Thinkstock

Ask Amy: What to Do When You're in a Turning Rut

I had a few weeks off, and I didn't practice my turns. Now, after being back for a while, I can't seem to turn like I used to. My teacher said it was a mental block, but I can't figure out how to push past it. —Devon


Ahh, I know this feeling well. I had a similar experience with turns after I came back from an injury. Mental blocks can occur when you focus more on your fear of failure than on trusting your technique. You grow so anxious about falling out of your turn that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Your pirouettes may not be "in" your body right now, but that doesn't mean you've forgotten how to do them. You may need to practice singles for a while until you feel more comfortable. Doing extra core-strengthening exercises (like Pilates) and paying closer attention to your alignment at the barre may also be useful. But more importantly, check your attitude. If you beat yourself up after every unsuccessful turn, you're simply making the mental block (and, consequently, your pirouettes) worse. When you're turning, find a way to detach yourself emotionally—if it doesn't go perfectly, so what? Rather than approaching your preparation tentatively, really go for it.

Mental blocks can occur

when you focus more on your

fear of failure than on

trusting your technique.

Finding different focuses helped me overcome my mental block. Instead of fixating on an upcoming pirouette, I'd think ahead to the next step and make a commitment to keep going if I fell out of my turn. Concentrating on the combination's musicality also helped rechannel my anxiety—I could focus more on dancing and less on an isolated step. The bottom line: It's easier to trust your technique when you're not obsessing over it.

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

Latest Posts


Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

The Radiant Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan: Why She's One to Watch at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Hollywood could make a movie about Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan's big break at Pacific Northwest Ballet.

It was November 2017, and the company was performing Crystal Pite's film-noir–inspired Plot Point, set to music by Bernard Hermann from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Ryan, then a first-year corps member, originally was understudying the role of another dancer. But when principal Noelani Pantastico was injured in a car accident, Ryan was tapped to take over her role.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Lauren Veyette corrects a student during class. Ariel Rose, Courtesy Veyette Virtual Ballet School.

COVID-19 Has Made It Easier to Train Outside Your Studio—but Should You?

Of all the unprecedented effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the dance world, perhaps the most unthinkable a year ago was the forced pivot to online training. With many studios mandated to close, we've outfitted our homes with barres and marley and harnessed technology to create more learning opportunities than ever before. And now, as some studios reopen for in-person classes (either fully or in hybrid form) and others remain online, it's easier to supplement your school's offerings by adding virtual master classes—or even going to another school for in-studio time. But while being able to take class from anyone, anywhere, offers great opportunities, there are pitfalls to jumping from teacher to teacher. It's important to balance out the pros and cons of creating your own "COVID curriculum."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Daniil Simkin gives advice during his master class series. Courtesy Dance Masterclass.

In This Master Class Series, Stars Like Daniil Simkin Share Their Technique and Artistry Secrets

Have you ever wondered what Daniil Simkin thinks about when he whips off a series of effortless pirouettes? Or how Polina Semionova initiates her "swan arms" when she dances Odette/Odile? Both dancers are now part of a new streaming platform called Dance-Masterclass, which offers targeted lessons from the ballet world's biggest stars to dancers of all levels. Launched in February, the platform presents 10 to 12-plus gorgeously filmed lessons from a new master teacher each month, with options allowing for private feedback.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks