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Pirouettes: An accident waiting to happen


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In my beginning adult ballet class we have just begun doing pirouettes. And, well, lets just say that my pirouettes are an accident waiting to happen. Control is a pretty big issue for me. I think one reason for this is that I was born with congenital cataracts and was legally blind until I was four. I had four corrective surgeries when I was little, but I now have scar tissue in my line of vision that significantly impairs my vision aquity. My eyes also don't track together well. Any suggestions for how I may work around this. I have been spending extra time outside of class doing 1/4 and 1/2 pirouettes to really work on focusing my eyes, but it is very difficult.


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Holly, you're doing the right things by practicing partial pirouettes. You don't need as sharp eyes for this, as you need a sharp sense of feeling where your body is (propriocentricity) and a sharp memory for required movements (kinesthetic memory). Believe it or not, I always found single pirouettes easier than partial pirouettes after I had established this feeling and memory tie. A pirouette is not much more than just a balance. It just turns! Learning to do a single s-l-o-w-l-y is very useful in establishing how to do turns. Don't knock yourself off balance by tossing your arms, or by snapping your head TOO vigorously.

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Guest fastfeets

Learning to spot isn't so much about focusing sight but moving in a direction. Try just turning around (spinning like a kid would) and a slower pace and practicing the motion of the head. You'll start facing one spot, and keep your head facing there until you must turn your head, then you turn it quickly but smoothly til you are facing your starting point again. That will help you get the feeling of spotting, and train your body to know that motion.


Remember that you've just begun pirouettes and that it does take time. Once you get the feel of the movement you'll find them coming sporadically, then with more regularity. Before you know it, you'll be knocking them out one after the other.


Another thing about turns...you really have to be on your supporting leg with your upper body lifted and held. My teacher always tells us to present the chest as if we were bringing it up through our arms. This helps align the spine, support the arms and hold them there. If you let the arms go, or sink into your hips you'll fall out of the turn.


And finally, bring your leg into the passe quickly, and make sure your foot comes up the leg (as opposed to being away from the leg, which sets up the turn for a nice fall). You can practice that motion anytime, slowly to get the sense of it, then speeding the motion up as you would in a pirouette. Bring the leg slowly and lazily into the passe makes a turn much more unstable. I find that when I really pull my leg up quickly, I'm much more solid and can get multiple pirouettes...but if I'm lazy...I'm lucky to get one single rotation. (being tired can do that..)


It's a lot to remember, but all the parts can be practiced on your own, and it'll click when it's all pulled together.


Give it time, and be patient with yourself. Always keep in mind that you're doing something so wonderful in taking ballet classes, and that itself is a huge accomplishment!

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Hart, I've got bad myopia and astigmatism and find it very difficult to spot, even with contact lenses in. My eyes just don't move very fast. :thumbsup:


For turns I've found it very handy to be very strong in my abdominals, back and and turn out, so practicing retires and half turns is the best way to go. So feeling really strong with these is good for pirouettes. Unfortunately I haven't found this helps with multiple or travelling turns! :wink:


Good luck.

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Guest beckster

At a performance I saw last week, the ballerina got part of her costume caught over her face, yet still managed to do a pirouette (which dislodged it!). I suppose this shows that actually being able to focus on a spot isn't necessarily as important as the head-whip action itself.

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Ah, Kate B, I also have bad astigmatism and myopia, and baaaaaad turning.

So far the only thing I've noticed is that I have a tendency to spot much too early on the second turn. I've also noticed that it helps a lot to have something very bright to spot.

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I think all of the things that have been said on the technical issues are excellent. I only have two things to add.


My eyesight is, well, terrible. Without my glasses, I really can’t see anything in the mirror other than blobs of color. Although I’ll wear glasses in class for barre and much of center (can’t see what I’m being asked to do otherwise), when we do our pirouette combinations, I take them off. They won’t fly off when I turn, I just find that I turn better without them.


The thing that has helped me the most with pirouettes is simple persistence. I’m certainly not a natural turner, but I do think I’ve made a whole lot of improvement over the years just from hearing the same corrections over and over and trying as best I can to do all the things that have been mentioned better. Rotation is complicated, more so than those who do it well generally appreciate, but with time and persistence I think almost everyone gets much better.

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Bravo for you, Gary. Perseverance is exactly the ticket! Figuring out how everything goes together is so much easier when you learn it as a kid, but to make the body do things, and feel the way as an adult, is a real accomplishment! :)

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Turning in contemporary class is easier - that's because the turn comes from the centre of the body and you don't spot in the same way. When I go to ballet class now I think more about turning like this, because the more I try to spot the worse my turns are, and I can do good single turns without spotting at all!


There are lots of exercises one can do to practice spotting but I still find it difficult. I have to remind myself to spot every time, but it usually helps if my spot is slightly above my eye level. Spotting in the mirror is impossible - I don't know if anyone else finds this.

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I have to say that I love the title of this thread -- I think it would be a terrific title for a book about ballet, perhaps aimed at adult beginners, if not the general populace!!! Thank you, hart :)

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Guest DancingBoi

I am a highly noticable better turner to the left than I am to the right. I also spot equally well to the left but when it comes to turning and spotting to the right I really have to think a lot harder. For example, I can do double pique turns to the left but have trouble doing a single to the right. I guess the best thing would to do the right sided exercises twice to really improve that side. For what it is worth I'm the best left turner in class! :)

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Since I'm short sighted and never wore lenses as a child (I can still see ok without them, but it's fuzzy), I learnt to spot 'internally'... I now can turn and turn and turn even without realising who sits just in front of me, who waves at me...etc..


It's a big advantage as you don't have to 'see' anything (in a theatre, it's much more difficult to spot anything anyway). And it helps in manèges too...


I now wear lenses every day, and it has actually helped my balance in general, but for pirouettes, as for Kate B, the turn happens too fast anyway, so my eye doesn't have time to adjust... Since I internalise my spot, it's not a problem though...


I've had teachers who insisted on me actually seeing something... I never understood the rationale behind it I have to say... Don't see why this is necessary! :thumbsup:

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balletowoman, can you describe spotting internally? Do you know if it would be possible to learn to do this, to turn without having to see something?

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I get dizzy whatever sort of turn I'm doing! :thumbsup: Bit more so when I try to spot - does this sound familiar?

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