Tips from Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel from The Ballet Companion
Pirouette Tips from Gillian Murphy
Don’t move your front heel before you turn.
Push off with both legs, but keep your weight forward.
Relevé strongly and quickly. Pull up from the back of the leg right under your buttocks to get on your supporting leg.
Use your spot. Free the head and relax the upper body.
Good turns come from your work throughout the barre and center, especially from pliés, relevés and petit allegro.
You know both a good and a bad turn immediately, and in a bad turn, you know to cut your losses. A good turn feels easy.
Don’t sacrifice form. There’s no point to lots of turns without form. In fact, everyone just wants them to stop.
There’s a smaller turning surface when turning on pointe, but not much difference in placement. You feel higher off the ground.
You gain mastery through repetition—but not repetition of your mistakes. Make sure to practice correctly.
Pirouette Tips from Ethan Stiefel
Learn to turn first. Form is important, but it comes later. Get the coordination of the spot first, and then clean up your position.
There’s a moment of stillness essential to the preparation of a turn. For me, it’s at the outset in fifth position, before the quick rond de jambe into fourth. Power and momentum in the pirouette actually originate in that moment.
Relax and exhale so you can float through your turn.
Get to retiré position quickly. I prefer a high retiré above the knee, but there isn’t necessarily one perfect position.
Success in a turn depends on a strong center. Strength and calmness come from your center; when doing air turns, it’s your only friend.
There are turns, there are pirouettes and then there are spins. Don’t squeeze out an extra pirouette onstage; don’t throw in the ugly one.
The music decides when a turn is done, and the turn decides for itself; its momentum tells you to finish.
My favorite pirouettes are plain old pirouettes en dehors in retiré. It’s a perfect position. There’s a reason we turn in this position. Clean never goes out of style.
Turns en dehors felt natural to me, but en dedans did not. What helped was a change in attitude. Don’t think of turning as a numbers thing. Do the right thing to set yourself up and let it happen.
Repetition is the key. To improve your turns, practice them over and over again.