Pirouettes! En Pointe!
I have a friend who says, “I hate pirouettes. If there was any way to kill them, I would.” I think every one of us ladies has had the experience of putting on her pointe shoes while dreading the inevitable pirouette combination that will arrive to torture us. Unless you are one of the lucky few who is a natural turner, pirouettes on pointe are probably the scariest thing you will do all day. It happens to me all the time: the anxious “tombee-pas-de-bourree-oh-no-here-it-comes-help-me” feeling that always ruins my turn.
It seems that pirouettes, especially on pointe, are the last thing that anyone really masters. We practice them tirelessly, always trying for more turns, getting frustrated and tense when they don’t work out. Fear, though, is probably the most common denominator among dancers who have difficulty turning, and with good reason—it’s scary to push off and rotate up there on pointe.
However, there are a few simple cures for the common pirouette. Most of us know the physical rules to follow in order to perform clean, multiple pirouettes: Square hips and shoulders, strong relevé, coordinated arms, spot, engaged core, clean landing. I would say, though, that the mental rules are even more important. Getting over the fear of turning and making yourself stay up on pointe to finish your turn is paramount. Stay calm during turn combinations by not psyching yourself up for the pirouette at the end. Think of it like a recipe: “If I hold my arms and shoulders like this and plie and spot, etc., I am almost guaranteed to get the desired result.” Pirouettes are just a step that you can master just like you’ve mastered everything else. Nothing more. If you can calm your mind, next time you’re in class that anxiety will melt away, to be replaced by “tombee-pas-de-bouree-no-sweat-turn-turn-ta-da!”