On Wednesday, June 19, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival welcomes James Whiteside Presents to the outdoor Inside/Out stage. This will be the American Ballet Theatre principal's fourth time at the Pillow. He first came to the Massachusetts–based Dance Festival as a corps de ballet member of Boston Ballet in 2004. ("I was struck by the beauty of the place," he recalls.) Whiteside returned in 2010 with Avi Scher & Dancers and most recently with Daniil Simkin's Intensio in 2015.
Now, Whiteside is bringing a program of his own work, performed alongside muse and fellow ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary and actor/show maker Jack Ferver.
1. Have faith in your fifth: It's hard to trust that your fifth position will give you enough force to turn. As a result, Jenifer Ringer sees dancers "lean forward, stick their bottoms out or move their front legs so they're not really turning from fifth." Try practicing a clean single pirouette without cheating. "It takes figuring out," she acknowledges, but you'll add rotations "without losing the integrity of your technique."
American Ballet Theater is in the midst of Le Corsaire this week as part of the company's annual season at the Metropolitan Opera House. One of the ballet's most celebrated and challenging male roles is Ali, the Slave. Daniil Simkin danced the part yesterday and will do so again on Friday evening. A dancer who never seems to disappoint, Simkin is sure to pull out all the technical stops and dazzle audiences with his charisma.
What do you get when you mix a dizzying amount of pirouettes with Mikhail Baryshnikov? Pure cinema gold—and one of the most famous dance movie scenes of all time. In this clip from the 1985 hit movie White Nights, Misha combines his technical prowess with his effortless cool. Raymond, played by legendary tapper Gregory Hines, challenges Kolya, a Soviet dancer who has defected (played by Baryshnikov) to a bet. In order to take Raymond's 11 rubels, Kolya must do 11 consecutive pirouettes. It's a feat that even today's most talented dancers can't accomplish. But Misha, is, well, Misha. Check out his mesmerizing turns—and then practice your own. Happy #TBT!
Get to know the dancer behind the turns here. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.
If you only know one thing about Derek Dunn, it's probably his phenomenal turning skills. The recently promoted Houston Ballet soloist—and cover star of our October/November 2016 issue—can be found all over social media demonstrating his flawless pirouettes. Needless to say, we're amazed. That's why we couldn't resist asking him how he does it when he was in New York City for his cover shoot. Check out Dunn's personal pirouette tips in this exclusive video. Then hit the studio. Happy turning!
A beautiful pirouette is one of ballet's most elusive elements. Sometimes you float through multiple rotations and sometimes you can hardly balance on one leg. Here are some of our best tips for nailing your turns, every time.
- Go back to basics. Make sure you've mastered the fundamentals of correct alignment before you go for multiple rotations.
- Know that there's more than one right way to do it. Struggling to adjust to Balanchine-style pirouettes? Focus on shifting the majority of your weight forward over your front foot and extend your arms to find a long position.
- Use positive thinking. Getting over the fear of turning and making yourself stay up on pointe to finish your pirouette is paramount to success.
- Up the ante. Do you fall apart during fouettés? Focus on your coordination and build stamina in your standing leg.
- Get scientific. Understanding the physics of how pirouettes work can help you conceptualize ways to adjust your technique. This TEDx talk breaks down the physics of a fouetté into easily understandable terms:
Do you have tips for prepping a pirouette with a straight back leg? I’m dancing a Balanchine ballet and I’m having trouble changing my technique. —Liza
I was in a similar situation when I joined the Balanchine-based Suzanne Farrell Ballet mid-career. I had trained preparing for pirouettes with both legs in plié, so it was hard to get the hang of the straight back leg at first. But over time, I adjusted and actually grew to prefer it!
What helped me was to think of shifting my body forward each time I prepared so that the majority of my weight was over my front foot, instead of underneath myself on two bent legs. The arms help, too: Instead of keeping them classically curved, extend them, as if reaching out. Overall, your body should feel much longer in this position.
The best way to get the feeling in your body is to do it—a lot. Try practicing tombé pas de bourrée to fourth position across the floor from the corner, feeling your momentum moving forward each time you land. Reach your front hand out as your back leg reaches behind you to create one long, continuous line. Notice how different it feels. Try the same thing from fifth position, taking a tendu to fourth in both en dedans and en dehors preparations. With enough repetition, your body will soon do it naturally.