Improving Fouettés

Hi everybody!  Today’s blog post and video are all about improving your fouetté turns. They are the signature ballet turns.  They are famous for their appearance in the third act coda of Swan Lake as well as the Don Quixote coda, 32 being the magic number.  Let’s learn how to master these difficult turns.


Fouettés are a lot about technique and strength (thirty-two rotations take a lot of that), but they are also heavily dependent on your timing and coordination.  This is what makes them so much different from any other ballet step.  That’s also why an exceptionally storng dancer can have ear-high développés and soaring grand jetés, but not be able to do even 16 fouetté turns en pointe.  We will talk about the coordination and the physics of a fouetté turn as well as the technique they entail in this blog post.

Breaking it down

Fouetté means, simply, to whip.  But, the physics of the step are much more than the over-appearing dance move popular at the moment.

whipnaenae.gif
A fouetté turn performed incorrectly.
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That’s better!

If you watch Tiler’s animation above, you can see that her leg comes to a clear extension to the front in a plié first.  This is one of the main components that provides force for the turn.  In addition to this, its obvious bringing to alisicon will push the dancer around.

After the half grand rond de jambe she performs, she relevés up onto pointe as she assembles her leg into retiré and whips around.  This force can provide enough momentum for one turn, or even a triple (seen above).

Ted takes you through a tour of the fouetté turn and the physics behind it in the video below:

My tips

Ted talked about the importance of keeping a constant center of gravity.  Have you ever spun a spinning top on the floor?  Well, the little tip is the box of your pointe shoe.  If you keep everything balanced and revolving around that point, you won’t fall off balance.  But, that’s the basics of any turn.  What makes a fouetté so uniquely difficult?

Well, it’s the fact that your arms and legs are opening and closing.  It’s helpful in the sense that it provides enough force to allow you to go around the desired number of rotations – but it’s easy to throw you off your balance.  That’s why you have to balance out the crazy things happening in your legs with well-placed arms and good posture.  That’s where my advice comes in:

A center of gravity

Your weight placement greatly affects your balance during fouetté turns.  It’s important that you feel grounded through your supporting leg and stable in that hip so that your working leg can be free to do whatever it wants without carrying your weight with it.  You can acheive this through hip exercises as well as foot and core strength.  I will list all of my workouts below that will help with fouettés:

Foot Workout

Ankle Stabilization Workout

Pirouette Workout

Core Workout

Turnout Workout

So, as your leg travels outwards, feel grounded through your supporting leg and hip so that you don’t go with it.  It’s also very helpful to practice grand rond de jambe exercises at the barre without relevé or in plié.  Just practice moving your leg from front to side without twisting your hips or letting them release; not falling towards the working leg.

The momentum

Your momentum comes from not the rond de jambe section of the fouetté, but the bringing of the leg into retiré.  If you’ve ever spun on a tire swing, you know that if you have your legs extended outwards and then you bend them, you will feel lots of resistance.  That resistance makes you go faster.  That is the resistance you should feel during your fouetté turn, in the section in which you are bringing your leg into retiré.  That, along with your spotting and arms, creates the momentum for the fouetté.

Obviously, it’s important that you fully hit the alisicon position.  Let’s take it back to the tire swing – you will go faster and thus have more force the further out your legs are before you bend them.  So, the faster you want to turn, and the more rotations you want to complete, the longer you should leave your leg in the alisicon position.

Turnout & placement

It will also help you control the crazy leg movements happening if you properly lift through your core and abdominals to make room for the grand rond de jambe.  The more opposition and resistance you feel and the more lifted you are, the easier the step will become.

Your turnout also significantly factors into the appearance of the fouetté.  You must maintain the turnout in the grand rond de jambe to start, and then keep the turnout as you draw the leg into retiré.  If you think about it – this is much more difficult to complete than to say.  This is because you’re moving en dehors, and you’re trying to draw your leg inwards while maintaining the rotation at the same time as your moving towards the leg.  The air friction is definitely not on your side.  You can check out my Turnout Workout to find ways to improve this problem and work on maintaining your turnout.

Arms & head

Of course, your arms and your spot provide great force for the fouetté.  The arms are opening and closing in the turn, which again applies to the tire swing concept we talked about earlier with the legs.  Your drawing them in creates resistance, which in turn provides force for you to go around.  Thus, the way you draw them in and the position they create have a huge impact on the direction that the force travels you.  If they are too low in the first position, you will be drawn forward and most likely fall that direction.  If your elbows are too bent, your chest will likely crumple and you will fall forwards as well.

Make sure your spot is solid and valuable.  I did an entire blog post and video on Improving Spotting, so make sure to check that out.

Evaluating your mistakes

With fouettés, everybody has different things they do that throw them off.  It’s a very individual step.  That is why it’s very helpful to analyze your turns by taking a video or playing them in slow motion.  You can easily see if your leg is turning in, your spot is crooked, or your arms are too low.

You can also figure out what you’re doing wrong by analyzing the direction that you’re (unintentionally) traveling.  If you’re traveling on a forwards diagonal to the right during your fouettés to the left, there’s a good chance that your arms are too low and you’re bringing them in too late.  It’s kind of like a puzzle – you just have to figure it out.  There’s no one trick that will work for everybody.


Thanks for reading today’s blog post and watching the video.  I’ll see you on Friday (well…maybe earlier!) with a new blog post.  Bye!

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2 thoughts on “Improving Fouettés

  1. This was a really great post! Fouettes are such a struggle for me, so I’ll be trying some of these tips for sure!

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