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How long before you were able to pirouette?

Miss S

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I'm curious to know...if you began ballet as an adult, then how long did it take you to pirouette?


It took about a year, for me. Sad, I know! Don't get discouraged!

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I've been in over a year and have only recently started working them within the last month or two. I'm horrible at them, so they are the bane of my existence.

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I started as an adult. I don't see pirouettes as black and white. I could do a half-baked pirouette from a stationary, calm preparation pretty quickly (and by half-baked I mean kindof falling out of it etc, but I would get around alright).


I think a really nice pirouette would be one that you can finish by holding a couple of seconds, where the working leg is up in a nice high retiré, the whole thing looks nice.


And then the question would be "How long before being able to pull off a "nice" pirouette 50% of the time". Starting from a stationary position- ie, just praciticing pirouettes by themselves, I'd say about a year- but I am not a natural. Starting in the centre during the Turns part of the class, say right after a chassé pas de boureé- 2 years? Right after something more complicated than chassé pas de boureé like say a confusing or quick series of steps - still working towards 50%


I will tell you one trick I did not learn for quite some time- I knew we were supposed to bring the working leg to the front in retiré but I didn't understand how. So I would bring it up the back and then to the front. Well, that is wrong and SO many people do it like that. If you do it correctly, the working leg comes to retiré by the first 1/4 turn and there is a sort of flicking or whipping action that brings it to the front immediately. Bringing it to the front helps the turn- it is an integral part of the turn, not an afterthought.


Also think "close to finish" (that is for the arms).

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Relatively quickly and immediately, because the rest of my class was already working on them. Until I learned to spot consistently and balance a retiré, it was very difficult in coming. I can't stress how important a "stable" spot was for pirouettes. I had this problem where I think I was slightly moving my head not on the same horizontal plane when spotting, and that threw me off completely. Also, arms... wow! In the very beginning, I didn't understand that arms had so much to do with pirouettes. I think I whipped them around like a maniac. When I was taught that the arm that opens has no momentum, that it just opens and the arm that is already in 2nd closes strongly with all the momentum, thus meeting the opened arm and closing you into a 1st position, it changed everything. There's a lot that you figure out along the way.


- Immediate retiré with the knee back in a very well turned out position gets you around and balanced

- stable spot

- strong arms with one arm having no momentum and the other arm using the majority of the force

- I had to practice over and over again my preparation into a retiré without the actual turn. The turn just comes, but that all important preparation into the position does not naturally come.

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This makes me feel so much better. I've only been doing lessons for about 2 months and struggle with pirouttes, particularly finishing, I always fall out of them at the end.

I have hyperextended knees, which my teacher mentioned can make it a bit more difficult getting a centre of balance.


Its good to know that its not just me struggling. :D

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How well can you balance on one leg at the barre? I think this is a good indication of how good one's pirouettes can be. When I started years ago I was adult in my twenties. I don't recall having any problems with pirouettes. BUT, we learned to balance in passé at the barre first before we attempted pirouettes, if I remember correctly. So when it came time to do a pirouette it was easy and natural. However, I had taken jazz and modern before ballet and had to do turns in jazz a lot and some different kinds of turns in modern--by the time I got to ballet it was just all second nature.


This time, years later--I restarted last September, it took me a while to get a pirouette because we were learning them in 5th and I had always done them from 4th position. It took me a few months to get comfortable with a pirouette from 5th position. That said, I weigh about 60 lbs. more than I did in my 20s so everything is more difficult in ballet and the pirouette in particular because the center was not the same and I have to balance more weight on one leg. I still cannot balance well on one leg at the barre due to weak feet muscles. So my pirouettes are so-so. I get around but until I can balance for a while in releve on one leg at the barre, I don't think my pirouette will improve too much.

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Not just balance in releve on one leg, but retire on releve. The better you are at this balance, the better your pirouette will be.

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To really answer the question, you have to define what a pirouette is. I mean relatively quickly I could turn one revolution on one leg and not fall on my face. I’d hate to call it a pirouette as I didn’t do anything right and it looked worse than those of most other beginners in the class. Now after many years, I have to say turning of all kinds is my relative strength in dance. But even now there are so many little technical things I should be doing in executing a pirouette that I don’t do consistently, so one could say that I haven’t yet learned to pirouette even though I revolve twice and land without moving the feet.


Like learning any complex skill, learning the skill takes time, patience and practice. And progress isn’t linear. You get better and then you regress. You have good days and days when you get so angry you just want to hit something. But overall, if you keep plugging at it, you slowly but surely get better and more consistent. For me there was never a day or time where I just seemed to get it.


As I progressed at first I was better turning en dedans. Perhaps because in classes and my own practice, I’ve done perhaps 50 en dehors turns for every en dedans turn, I’m much better at en dehors turns than en dedans turns now. At least that’s so in ballet. Ironically, as a Spanish dancer I turn better en dedans than en dehors, but then Spanish dance pirouettes are different than ballet pirouettes.

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I have been dancing for two years and I haven't learned them yet. My teacher thinks we first have to be able to balance in retiré en demi-pointe in the centre, as well as do a perfect preparation, before it makes sense to learn a pirouette. It is not a beginner step.

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To be able to do a good strong one, like the kind you need to have to start being able to do doubles, where I felt proud of it and stopped hating them and didn't have to worry about falling out of them or landing poorly and they started to feel second nature and effortless... it took me close to two years. However, for the whole first year, I was at a studio where I got next to no corrections. That whole time, I wasn't even spotting, and my primary problem was that I wasn't pulling up, squeezing through my glutes and doing them with my knee stretched at all.


When I got to my current school where my teacher railed me constantly about these issues, was when I started trying to correct them. And it can take a good long while, to finally figure out what it's supposed to feel like when you're doing it right. It takes a lot of strength build-up too. But once you find it, there's no going back! :wink:

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Tari, I wish more teachers thought that! I've been dancing for a year and always just do the preparation and releve because I know I'm not ready to turn. But everyone else is attempting pirouettes in most of the open beginner classes I've taken, even people who have been dancing for like a week, and I'd imagine they're only picking up bad habits. :wink:

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I am an adult (late starter) and have been doing ballet for about 10 months now. I have been learning pirouettes from the beginning, since I joined an open class that includes a wide range of abilities. For a long time, pirouettes caused me a lot of anxiety because I caught onto everything else (including moves like pique turns, chaine turns, and tour jetes) rather quickly. I didn't feel like I was getting ANYWHERE with my pirouettes. One day about two months ago I was lucky enough to be the only student in class, so I got some private instruction on my pirouettes - that was enough that I can now easily and confidently get around without falling out of them, although I still don't close well. I have not yet attempted a double.


Like several have said, my arms were a huge factor in my turns. I was whipping them around behind me to get my turn started, which threw me wildly off balance. When I can remember to keep them in front of me, and to spot, my turns feel pretty good.

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How well can you balance on one leg at the barre? I think this is a good indication of how good one's pirouettes can be.


:D I just have to have a good laugh at this. While it is certainly very true that your retiré balance is a strong indication of how good one's pirouette can be and how many revolutions can possibly be made (one of my teachers stressed this very much), this statement reminds me of how "mental" a pirouette can be too. We had this joke in class that if you can balance really well, then your turns were going to fall apart in centre. It seemed to work that way in that one particular class, but then again, we were mostly psyching ourselves out, if you know what I mean! There are times when I overthink a pirouette and when I anticipate all things that could happen, and then my turns look like poo.


Then there are times where one of my teachers would run around and give us less than a second to prep, basically yelling, "GO!!!" and because I didn't have time to think, the turns just sailed naturally. One of my other teachers used to make us walk around the room if we got too frustrated from not being able to turn well. Instead of attempting over and over again a bad series of turns, and getting more and more frustrated, she'd have us walk around the room once, then around the other way once before starting again. It was hilarious, but there are often times where your body knows what it wants to do, but your brain is fighting it every step of the way!

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