Photo by Erin Baiano

4 Strengthening Exercises for Flawless Pirouettes

If there's one thing every dancer is always working on, it's her pirouette. It's no secret that this skill takes years of honing and practice. But in addition to solid technique, perfect pirouettes require a lot of strength. We turned to Roman Zhurbin, soloist with American Ballet Theatre and owner of Roman Empire Fitness, for a breakdown of the best ways to strengthen the muscles used in a pirouette.


All photography by Erin Baiano. Hair and makeup by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc. Modeled by Ava Desiderio.

TheraBand Relevés

Roman's Note: "This exercise strengthens your calves, which are crucial in keeping you up on relevé during a pirouette."

1. Begin standing parallel to the barre, holding it with your right hand. Slightly bend your right knee and keep your left leg straight but not hyperextended, with your left foot planted firmly on the ground and your hips level. Ask a friend or teacher to kneel in front of you and wrap your TheraBand around your left leg, so it hits just above the back of your knee. Have them pull it tightly towards them.

TheraBand Anti-Rotation Press

Roman's Note: "This exercise helps strengthen your lats, which keep you stabilized as you're turning."

1. Tie your TheraBand to the barre, or have a friend or teacher hold it. Hold the two loose ends of the TheraBand and lowly take a few steps to the side, so that tension builds in the band until it's entirely straight. Place your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart.

Single-Leg Bridges

Roman's Note: "This exercise helps strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. If you release your glutes when you're turning, you'll fall out of your pirouettes."

1. Begin on your back with your legs hip-width apart, your knees bent, and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Keep your arms by your sides, with your palms facing down.

Exercise-Ball Transfer

Roman's Note: "This exercise is a killer abdominal workout. A strong core keeps you aligned and stable during a pirouette."

1. Begin on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Place an exercise ball between your lower legs, gripping it with your ankles. Extend your arms straight up to the ceiling.



A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Pirouette Perfectors."

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search