A turning board is a slim, rectangular board you place under your foot to be used as a training tool for turns in ballet, ice-skating or other turning sports. The premise for their use is that if a student is missing the basic rhythm of a spot for a solid pirouette, a turning board can really help gain that sense. On the other hand, many teachers are opposed to turning boards, because they argue that they encourage spinning rather than “turning.” Here are the many uses for a turn boards (brand name: TurnBoard) and why I find them effective.
There are many dancers who are natural “turners.” Just like some people have an amazing high jump or a crazy, leggy extension, “turners” are great at pirouettes and seem to float around endlessly with complete relaxation. It’s very natural to them.
I’ve discovered that most of what makes a great turner is that they spot quickly, consistently, and with a very precise rhythm that allows them to just keep on turning. A very special balance between staying pulled up, lifting into the end of a pirouette and “spinning” is what the best turners do.
Those dancers that aren’t amazing turners -myself included – need to work on the momentum and the natural sense of turning that these fantastic music-box ballerinas have. We are on the other side of the spectrum from spinning: we don’t have enough force and momentum to get around as many times as we wish! This will come from practice, as well as establishing a very precise rhythm of spotting.
Sometimes, if you want to find a happy medium in something, you have to do the complete opposite to what you are already doing to hit the solution and achieve the quality between those two extremes. This situation is just that: the non-turners that are hesitant to turn are on one side and the crazy spinners are on the other. Amazing turners are right in the middle.
Therefore, what is the opposite of these scared turners? Spinners. What is the complete replication of spinning? A turning board! If you are one of those tense, hesitant turners, turning boards can help you establish a better spot, rhythm and turning instinct that all of those great turners have buried inside of them somewhere.
The great part about turning boards is that they are portable and easy to use. As I am one of those hesitant turners, especially to the right side, I like to take one to use before class and just turn until I can do five or six pirouettes on the board to my bad side. Then I call it a day. I’ve established much more confidence and rhythm in my turns through this technique, and I can already see improvement. I’m now getting many more triples to that side than I used to.
The caution so many teachers express towards turn boards is aimed at those who are already natural turners. If you have a great head spot already and it is only your technique that is lacking, the use of a turning board might have the undesired effect of transforming you into one of those “spinners.” If you are already in the healthy middle area, or you are leaning slightly toward the spinning side of the spectrum, turning boards could really throw you off and turn you into a crazy tornado.
So, in conclusion, turning boards are a great tool for the dancer who is hesitant and has not developed a rhythmic head spot. For the dancer who is already in the healthy medium or is a “spinner,” they should be avoided. I hope this is helpful, and I’ll see you guys on Friday!