Even before 19th century Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani first performed the feat of 32 consecutive fouettés, dancers have known that “spotting"—or whipping the head quickly around during a turn so that the eyes remain focused in the same location—is an essential part of multiple turns.

Spotting keeps a dancer from becoming dizzy during pirouettes, and it also gives turns a certain aesthetic sharpness. Dancers use spotting as a way to balance themselves and keep track of where the body is in space. Most dancers learn to spot when they first learn to execute pirouettes, but there are a few specific points that can improve even an advanced dancer's spotting technique. Here are some tips from the experts to help you teach better turns.


Focus

Vaganova-trained choreographer and teacher Nikolai Kabaniaev stresses that students should focus their eyes when spotting, picking an object on which to concentrate and coming back to it during each revolution. “The entire time, students should really see what is in front of them," he says. Teaching your students to maintain a specific focus will help them orient themselves and improve balance.

Many dancers like to spot their own image in the mirror, but they should be reminded that during a performance, they will need to find other objects on which to focus. It's helpful to have your students practice by picking out specific items to spot, even when working in a mirrored classroom.

Maintain Alignment

According to Dr. Kenneth Laws, professor emeritus of physics at Dickinson College and author of Physics and the Art of Dance, many dancers misguidedly believe that spotting provides the impetus for turning. However, even though it may feel as though whipping the head around one last time helps eke out a final rotation, it is not physically possible for spotting to create enough force for an extra turn.

“In a correct pirouette, you don't move your head from the axis of rotation," Laws explains. “And there's not much you can do to change the rotational momentum or speed with just your head, if it's properly aligned." Although students should relax their necks during a turn so that they have the maximum range of motion from side to side, allowing the head to dip and swoop does not add any momentum to the turn. It's important to correct students who try to “nod" their way into one last pirouette.

Jorge Esquivel, former principal dancer with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and now a teacher at San Francisco Ballet School, tells dancers to choose a focal point that keeps the eyes high, so that the neck is lengthened and straight. If the eyes are cast slightly downward, he says, the head has a tendency to droop forward slightly, throwing off the axis of rotation.

Let the Spot Lead

Esquivel explains that most students do not allow the spot to “lead" the turn; they tend to leave the head behind too long at the start of each revolution. “The turn of the head must not be delayed," he emphasizes. “There must be a strong accent of the head, an attack. Get your dancers to find the spot fast!" If the head stays too long before whipping around, as Esquivel shows by leaving his head until his chin is nearly in line with his shoulder, the neck muscles begin to pull the head back slightly. By attacking the spot, the dancer can more easily keep her vertebrae in line.

If a student's spot seems slow, Kabaniaev suggests the following exercise: Have the student stand on two feet with the arms in front as if she were executing a pirouette. Then ask her to perform three or four turns by taking small steps, concentrating solely on the technique of spotting as she does so, to build correct muscle memory. “You can start with a slower speed and then go faster as the coordination improves," says Kabaniaev.

Keep the Rhythm

“It is important for students to use the spot to keep the rhythm of the turn," Esquivel says. Have your students coordinate their spots with musical beats, if possible, so that their turns begin and end in time with the music.

Esquivel advises teachers to help students choose the pacing of the spot to suit the number of pirouettes. “The spot for one or two pirouettes is very different from the spot for five or six pirouettes," he says. “It varies from student to student, but the dancer must know beforehand the right rhythm and the exact amount of force needed to fit either the slower pirouette or the faster pirouette." Helping your students find that perfect amount of force will allow them to execute multiple turns cleanly and musically.

Show Comments ()
Via Beyoncé's Instagram

This past week, Brianna Bundick-Kelly broke the internet when she posted a video of her dancing Beyoncé's Beychella, only hours after the live performance. The Virginia State University freshman, who's Twitter handle is "Briyonce," told Business Insider that she taught herself the choreography in 40 minutes. For dance teachers, this might seem just like another day at the office–dancers are supposed to pick up choreography fast, right? But Bundick-Kelly gets some serious props for her near flawless slaying of the Queen B's latest moves from a video, a feat she's no stranger to.

Keep reading... Show less
Showstopper's National Finals Opening Number Performance

Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.

Keep reading... Show less
Artists in The Royal Ballet perform The Age of Anxiety. Photo by Joe Plimmer, courtesy of The Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet, under the artistic direction of Kevin O'Hare, will be screening the company's Bernstein Celebration as a part of the Royal Opera House's 2017–18 cinema season April 20–May 20. The program celebrates American composer Leonard Bernstein with work from the company's three associate choreographers, including Liam Scarlett's The Age of Anxiety and new works from Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor. The screenings will be held in movie theaters around the world, with nearly 50 in the United States and Canada.

Keep reading... Show less

Schedules, routines, parents, music and so much more—there's plenty on your plate already. Why mess with the headache of collecting orders and cash if you don't have to? MoveU can take that off of your hands entirely with their Online Stores. Create beautiful one-of-a-kind designs with their designers and watch your store come to life! How much does the set-up cost? Nothing! In fact, you earn 10% back on all orders your dancers make in that store.

How do you start? MoveU has three handy steps to help you begin!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Marueen Straub, left, co-owns the studio with her mother Diane, right.

Last week, the Professional Arts Academy in Edgewater, New Jersey, caught fire, and the entire studio was destroyed.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Tiffany Taylor and her baby Skyler

When dance teacher Tiffany Taylor decided it was time to go back to her job after having her baby, 14-month-old Skyler, she knew she needed to find a way to bring her little one to work with her. At Maria Priadka School of Dance in South Orange, New Jersey, where she teaches, students can't begin taking lessons until they are 2 1/2 years old, so putting Skyler in class while she taught was out of the question. To solve the problem, she decided it was time to create a dance class that both caregivers and babies (from 6 months to 2 years old) could enjoy. Shortly after, Boogie Woogie Babies was born.

During a Boogie Woogie Babies class, moms, dads, nannies and caregivers have the opportunity to bust a move while carrying their snuggly babe on their hip. Taylor says classes are generally based in hip hop and always incorporate fun and lively music for everyone to enjoy.

"We start class sitting in a circle, where we sing songs," Taylor says. "We use scarves and other props while playing games like Ring Around the Rosie to get our bodies moving. Then, everyone will get up and either hold their babies or let them run free if they want to, while I teach the choreography, which is built around their kids. We do a new routine every week with different songs and formations to keep things fun for the 45 minutes I have them in class."

While Taylor teaches Boogie Woogie Babies at Maria Priadka School of Dance every Sunday, she's also traveling to different locations around New Jersey to expand her classes into an entire movement that everyone can experience. "Everyone really enjoys these classes," she says. "We recently had one where 40 students showed up to a class at a local library. The kids were jumping around and loving it!"

If you're interested in learning more about Boogie Woogie Babies, you can follow them on Instagram at @boogiewoogiebabies or Facebook at Boogie Woogie Babies.

Dance News
Because who doesn't want their feet to look as gorgeous as Sara's? (Photo by Christopher Lane)

Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by Paul Goode, courtesy of Bill T. Jones

New York Live Arts, directed by Bill T. Jones of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, is holding an interdisciplinary festival, Live Ideas 2018: Radical Vision, April 18–22, at the New York Live Arts Theater.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored