Small turns are a large part of ballet and especially classical ballets. Whether it is a manegé at the end of a principal ballerina’s variation or slow piqué turns across the floor in the corps de ballet, small turns are an apparent and prominent part of a dancer’s technique.
So, today’s blog post and video provides my tips for smaller, faster turns than the grand pirouettes that you would do in a brauva variation. So, let’s go!
Piqué turns are a very important and prominent part of a ballerina’s manegé following her variation. The most important thing you can remember is to take your second side along with you. If you just turn with your supporting side, your arms will get behind you, your spot will be thrown off, and your entire turn will be disrupted. So, remember to turn without twisting or cranking your body oddly. Just relax and bring both sides around with you equally!
The step is also difficult because of the significant weight change between the preparation and the turn. You must really propel yourself off that leg before the turn using your feet so that you can get over your new supporting leg for the turn. Especially if you are going for a double piqué, it’s absolutely impossible to be back.
I touched on piqué turns in my Improving Pirouettes blog post. In that section, I noted that it’s important to focus on using your adductors or inner thighs to provide turnout for the supporting leg in the turn and the quadratus femoris more in the working leg. The quadratus femoris always does a better job of holding turnout against resistance due to its location, whereas the adductors or inner thighs work on bringing the leg forward and around.
These are another very common type of manegé turn, and they are often times the first or second kind of turn you will learn. About 90% of the time they are the first type of turn you will learn to do en pointe.
So, what makes these little turns so difficult? Afterall, they look very simple due to their small steps and small amount of travel. But, due to the force of the turn, it makes it very difficult to control the movement and the placement of the dancer’s feet, therefore making the turn very difficult to manage and complete gracefully. Once your feet get too far apart, everything starts to go.
Another problem that arrives during chaînés is the upper and lower bodies getting separated. Often times the lower body and hips are leading and the arms and shoulders are starting to twist backwards. This creates significant difficulty when trying to maintain balance for the dancer.
First, the solution for the big zombie feet. Hold your inner thighs! The more you think of squeezing your inner thighs or adductors in and up through the center of your body, the closer together your feet will stay and the more correct the sensation of the turn will become. The little tiny steps are what will travel you – not large and weighted movement of your hips.
Also, lifting up will prevent the clunkiness that goes along with the too-far-apart-feet. So, lift up and off of your hips to distribute your weight evenly and get that clunky feeling away from your feet and into your shoulders to press them down. Press your shoulders down to lift up and make space for movement in your legs.
The key muscles to connecting your upper and lower bodies are the obliques and the iliopsoas. I did an entire post dedicated to the iliopsoas, so go check that out for in-depth information. The obliques are your side abdominal muscles, so holding these both keeps your core and belly supported while maintaining the connection between your legs and your trunk. Your iliopsoas runs from your lower spine, across the front of your hip, and connects at the head of the femur. This is the only muscle that runs and connects your upper and lower bodies together! So, holding this will do a fantastic job of solidifying and supporting the movement during a chaîné turn.
Soutenu turns are another very common step. Another one of the first-learned ballet turns when you’re very little, these turns can be very trick and come at all different tempos.
There are adagio soutenus, soutenus at the barre, and lots of other types of soutenus – but for the sake of the topic of this blog post, we will only be talking about soutenus in manegé. These soutenus are typically quick and require pristine footwork and specificiation.
The first piece of advice that I have for you is to think of the sous sus position. You can’t undercross that first piqué sous us followed by a weird swivel that ends with a loose and unstable sous sus position. So, cross and cross again! Squeeze your inner thighs or adductors together at the tops of your legs to get that tight and connected sensation. Your legs are one!
Second is to use your arms! You’re very lucky if your teacher gives a combination of soutenus in which the arms come from low to high fifth. It’s a very pretty movement and it’s very fun. But, the challenge with this is the timing. You need to make sure that your arms are up and over your head before the majority of the turn. As we talked about in my Improving Pirouettes blog post, any movement of the arms or the legs, or the entire body for that matter, during a turn will through you off balance. So, everything needs to arrive before the majority of the turn, including those arms during soutenus with a high 5th position port de bras.
Thanks for reading this blog post! Expect informational blog posts here on gouletballet.com every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. See ya!
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