I have a terrible fear of falling when doing turns on pointe. I sometimes cry in class when we have to do new turns that I'm not used to. I can only do bad singles on a good day, while some of my classmates are doing doubles and triples. How can I get over this fear? —Gaby
Feeling skittish about falling during pirouettes is understandable—you're turning on a tiny platform, and the shoe's satin can feel slippery against the floor. It doesn't help that you also feel self-conscious about lagging behind your classmates. Falling can be scary, embarrassing and sometimes painful, but nine times out of 10 you can bounce right back up and keep going without a scratch. (Trust me, I have fallen a lot.) It's all part of the learning process and is by no means a sign of failure.
Find a space on your own before or after class where you can practice alone at your own pace, without the pressure of a combination or keeping up with your peers. Try building up to a single: tombé, pas de bourée, fourth to relevé retiré. Then again, trying a half or full rotation. As you grow more comfortable, work up to doubles.
Keep in mind that dancing tentatively can actually work against you. Adding force and speed helps you snap up to your position more efficiently, rather than in pieces. And pay attention to your upper body, too. Are you leaning back fearfully to protect yourself and tensing up? Try bringing your upper body forward a bit—not only will it help your alignment, but you will be in a better place to catch yourself if you fall. Keep your neck relaxed to help you spot and let the rhythm help you. If all else fails, try losing yourself in the music—distraction can be a wonderful antidote to fear.
Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at email@example.com.