Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dancing In Pointe Shoes - Building Strength For Strong Pirouettes

Get a detailed dancer's guide on dancing in pointe shoes, The Perfect Pointe Book. It will help you perfect the following issues.

With some students, all their pirouettes get thrown off balance. And with others, it is just one side that doesn't work as well. 2 things to observe are:

  • one side back/hip/leg muscles are weaker than the other side, when it is the supporting side
  • therefore you are also weaker in your demi plie just before the turn and rise slightly off balance and don't have the exact strength needed to recover just by gripping your position.

Here are some more things to examine:

  • When you are standing in fifth position, check to see where you compensate. Anyone who does not have 180 degree turnout from the hips, compensates.
  • To have the front leg looking turned out, the hips are usually a bit less than square. With muscles gripping to maintain the look of a square position, there will be extra tension in the muscles of your weaker side that may never be properly released. Therefore those muscles will be weaker.
  • Improperly gripped muscles are not stronger, but weaker. The muscle tone has to be maintained with proper stretching and relaxation.

So after you have checked your fifth position, slowly demi plie and see if anything changes:
  • for example, weight shifting onto one foot more than the other 
  • turnout changing on the leg that you anticipate becoming the supporting leg
  • sole of the foot tension changing in either foot
  • any visible tilt in the shoulders or hip levels.

Then rise up into your pirouette position in super slow motion. Have a friend watch you. See exactly what other adjustments, if any, occur.

Sometimes it takes a few times to notice what is adjusting, that is going to throw
off your balance.

Also take note that once something has adjusted to correct a weakness, your neck may not be as relaxed for spotting as it should be on your weaker side. This will add to your being throwing off.

Once you've figured out what is going wrong, you need to practice the super-slow-motion demi plie and rise onto the pirouette position, repeatedly, to establish new muscular habits.

If it is a hip level problem, do your pirouettes with a lower retire for
a while, until you get that placement retrained. Presumably you are doing the usual turns in class, and you would see a gradual improvement if you do these suggested exercises.

Exercises for pre-pointe, to strengthen the feet/ankles/ legs etc., for pointe work, will bring to light any weaknesses that need to be addressed for anything more advanced.

These will cover all the rises, positions, and balance needed for pirouettes as well. The basic necessity of turnout, back and other torso muscle strength that is referred to in pre-pointe exercises, is the same necessity that your overall development requires to be fulfilled.

Understanding the mechanics of good dance technique prevents injury and places your development more into your own hands.

The Perfect Pointe Book gives extensive training info, anatomy info, and self-assessment and home practice regimens to build strength for dancing in pointe shoes.

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