Pacific Northwest Ballet's Elizabeth Murphy and Seth Orza in Alexei Ratmansky's Don Quixote (photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB)

In theory, partnered pirouettes should be easier than regular pirouettes, right? After all, there are not one, but two of you there to make lots of smooth, glorious rotations happen. But in practice, they can be…complicated. (Just ask Kristi Capps, ballet master at Kansas City Ballet, who once broke her ring finger on her partner's chest during a whip turn.)

Thankfully, partnered pirouettes can be exciting—and injury-free—if you and your partner work together to coordinate your timing and spacing. Here are a few simple rules to help you and your partner find common ground.

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Photo Courtesy Grace Earp.

Though self-described "ballerina artist" Grace Earp, 17, has been drawing her whole life, she only started ballet three years ago. Earp, an Irvine, CA native, had been selling her art—mostly of cartoon princesses and animals—at conventions like San Diego Comic Con and Wondercon since she was 12. But as ballet grew to be a larger part of her life, the subject of her work shifted. "I started drawing what I was learning; a pointed foot or hyperextended leg," says Earp. Today, Earp has over 31,000 followers on Instagram for her line of drawings showing both the rigorous and fun sides of technical ballet training. Earp often chooses a single position or step like pas de chat or croisé devant and shows all the components that go into it, from "foot pointed like a dagger" to "anticipation of the next movement" to "focused mind." The dancers in her drawings are whimsically dressed, and she often incorporates pop culture elements like Wonder Woman or Disney princesses.


Drawing Courtesy Grace Earp.

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Health & Body
Paris Opéra Ballet's Letizia Galloni. Photo by Benoîte Fanton, Courtesy POB.

A beautifully winged foot is the perfect complement to an arabesque line. But according to Marika Molnar, president and founder of Westside Dance Physical Therapy, learning how—and when—to wing requires subtle work and an understanding of the leg's alignment.

Often, she sees dancers winging before, not after, they point their ankle, foot and toes. Instead, the wing should be the final touch. "If you follow the line of the middle of your thigh through the middle of your kneecap down through the middle of your shin, that line should come out where your second toe is," says Molnar. Then you can slightly wing your foot while maintaining that alignment.

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Ballet Training
Schorer leading class at ABT. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor Courtesy SAB.

Nothing's more impressive than a fluttery entrechat six. Here, School of American Ballet's Suki Schorer gives her tips for perfecting this tricky jump.


1. Your power is in the plié: One of the most common problems Suki Schorer sees is dancers taking too short of a plié. "They bounce off the floor and then don't have the power to go high in the air," she says. You'll need that height to create the beats. A juicy plié will also allow you to control the landing and hold on to the tempo.

2. Timing can help. As you plié, think "and-down-entrechat six" rather than "and-up-entrechat six."

3. Keep legs and chest forward: "As students start to jump, they often throw their upper bodies back and then their feet get behind their bodies," says Schorer. As a result, the legs swing front and back instead of scissoring through first and fifth. "You need your legs underneath you or a teensy bit in front, with your chest also forward."

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Ballet Training
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Few turns make dancers more tempted to cheat than pirouettes from fifth, especially doubles. Colburn Dance Academy director Jenifer Ringer gives her tips for nailing them every time.


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."

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Ballet Training
Sofiane Sylve in Giselle. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Penché. So simple, yet so tough. Here, San Francisco Ballet School faculty member Tina LeBlanc offers her tips for a beautifully supported penché.


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