Dance Teacher Tips

9 Key Ideas to Help Dancers Master Attitude Turns

Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Attitude turns have the potential for major wow factor—the position originated from sculptor Giambologna's famous bronze statue of the Roman god Mercury, after all—but many dancers struggle with this kind of pirouette. It's a tricky step, one that requires good placement, coordination and timing. Whether your students are learning this turn for the first time or working on doubles, it's helpful to go back to basics and break down the mechanics.


How to Prepare

Try a creative barre stretch. "Find a barre, or even a table, that's a good height, and put your leg up behind you," says Stephanie Spassoff, artistic director of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. "Totally square off, so you can feel the right position." Spassoff suggests doing a series of pliés and relevés, lifting the leg off the barre on the way up and lowering it when the standing heel descends (see photo 1). "It's a good way to strengthen your back and get yourself placed for the turn," she says. Spassoff encourages students to lengthen their backs, too, doing counter-stretches like rounding or rolling through the small of the back (photo 2) to balance the stress of supporting the attitude position.

Photo 1, by Kaitlin Marino, courtesy of Princeton Ballet School


Photo 2, by Kaitlin Marino, courtesy of PBS

Use the action of the plié to get up on the supporting leg, says Nancy Crowley, faculty member at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Whether a dancer is turning en dehors or en dedans, the principles of the preparation are the same. "Make sure the dancer can keep the weight over the supporting leg in the entire turn," says Crowley. To encourage this, she tells students to lengthen the standing side and spiral up through the torso.

Turn out in order to turn well. "When dancers relevé into an attitude pirouette en dedans, the supporting heel should initiate the turn," says Spassoff. "The heel pulls the inside of the upper thigh, so the entire leg is rotating, and the attitude toe is reaching for the opposite shoulder."

Focus on Placement

Align the center of the lower back over the ball of the foot (photo 3) in an attitude turn, unlike basic pirouettes in passé, which require the head to be aligned over the torso and supporting leg. "Students tend to pull their head and torso back to get over their supporting foot in an attitude, which distorts the position," says Janet Parke, director of Ballet Memphis School. "Students should learn how to balance in attitude, preparing from a lunge or fourth position." Parke suggests doing just quarter- and half-turns in attitude, trying to finish in a balance on relevé. "They shouldn't worry about the force of the turn but instead about establishing a balance over the base of support," she says.

Photo 3, by Kaitlin Marino, courtesy of PBS

Maintain placement and strength on the supporting side, advises Crowley. As they relevé into the turn, dancers might push their bodies around and pull off their standing leg. But this approach negatively affects placement: The torso tends to tip forward, the hips slip back and the supporting leg loses rotation. She recommends using an adagio promenade, en dehors and en dedans, to help students stand properly on one leg and understand a slow rotation. "Use it as a study for attitude pirouette," she says.

Don't let the knee get too high in attitude—it can make the position less attractive. "The working hip should not be up, because it can destroy the line," says Spassoff. "The knee should be behind the body as much as possible, with the toe reaching for the opposite shoulder. If it doesn't have that tightness, dancers get that position we call 'dog at the fire hydrant.'" Coming out of the turn, students should continue to lift on the supporting side and bring their hips to a neutral position as soon as possible.

Coordinate the Arms and Legs

Don't relevé first and turn second. Coordinate the rotation of the torso with the relevé action of the standing leg. "It's about being organized and over the supporting side, and having the strength to stay on that leg for the full rotation," says Crowley. The arms should also arrive with the relevé and maintain classical academic shapes. "If the arms look sloppy, it's because they're not related to the center line of the torso and where the center line moves during the turn," she says.

Don't start from a static position. "All turns need some initiation in the core of your body," says Parke. "Dancers should start with a coil of the spine, and it should be so tiny that it isn't visible to the naked eye or distorting the preparatory position."

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jacqueline Chang, courtesy of Ailey Extension

Marshall Davis Jr.'s introduction to tap dance began at 10 years old at African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where his father is director, in Miami, Florida. Training began in sneakers and dress shoes that Davis Jr. did his best to get sound out of. "My father was reluctant to invest in tap shoes, because he thought it was likely I would change my mind about dancing," he says. But it didn't take long before Davis Jr.'s passion for tap became undeniable, and his father bought him his first pair of tap shoes. Just one year later, Davis Jr. became the 1989 Florida winner for the Tri-Star Pictures Tap Day contest, a promotion for the movie Tap, starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. Through that experience, a new tap-dancing future was opened.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: Are there good sources to find replacement dance teachers? When I go through standard employment services, I get people who are not properly trained or lack experience.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Reviewing a simple recording of your voice when you're teaching can help you hear how you sound to your students. Taking the time to play back your instructions, corrections and compliments throughout class will help you find any weak spots as well as recognize some of your strengths. It's a great technique to help you evaluate your instructional ability and make improvements, and pat yourself on the back for things you are doing well. Plus, it's super-easy to do!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Including ballet competition standout Alina Taratorin (photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Taratorin)

Congratulations to the 39 talented dancers just named 2020 YoungArts award winners! This year's group of awardees includes several familiar faces from the competition scene.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo by Brian Babineau, courtesy Burghardt

When Alicia Burghardt entered Dean College in Massachusetts as a freshman dance major, it hadn't occurred to her that the Boston Celtics had a dance team. A competition kid with aspirations for Broadway, Burghardt never imagined herself as an NBA dancer. But by the time she was finishing her senior year, she'd not only joined the Celtics Dancers, she was choreographing a number for a major playoff game. And after finishing her rookie year, surrounded on that TD Garden parquet floor by uproarious fans, she couldn't help but stay for another. "It's unbelievable performing for Boston fans," she says. "They're so loyal to their team. It could be third quarter, down 20 points, and they're still cheering."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
"The Greatest Show on Earth." Photo by Brenda Rueb, courtesy of Vona Dance

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

"No formal training. No dance studio. No mentor," says Erik Saradpon about his beginnings in hip hop.

"I think that's why I'm especially tough on these guys, because I don't take the relationship for granted," he says, referring to his students. "I'm like a dad to them. I had a shortage of role models in my life. I wanted that so badly. I project that onto my kids."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From Coppélia. Photo by Toshi Oga, courtesy of MOGA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Nanette Grebe/Getty Images

Have you heard the story about the dancer who needed a double hip replacement…at age 16?

It's not an urban legend—just ask iconic choreographer Mia Michaels. In a video series about dance injuries, produced by Apolla Performance Footwear, Michaels tells the tale of a teenage comp kid who pushed so hard she ended up in surgery.

That dancer's harrowing story was one of the inspirations for the Bridge Dance Project. The new initiative—brainchild of Jan Dunn, co-director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and Kaycee Cope Jones, COO of Apolla—aims to connect members of the competition and commercial dance communities with dance science experts. While many academic and professional concert dancers have benefited from recent advances in dance medicine, that information hasn't made its way to most of the young students in convention ballrooms. And as the technical demands on those students increase, so does the number of injuries.

We talked to Dunn and Jones about how the Bridge Dance Project was born, the initiative's long-term goals, and why young competition and commercial dancers should make injury prevention a priority.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From "Boston—Our City." Photo by Rachel Hassinger, courtesy of BalletRox

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox