Ballet: Tips for Pirouettes

How to Improve Your Pirouettes and Other Turns

Male dancer performing pirouette in front of class
Mike Harrington / Getty Images

Pirouettes are among the most challenging of dance steps. A classical ballet pirouette is a turn on one leg while holding the other leg at an angle against the supporting knee. Pirouettes can be performed in a series of two, three or even more before finishing.

Pirouettes can also be performed in different styles such as jazz or contemporary dance, but the raised knee is usually turned in.

In order to properly perform a pirouette, your body must engage in a series of perfectly timed moves. If even one key element is the slightest bit off in timing, the entire pirouette will be sacrificed. (This is the reason why some dancers work years on their pirouettes.)

If you are struggling with pirouettes or other dance turns, the following tips will have you on your way to doing singles, doubles, triples, or even more!

Hold Your Center

Maintaining good alignment is essential for pirouettes, whether you're performing one, two, three or more. The single most effective way to maintain alignment is to hold your center, or tightly engage your abdominal muscles. Your teacher may refer to the abdominal area as your "center of gravity" or simply your "center."

Holding your center during a pirouette is very important because doing so will help your body stay erect. Holding the center core of your body tight will allow the rest of your body, including your arms and legs, to move freely.

Try it:

As you push up to begin your turn, concentrate on "zipping up" your abdominal muscles. Try to pull up the upper half of your body while pushing your supporting foot down into the floor. Holding your center will allow you to have much tighter turns.

Spot Like a Pro

You've probably heard that spotting is very important for performing pirouettes. Well, you're hearing it again: spotting is very important for performing pirouettes. To put it simply, without a good spot, you won't be able to pirouette. So how do you know if you have a good spot?

A good spot is achieved through lots of practice. Some dancers can't understand why they can't do more than a single pirouette but fail to realize that their spot, or lack thereof, is the culprit. Spotting is the key to getting all the way around in a turn, and getting all the way around again and again. A quick turn of the head with fixated eyes helps your body stay balanced and keeps you from becoming dizzy.

Try it:

Before you attempt your pirouette, pick out an object in front of you to focus your eyes on. If you are forced to spot a mirror, try sticking a small piece of blue tape on the mirror in front of you, at eye level.

Focus on your spot as you begin your pirouette. Keep your eyes focused on the spot as long as you can and then at the last second, snap your head around to allow your eyes to quickly relocate the spot. Spotting this way will also help keep your head in perfect alignment with the rest of your body.

Plié Deeper

Whether you start your pirouette from fourth position or fifth position, you must begin with a strong, deep plié. The strength of your pirouette comes directly from your plie. Naturally, the stronger the plie, the stronger the pirouette.

Try it:

From your starting position, plie deeply with your weight forward over your toes. Spring up quickly onto your supporting foot. A deeper and stronger plie will give you the force needed to get through several revolutions.