Pirouettes are such a reveal in pole. They weed out the polers from the pole DANCERS, in my book.
It never stops being shocking for me seeing advanced tricksters perform stilted, stuttering pirouettes. They race through them and seem a little panicked before getting back into their comfort zone (insanely difficult pole tricks that make pirouettes look like baby stuff), but the impression is made.
So why are so many incredible pole dancers struggling with pirouettes?
A few hypotheses:
- Racing to the good stuff. Pirouettes are considered “fillers,” so the averaged jazzed new poler will want to skip over them and get to the more impressive, upside down stuff.
- Balance confusion. Most spins in pole require being OFF balance (ie. letting hips pull to the side to generate momentum/centrifugal force, etc etc). This doesn’t work so well with pirouettes (but I’ll get back to that in a minute).
- Spotting confusion. Where am I looking? Fuck it, let’s do something else.
- One too many banged elbows and knees. See the above conclusion.
- Inability to relinquish control and relax. I mean this is a sport that requires full body death grips on the pole so like… relaxing into a tension free, friction free turn with no push/pulls can be freaky.
Whoops, that was more than a few, but oh well. Let’s talk pirouettes–off the pole.
It wasn’t until I attempted a little ballet that my pirouettes on the pole stopped confounding me. This is not a coincidence. I fully believe that to be able to do a pretty pirouette on the pole, you need to be able to at least stand still in a pirouette position without holding onto anything (ie. a position you’ll end up in at any ballet class ever).
No seriously, try it. Stand with one leg in passe (bent, toes touching the standing leg at the knee, either parallel or a little turned out, do you). Then rise up onto the ball of your standing leg. Hold.
Can you do it?
Are you annoyed if you can’t, but you think “If I only had a pole, I could totally do this, just let me hop on really quick”?
NO, bad poler!! BAD!
Here’s why you can do it on the pole and not free standing: your ass is cheating.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, you have no incentive to continue to cheat because the signs of your cheatish cheating are obvious, so you might as well, like, not do it.
The ugly truth: if you’re cheating pirouettes (ie. relying on your pole), your standing leg is probably bent. Your supporting arm is probably supporting you WAY too much (ie. half your weight is on it and it shows in your shoulder). Your body is likely not fully centered over your standing leg, but rather slightly to the side–your comfy, familiar spin position. You might be SURVIVING your pirouettes but they feel unpredictable, uneven, out of control, and you might even dread them a bit, not knowing how they’ll go at the crucial moment.
Let’s fix that!
Assuming you know the basics of how pirouettes work, let’s do some quick trouble shooting:
- Straighten up. Practice this off the pole, and correct your form in the mirror. Your hips should be even (one hip not higher than the other), abs should be in tight, chest and head lifted and aligned as though pulled on a string. Now lift a leg into passe. Got that? Try to rise up onto your toes.
- Spot. I had a pole teacher once instruct me to look at the pole for a spot, and it works for me. As you go into your pirouette glance at the pole and lock your eyes there until the last possible minute. Whip your head around and look for the pole again. Try to do this at eye level (not up or down) to help keep your alignment.
- Practice letting go mid turn. Is your weight centered? Let go of the pole and find out! A good drill for pirouettes is to use the “waiter” hand on the pole to initiate the turn and the release that hand for the turn. Were you able to complete it? If not, what happened? Which side did you wobble to? Work to identify and correct your weight imbalances. It’s worth a little practice, I swear.
- Lean a bit forward. Another trick from an old pole teacher: if you must lean, lean forward as you begin a piroutte–not from one side or another. I don’t know why this works, but it does, especially if you’re performing multiple pirouettes.
- GET ON YOUR LEG. Sorry for screaming, but that’s the only way to deliver that sentence, right? Whenever I’m wobbling a bit I give myself this directive (which is short hand, in my mind, for centering your weight, straightening your leg, and pushing through that leg to pull your upper body up). It almost instantly helps to tell myself this. Magic? Who knows.
Do you struggle with pirouettes or love them?
I hated them (I always felt out of control) until I knew I would be tested on them for my teacher training. Then I drilled the shit out of them (with the above tips in mind) and almost never have a problem with sticking or falling out of them now. Muscle memory is real!!!
Do you have different tricks or tips than me? Or just not give a rat’s ass about these things? Let’s talk.