Itzkan Barbosa in Dances Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker. Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Dances Patrelle.

Mastering the Waltz Turn: Ballet Academy East Teacher Francis Patrelle Shares His Advice

The waltz turn, says Ballet Academy East teacher and Dances Patrelle artistic director Francis Patrelle, must be distinguished from a dainty balancé en tournant. Here, he shares how he encourages his students to bring "American largesse" to this luscious, sweeping movement.

Keep moving: "In the waltz turn, every step you take is forward," says Francis Patrelle. "Brush or développé to croisé en avant, then two steps on relevé—wait, don't turn yet!" In one beat, turn and brush or développé back, and then step forward again through fourth position.

"Push the walls away": Many small errors, Patrelle notes, inhibit dancers' ability to travel. "The most common correction I give is that there is no rond de jambe in your waltz turn. Find the way to make it the freest and smoothest, make it bigger, flow through it!"


Frances Patrelle. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Ballet Academy East.

Port de bras possibilities: Many options fit on top of the movement, says Patrelle, "whether it's an open croisé allongé, or épaulé showing your back." If you choose the latter, make sure you really spiral the upper torso. Otherwise, "it's just the arm in a bad arabesque."

"More mozzarella": Patrelle frequently sees dancers, as they développé to the back, indulge in a port de bras affectation that makes him laugh. "It looks like they're throwing a kiss from their chin—like they grew up in Brooklyn! Lengthen the arms. I want to see the dancer, not their elbows or wrists."

Remember where it comes from: "Musically, the accent in the waltz is on 1," Patrelle clarifies. By contrast, "in the mazurka, it's on 2, and in the polonaise, it's on the 3." He also reminds dancers to picture a couple waltzing, "his arm around her, her head turned and a wonderful high arch in her back, leaning into his hand."

MORE TIPS

"Make sure the waltz doesn't bounce like a polka." Patrelle sees many dancers take a misstep that he calls "the burp." After extending the leg to the back, don't coupé underneath yourself, as that creates an awkward jolt in the movement.

Patrelle recommends thinking about the waltz when you cambré to the side at barre. Extend the top arm to allongé, and that's the upper body in the first brush of the waltz turn. "That's extreme, but I want it extreme at the barre because it will be diminished when you add movement. Realize the bend, don't just indicate."

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