posts

One of my goals for the term is to do better turns and I know that strength is an issue, but I am determined to sort that. Anyway, the main problem I think is spotting. I just don't know how to do it! I don't know when to focus or turn my head or anything.


It's been something I've skipped around for years, hoping that the rest of my technique will make up for it. And I can do OK single pirouettes without turning my head at all! But I know that can't look very good and I certainly can't do doubles. I think I was getting there a few years ago when I was doign a lot of RAD elementary classes where we had to do chainees and lame ducks and coupe turns, but now with the randomness of free classes there is no time for me to sort this one out in class and I've forgotten the knack completely.


Is there something I could do at home, in warm-up, or should I save up for some private lessons?


Your help most appreciated. Thanks in advance



Link to comment
  • Administrators

There are several exercises for spotting, Kate, but it would probably be best for the teacher to show them to you so that she can see that you understand and do it correctly. One of the main things is to keep the head, neck and shoulders relaxed so that the head CAN turn! Exhaling on the turn can help this factor.


One way to practice spotting is with paddle turns, which can be done at home as well as the studio because it stays in one place. Hard to describe them, so if you don't know what they are, ask your teacher!


Another way, in the studio, is with consecutive piqué soutenu turns en diagonal. (Also called tour de basque turns). You could also try consecutive single turns en dehors from 5th.


ALLOW the head to turn, don't try to hold it or leave it. It should turn easily and quickly, arriving back to the front before the rest of the body, not after. One of the biggest problems I have with students who do not spot well is that they were taught to leave the head front, start to turn, then bring it around quickly. What happens here is that they leave it too long and it then sort of rolls around. Doesn't work. Start the turn and the head and GO! When going for a double pirouette, just put in your brain that you must turn the head TWO times and get it to the same place both times! :(

Link to comment
Guest beckster

I think paddle turns might be character pivots, where one foot stays in place and you use the other foot to push yourself round. If that's right, Kate, you'll know them from the final exercise of grade 6 RAD.

Link to comment

Argh! Thanks for your help - I realise I am going to have to retrain my brain, because my first teacher taught us to 'whip our heads round at the last minute', and i've just tried leading with my head (doing paddle turns in my sitting room) and it's impossible! Victoria, thanks for helping me to identify the problem. This one's going to be tricky... :bouncing:

Link to comment
  • Administrators

Kate, sorry, I did not mean to give the impression that you LEAD with the head, but just that you do not leave it as long as some people do. I find with most who have problems spotting that they leave it too long. It does need to move quickly, but not first. And, yes Becky, the paddle turns are like character pivots! Thank you :bouncing:

Link to comment

Leaving the head too long is DEFINITELY a big problem. If you do that, you twist the neck and as a result lose your balance as the rest of the body twists too. I find that to spot properly, you need to understand the spotting motion first. Sounds obvious, but a lot of people go into double pirouette without even understanding what the head does in slow motion. :flowers:


You could turn on the spot (not on releve, not even with a balletic step... Just do tiny steps and turning) and understand how the neck/head area works... Don't crook your neck to ALWAYS be able to see something, it's not how it will work: At one stage, the head turns, and what's important is that this should happen quickly to avoid feeling dizzy in multiple turns, but it's not necessary for it to happen in a spilt second (what I mean by that is that you have to make time for it to happen, rather than totally distort the rest of the body in order to leave the head front at all times... I think that's what Victoria was saying as well)


It will be an individual feeling anyway, so yes, bring this to your teacher and work on it in private classes; you can then focus on this area while the teacher devotes all her time for you.

You can say though (as a rule of thumb) that as you start turning (to your right for eg), your head stays at the front, but before you have turned a 1/4, your head turns. It doesn't turn 'ahead' of your body though, it just turns nicely to the right. That will lead you to about 3/4 turn, where you can then LOOK to the front.


A good way I have found that works for a lot of students is to use an architect/office chair (you know the one with wheels usually, that can turn in any direction... Great fun in the office :P )

Make sure you have plenty of space around you, and use your feet to propel you (not too hard!) and you could even use the arms correctly as for a pirouette. Spot to the front, and imagine you do your pirouette while you let the chair turn (release the feet into the air at that point, or you could get in a real mess :D )

It's not ideal for the body positioning, but it's great to understand the correct head in exactly the same motion as for a pirouette performed well.

Link to comment

Aha, thanks for the clarification, Victoria! And balletowoman, I had not thought of the swivel chair idea - I have one at home! Great fun!


I know it's going to take me a while to get the hang of this, but thank you so much for all your great tips, I will work hard on this because it seems like quite a basic thing which will help me to improve in so many ways.

Link to comment

Ooooh a swivel chair...just like the one I have in my office.


I was told by one teacher that my spots were "too early" and it did indeed help to think about delaying the spot just a moment.


As for spotting for doubles, I am working on this now and it almost seems to be a separate skill. The hardest part for me is remembering to hold my focus front for a moment before the second spot.


Practice, practice...

Link to comment
  • 4 weeks later...
Guest BBNButterscotch

I have problems spotting too. You know what's weird? Once I started doing my turns on pointe, my spotting improved, especially on chaines and piques. It was weird. Maybe because I was turning faster? Anyway... I could use some more spotting tips too, so i feel your pain. :shrug:

Link to comment

ANOTHER thing about spotting is you really do have to use your eyes and LOOK!


I have a LOT of trouble with spotting, but it always goes better when I realize I've got to decide what to look at, LOOK at it, and then look FOR it.... If I don't..... well, let['s put it this way, I've got such a thing about spotting I go into despair before a turn -- the rest of the combination can have gone just great, but comes the turn, I feel that old sense of defeat coming on, and I DROP MY CHIN and look at the floor or something.... well of COURSE< that doesn't help.... Lift your head, SMILE (it seems to relax tension in the neck, at least for me it seems that way and I think there is a kinesiological justification for it), look where you ought to (for inside turns, that's front, and not square with your shoulders, for outside it's straight ahead), and do like Miss Leight says: keep the head loose, and get the spot going almost first thing.....


The paddle turns really help me, for it's so much to think about, you've got to get most of it into your habits... but if I don't actively think, "look and see," it's over before it starts...


Good luck....

Link to comment

I have exactly the same problem! I snuck into a class last night at the Uni (which I don't think I was supposed to be in - didn't appear to be any members of the public in this class :wacko: ), and we did a lot of pirouettes. The teacher said my turns were beautiful apart from my head!! I actually managed to pull of a fairly decent double for the first time in 15 years, but she said I'd be able to do them easily if I could sort my head out. I'm going to ask my Wednesday night teacher to help - there's only about 4 or 5 of us in that class and so it shouldn't be so much disruption.


We also had to do 4 chassés en tournant on the trot which was just a complete disaster, mainly because of my spotting - or lack of!


On a lighter note, the teacher had spent last Friday observing at White Lodge (Royal Ballet School), and gave us combinations both at the barre in the centre that she'd watched the 14 year old girls do!! There was some tricky footwork in the petit allegro - after the 4th run I was just about managing it!

Link to comment
  • 3 months later...

oh these are all very good tips! :rolleyes: I'm having trouble with spotting (just getting into piruettes and turns now), and I think I am leaving my head at the end too long, and whipping it around too fast.. More practice!

Link to comment

I will never claim to be great at spotting my turns and whenever I think very much about it, disaster is certain. One thing that I have been working on and which doesn’t seem to cause harm is concentrating on the rhythm of the spot. When I am turning on my own I will say “tic-tic” out loud as I turn to fit the rhythm of the spot. When I do that, I may make my other usual mistakes, but at least my spot is decent.

Link to comment

My big problem with spotting is keeping my focus up. If I focus on something slightly above my normal line of vision, it makes such a difference in my turns; they're so much easier. And I didn't even realize it was a problem until I unwittingly started correcting it and my teacher noticed. Hmm...

Link to comment

I have struggled with spotting also both in pirouettes and turns across the floor. There are two things that have helped me.


1. At home, I practiced single and double turns over and over to the right focused on the action of the head. When doing double turns I practiced over and over until I could get the right rhythm of the head during the turn. Doing 10 double turns in my kitchen focused on spotting actually allowed me to get the right rhythm down and this ultimately made it possible for me to do double turns in class. I say practice at home because typically in class you don't have time to focus on your turns for 20 minutes. Despite my success to the right, I tried this same type of excercise to the left and didn't have the same success. I consistently struggle with spotting to the left in pirouettes and turns across the floor.


2. The other thig that helped me was to remember to relax your neck. If your neck is too stiff, the spotting won't come naturally

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...