Ah, fouetté turns: They can make even a veteran ballerina shake in her pointe shoes. Performing a seamless series of perfectly placed fouettés requires both strength and finesse. Struggling to get to 32? Dance instructor Stephanie Kaiser Green from Eleanor's School of Dance and other studios in Albany, NY, told us her 10 best tips for improving fouettés.
Close Your Ribs
During fouetté sequences, "many dancers let their ribs splay open in front," Green says, which throws off their alignment. "I tell them to think about wearing a corset, so their rib cage stays closed."
It's important to keep your body straight up and down in any turn, but especially while you're doing fouettés. Imagine a pole running down the center of your body, from the top of your head through your supporting leg and foot.
Rotate Your Hips
Achieving a clean second position during a fouetté is impossible if your turnout isn't coming from the hip. "If you think about rotating from deep within your hip, and focus on drawing the heel of the working leg forward, you'll engage correctly through your hamstring instead of gripping your quad," Green says.
Don't Hyperextend Your Arms
With most of the focus on your lower half, it's easy to neglect your arms during fouettés. "Many dancers hyperextend their arms in the back, swinging them behind their torso every time they plié," Green says. "Then they have a lot more to pull back in as they relevé."
Use Your Peripheral Vision
To make sure your arms and working leg are hitting the correct position each turn, Green advises using your peripheral vision. "Even when they open in second, the arms and working leg should stay a little bit in front of you," she says, which will help you stay on your leg.
Properly placed arms will also help you gain momentum during fouettés. "Think about pulling your supporting side arm in quickly," Green recommends, which will bring your body around with more force and ease the burden on your legs.
Work on Your Balance—Everywhere
One of the keys to perfect fouettés is great balance, something that's only achievable through practice. Green suggests practicing constantly, whether you're warming up before class or in line at Starbucks. Rise to relevé on one leg, focusing on holding the balance, with good turnout, for as long as you can. Then switch legs.
Take a Pilates Class
Green is a huge fan of pilates. It's great for strengthening your center, which is essential for turning. "Pilates is focused on core training, so any Pilates exercise is going to be good for your turns in general," Green says.
Build Your Strength
Being able to survive 32 fouettés is as much about strength as it is about technique. Here's Green's go-to exercise for building fouetté-specific strength: Stand by a wall with your right leg in second. Plié deeply and then stretch up through relevé. Do 15 reps, and then repeat to the other side.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "