Turning doesn’t always come naturally, but there are ways to improve your rotational skills.

Learning to turn (and improving once you’ve learned) can be equally frustrating and rewarding–it’s the yin/yang of dance technique.  Just when you’ve despaired about being able to turn, ever, out pops a perfect pirouette.  Try to repeat and – whoops, gone!  (I’m talking to the majority of us, as some dancers are “natural” turners, able to revolve multiple times with little or no effort-it just seems hard wired into their bodies.)  I’ve learned (through years of deep breathing) not to hate, resent or otherwise harbor ill will towards those who have a natural turning “gift”-and you should too.  Some of them may be your friends, and have many good qualities, and none of us needs all that negativity in their life, right?  Be nice and they may share some of their secrets.  Watching them in class can be very useful too, as they have often consciously  (or un) nailed a lot of what you can use to improve.

Top notch turners, revealed

I never get tired of watching this video. Take a look and see if you can figure out some of  the common threads (besides the fact that these boys are all extremely good dancers) that, to me, makes them all such excellent turners.

Can you figure out what I’m seeing? Watch their torsos, and the placement of their shoulders over their hips.  Notice  how vertical they all are-straight up and down, and very square. Even though they’re performing a rotational movement there’s no twisting in their hips or shoulders, so everything stays aligned throughout the turn.   You can see this is true whether their working leg is in retire, second, attitude, or moving between these positions.  All too often people think of a turn as an around movement as opposed to a vertical movement.  This makes sense (after all, your body is turning) but is not helpful -once you think around you’re more likely to start rotating your shoulders and/or torso, messing up your alignment (and making it harder to turn). “Spinning” your turns gives them a frantic feeling too, and often leads to the turn going out of control.

Control…another thing that’s so beautifully illustrated in this video. There’s a sense of calmness when all these boys turn, a lack of tension (not the same as relaxing your muscles though!).  Turns are so often tricky because dancers try so hard and things start getting tense and frantic (as mentioned above).  It helps to go a little zen (again, not the same as allowing everything to let go, your muscles are still engaged), and be in a calmer place mentally.  Hard to do when you want to be able to do those turns!

Of course there are other factors in turning, including technique, spotting, arm position; there are various turning tips to try, and pitfalls to be avoided.  I’ll go over some of these in a future post(or posts).  In the meantime, keep the above information in mind, and happy turning!