Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spotting For Pirouettes Correctly

Spotting is the technique used by ballet dancers to avoid dizziness while doing multiple turns. In ballet classes, and in theaters, dancers will find a "spot" that they can see, and upon which they will focus throughout, for example, the 32 fouettes performed in Swan Lake by the ballerina, or a series of turns a la seconde by the male dancer.

When you reach the point in ballet training where turns are added to your class exercises, often spotting will be taught first.

Imagine a child spinning, just for the joy of it. Children will do this until they are too dizzy to stay upright, and then they will collapse. In the dance studio, the same playful spin can be done. With one difference.

Choosing a spot on the wall, which could be a picture of a famous ballerina, or whatever decoration the dance teacher may have chosen to inspire her/his students, a dance student can spin while focusing on the spot.

In slow motion, as the dancer spins away from the front, or corner of the studio as it may be, she or he leaves their head behind, focusing on the spot. At the last possible moment, the dancer whips the head around to regain focus before the body reaches the front again.

That is spotting. Within the requirements of ballet technique a few points are added.

The head must not incline. The entire body posture of a retire position, or an a la seconde position, must not be influenced by the head staying behind to remain focused on the spot. Same for a turn in arabesque or attitude.

Usually, chainee turns are the first ones learned. Remaining in first position, the entire body position must be held while the dancer spots.

This achievement then assumes that the core and turnout muscles are well held. The arms remain in a fifth en avant or slightly over - crossed position, and the NECK IS RELAXED, allowing the head to spot, without inclination.

A modern, jazz or hip hop dancer does the same.

Image: many years ago I watched Helgi Thomason give dancer Victor Edwards a correction in class. He said something like "imagine your body is spinning underneath your head, which just stays looking at the front".

That's spotting.

Every dancer needs to accomplish proper spotting before dancing in pointe shoes. The most subtle errors in posture, turnout, and basic ballet positions will be exaggerated once you are en pointe. Be prepared for dancing in pointe shoes by getting a professionally written guide specific for pointe shoe exercises.

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