Teaching Tips

4 Muscles That Will Save Your Students' Pirouettes, Plus 4 Exercises to Strengthen Them

Every dance teacher knows that teaching pirouettes is a doozy. While much of turning is a head game, there are specific weak muscles and muscle groups that are often at the root of turning struggles. We've compiled a list of these four muscles with strengthening exercises to aid you in improving your dancers' turns. While each student's needs are different and your counsel should be personalized to them, we think these four tips will make a big difference. Check them out!

1. Lats

Lat engagement has a stabilizing effect on dancers. If they can tighten these muscles before, during and after their rotation, they will find it keeps them from dropping their elbows and wobbling from side to side in first position.

Go-to lat-strengthening exercise: (Go to 1:50)

Secondary lat-strengthening exercise: Plank

While planks are primarily used to work the core, they also act as a passive lat strengthener. Encourage dancers to push their shoulder blades toward their heels while holding planks on their hands. Not only will this strengthen their lats, but teach them how to hold their backs and arms while turning.

2. Abdominals

No matter what your dancers are struggling with, strengthening the core is bound to help solve the problem. It's like water—it makes everything better! For turns, strengthening the core and pulling the lower abdominals toward your spine will help your dancers stay compact and stable while rotating.

Go-to ab exercise:

3. Glutes

The second dancers release their buns, they'll immediately sink into their legs and drop their heels, resulting in a failed (and scary-looking) pirouette. Strengthening their glutes allows them to stay held in their turn.

Tip: To get results, have your dancers visualize a burning match right below their bum while they turn. If they release their glutes, they will fall into the fire and singe their legs. OUCH!

Go-to booty-strengthening exercise:

4. Calf/Ankle/Feet Muscles

Keeping high on that relevé is essential to a successful turn. Strong calves, ankles and feet that work together will allow you to stay lifted without crashing or sinking down mid-rotation.

Go-to foot/ankle/calf-strengthening exercise, courtesy of former NYCB soloist, Kathryn Morgan:

Layeelah Muhammad, courtesy DAYPC

This summer's outcry to fully see and celebrate Black lives was a wake-up call to dance organizations.

And while many dance education programs are newly inspired to incorporate social justice into their curriculums, four in the San Francisco Bay area have been elevating marginalized youth and focusing on social change for decades.

GIRLFLY, Grrrl Brigade, The Alphabet Rockers and Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company fuse dance with education around race, gender, climate change and more, empowering young artists to become leaders in their communities. Here's how they do it.

Keep reading... Show less
Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

Keep reading... Show less
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.