Getty Images

Ask Amy: As a Tall Dancer, How Do I Change Directions Quickly?

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of Pointe.

I'm 5' 9" and find it hard to keep up with the speed of shorter dancers. How can I improve my ability to move, change directions and stop as quickly as they do? —Karen


While it's usually more challenging for tall dancers to move as fast as their compact counterparts, it's not impossible—take a look at the speedy, vertically blessed women of Pacific Northwest Ballet and New York City Ballet! George Balanchine's choreography is notoriously fast, and both companies have their fair share of tall dancers. I'm 5' 8" and learned how to excel at brisk tempos—but I had to fine-tune my training and push myself to dance faster.

Building speed starts at the barre with tendus, dégagés and fifth position. During exercises, do you tend to slide the working foot in and out without making a true, stable fifth? Instead, make sure to feel weight on both feet each time you close (without looking choppy, of course). Doing so trains you to gather your limbs together more efficiently. From a solid fifth, you're set up to do anything—a turn, a jump, a piqué. Practice simple tendus and dégagés en croix, alternating inside and outside legs, gradually increasing the tempo.

In addition, prioritize musicality so that you're not always behind. Listen to all of the different components of the music—not just the counts, but the in-between notes that make up a phrase. Set goals during fast combinations to finish with the music. Even if your movements are small or feel sloppy at first, with practice you'll improve. Outside of class, you may want to try plyometrics—exercises that improve agility, speed and jump height. Consult a personal trainer, who can help you find appropriate exercises tailored for building speed.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks