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pirouette en dehors from 5th


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It's January, cold and dark. But whatever the reason, every time I try a pirouette en dehors from 5th at the moment, it feels like I'm tying myself up in a knot, as if parts of me get stuck and left behind. This is never an easy turn for me, but it's much worse than before the holiday break, and I can't diagnose the problem. (Bizarrely, other pirouettes eg from 4th or en attitude have been feeling a little bit smoother.) Any advice really welcome.....thanks!

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it feels like I'm tying myself up in a knot, as if parts of me get stuck and left behind.


That's probably exactly what's happening. Your back is probably not turning with your legs.


What arm preparation do you use?

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since you refer to the cold...i'm wondering whether you literally are adequately warmed up? if so, do a good demi-plie, in order to push off everything in a coordinated fashion... (if BITS of you aren't warmed up, they might not join in!!)

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Do you have your weight evenly distributed on two feet in the demi plie. Make sure you are pushing/springing upward from two feet simultaneously. What about your shoulders being square to your front?


There are so many things that could go wrong. Go back to the simple preparation for pirouette:


Demi plie in 5th right leg front, arm prepartion right arm in 1st, left in 2nd.


Spring upward to demi pointe to retire front, balancing closing arms to 1st position.


close back into 5th postion demi plie, arms opening into demi 2nd


Coordination, placement of the body and strength are key factors.


Once you are able to balance, try 1/4 or 1/2 turns before single turns. Singles before doubles. Breath, remain calm! :wacko:

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I always found pirouettes from 5th more difficult than from 4th. In fact, I went quite a while between the time when I could do a reasonable double from 4th and a good single from 5th.


Diagnosing a pirouette problem is difficult too. So many forces operating in different directions. My suggestion is to listen to the corrections your teachers give in class and think about those as you practice. Experiment a little on corrections too. If things get worse rather than better in a practice, stop doing them, so you don’t just wind up frustrated. There is always another day. Do some other kinds of turns in that practice session.


A favorite exercise I used to do was to do a single pirouette from 5th with the foot in coupe at the ankle. Somehow those seemed easier. Easier to employ the various corrections that you hear too. Don’t know if this exercise helped, but after doing it for quite a while (years? I can’t remember) my double from 5th attained reasonable status, at least most of the time.


And don’t forget that with pirouettes we go through our good and bad times. I used to go to a class where a world-class ballerina would take class. I remember once watching this person consistently miss a double from 5th (on pointe but irrelevant to me). If the absolute best can have trouble on a given day, certainly we far less than best can have our troubles too.

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I'm by no means especially good at pirouettes, but two things that my teacher always reminds us are:


1) think about your arms- I find if I hold them strongly, in the right place, I feel much more centred and can turn a lot better.


2) spot with your eyes, not just your head- again, it just helps with balance and feeling strong.


I hope your turns get better soon! Suddenly you'll just have a breakthrough and you'll be spinning around all over the place!

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I think it might be an unevenly distributed weight problem, and starting with the foot in coupe seems like it might help with that. I'll try it when I get back to class - my boys are both ill today, more joys of the London winter. Thanks for the encouragement, folks!

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  • 8 years later...

I know this topic was started a while back, but doing a pirouette from 5th is something I really struggle with.


I moved ballet schools recently and I thought it was the best for me because suddenly in this class I was able to hold a relevé passe and balance until I was able to controllably come down.


Unfortunately, I'm starting to feel like I wont learn anything from this teacher anymore because he doesn't break anything down.


For example, last week I asked if we would be doing pirouettes soon. He said we would next week. His idea of doing pirouettes was to stick a pirouette on the end of a centre combination. No explanation.


I watched some people whirl around with absolutely no form and he said things like "you've got it! See its not that hard"

Long story short, I feel like if I want to learn to pirouette I will have to learn from home (I signed a 6 month contract with this studio).


What I feel I am struggling with is how I am actually meant to turn from 5th. It feels so restrictive when compared to pirouettes from 4th.

Can anyone help me by breaking down the process? Do you flick the toes of your working foot to take off? When I watch ivdeos of pirouettes it seems like most people don't achieve the passe position until they are facing backwards.

Thanks in advance.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

The build up I use is this: Achieving that held retiré position you mention above, and then working on only 1/4 turns, then 1/2 turns and then a single turn from 5th. I have my students perform a sousous, come down in plié again (still in 5th) and then execute the 1/4 turn with the working leg coming to retiré devant position. I much prefer having students begin learning pirouette en d'hors from 5th as opposed to 4th because it is much harder to maintain turnout from the open position (4th). One should try to get to the retiré position as early as possible in the turn.

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Thanks so much for your reply. I'll definitely try to sousous exercise. Do you still promenade with your arms to execute a single pirouette from 5th? I guess my question is, how do you get the momentum to turn?

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  • Administrators

You do use your arms for a pirouette, but the momentum comes from the back muscles. The arms don't create the turn, the torso and the push from the plié are the motivating moves.

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Great, thanks for your tips. It's something I definitely need to practice. I'm going to try picturing turning with my torso and using my plié more effectively next ballet class.

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One thing I was taught, which I find can help thinking about the arms and the use of the torso, is to hold a ballet shoe or water bottle in your left hand (when turning to your right) and pass it to your right hand as your arms come together in first position during the turn. It gives you a sense of how the back & arms help.


But as for the turning with "no form" and not breaking things down for beginners: I can sort of see what the teacher is doing. One of the classes I currently do is mostly beginners. The teacher is amazing in getting complete beginners actually dancing and moving across the floor. We do two lots of pirouettes each class at least (sometimes 3), and she encourages beginners just to turn, and get over the fear of just whirling around.


When you think about it, pirouettes are quite complicated in the number of things that need to happen all at once. If it all gets broken down very technically, it could work against getting the movement as a single whole, if you see what I mean.


On the other hand, Pas de Quoi's exercise -- doing quarter turns all the way round, and than building up to half turns and so on, is the way I learnt turns from 5th. And now, I do find that exercise quite a challenge! I have to stop just whirling around, and bring back control. I enjoy doing it for that reason :whistling:


I think we need both approaches -- the holistic "Just turn" and the technical breaking down of the movement.

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That's true, Redbookish. I didn't think of it like that. Now I think about it, my teacher is probably just encouraging people to turn in the first place. While I, on the other hand, am thinking "push into the ground, lift up out of your pelvis and get to passe quick!"


I think I've just about looked up everything I can on doing turns from 5th. I am going to give myself a break from pirouettes and concentrate on balancing and quarter turns. I am fairly confident in holding a releve passe, its the turning motion that throws me off.

I am a very eager adult student and I think sometimes that works against me as I feel I should be able to do something sooner than I am able to.

Edited by Arirhen
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I am fairly confident in holding a releve passe, its the turning motion that throws me off.


Maybe you need to have a bit of fun with the whirling about, to get over being "thrown off."


Another thing -- when you say "thrown off" -- do you tend to finish your pirouette falling to one side, or back or front in any particular way? it can help to work out which part of the turn you need to work on. For example, I tend to go a bit wonky & unbalanced in landing towards the direction I'm turning (I tend to fall to the right when turning right). So I take that as a sort of diagnosis, and adjust my alignment & pulling up accordingly.

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