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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Arms and turning


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I tried searching the forums but I couldn't really find anything that describes my problem (except maybe the alignment sticky which I refer to quite often!)


I sometimes struggle with pique and pirouette turns and thought it was because I was not holding my alignment so I have been working on that. I think I have that part OK (still needs work, but definitely better than it has been), but now it seems my arms are the problem. In my last pointe class on Thu, my teacher told me I should be doing double turns easily because I am pulled up and I am fully on the leg/box but my arms (and lack of spotting - another thing I know I need to focus on) are preventing me from doing so.


According to my teacher, I either let my arm(s) fall behind me and/or I don't hold them in first position when turning - bad habit I am trying to break. She has told me several times to think about holding a beach ball when turning; but I guess I am still not doing that. Is there any kind of exercise or something that I could be doing at home to build up that muscle memory? Would literally holding a beach ball while turning help? I have two weeks off (between the "regular" dance calendar and before the summer session starts) and I really want to focus on getting my arms where they need to be over the next couple of weeks.

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I don't find that literally holding a beach ball helps. In fact, it might promote bad alignment, since having to hold a large object like that would cause your shoulders to come forwards and perhaps your elbows to be too far down or too far up. At my school, we would practice holding your arms using your back, keeping your shoulder blades from opening. You don't want to feel like your back and shoulder blades aren't engaged - in fact, if there's nothing going on back there, you're probably doing it wrong. Try holding your arms in first using your back muscles, then have someone try to "smack" or push your arms down from your wrists or forearms. If they fall, or move, or flop down... you're also not engaging your muscles. You should have strength in your first position arms, and they shouldn't be so relaxed that a simple push or smack can make them lose their position. That might be one way that you can start building muscle memory. I like when people say "soft arms", because it's almost oxymoronic in this case. The arms should appear soft, but there must be strength in them and control. I find that whenever I am unaware of my arm's positions (are they behind me? crossing? Where are they???) is when I am unable to turn. When I know my arms are in a tight and strong first position, back engaged, I turn triples as if they were just a breeze! I'm always disappointed when I come down, because it happens so naturally and easily that I think, "Why didn't I go for more?!?"

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One of my teachers used to say that we should think about having oranges under our arms (in our arm pits). Another teacher I had would get us to hold something in one hand, and, during the turn, get us to pass it to the other hand. Try it with a ballet shoe at first, and build up to a full bottle of water.

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Thank you for this thread... I wanted to search for this myself...


LaFilleSylphide - I cannot say that there is anything in your post that I havent heard before, but it was good to hear it again and yes I would agree with you that when the arms are right the turns do come. I apparently have a tendency of late to bounce my arms (up and down), I am not even remotely aware that I am doing this, but I would guess that I clearly cannot be engagin the muscles in my back if they can bounce :rolleyes:, thank you though I have something to think about tonight :innocent:

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Think about bringing round the whole side of your torso of the closing arm. When the arms stay behind rather than being in front of you once you've closed them into first, it is sometimes caused by the torso not coming round sufficiently. It's difficult to explain in words. Still thinking about that side can help to bring you round. I was also going to suggest the shoe or water bottle trick - it does make you see when your hands are not in front of your navel!

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