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.

Latest Posts


Martha Graham Dance Company's Xin Ying (James Jin, courtesy Ying)

How to Dance Outside

We've all been stubbing our toes and whacking our elbows dancing in less-than-roomy indoor spots lately (hello, 5' x 8' patch of bathroom tile). If you're lucky enough to have access to a backyard or other big green space right now, you're probably itching to take your grand allegro outside, especially as the weather gets warmer. But how can you dance safely and productively in the great outdoors? We got pro tips from Mike Tyus of Jacob Jonas The Company and Xin Ying of Martha Graham Dance Company, both of whom were dancing outside long before COVID-19 hit.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Kendall Moshay competing at Youth America Grand Prix (VAM Photo, courtesy Kendall)

Here's How to Keep Your Competition Solo Performance-Ready While Quarantining

When you're bored in the house (and you're in the house bored), Nationals can feel like a dream that might never come true. But Kendall Moshay, Hollywood Vibe's Intermediate Dancer of the Year 2019, knows that now is the time to make like a Girl Scout and be prepared: "Sooner or later, everything will go back to normal—and you don't want to be left behind." Here are some top tips to keep your competition solo totally stage-ready, even when you couldn't be farther from a stage.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Congrats to Our 2020 Dance Grad Cover Stars!

We're thrilled to be honoring members of the great Dance Class of 2020 on special digital covers. One new cover star will be revealed every day during the month of May. Take a look at our winners so far below—we'll be updating the list daily. And if you're a 2020 high school or college dance senior, enter here from now through May 31st for your chance to be on the cover!

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search