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."

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