Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Turn Anxiety

Leigh Purtill very kindly left a comment on my blog a few weeks ago where she mentioned the idea of petit allegro and pirouette anxiety.   Thankfully, my petit allegro anxiety seems to be fading!  Lately, I find myself just doing it.  As long as it's all steps I know, I can now stay on the music and not get lost!  And sometimes my feet even look good.  (Although there was a combination recently that went something like: sauté arabesque, faille, glissade, jeté, ballonné to retiré, assemblé forward...and I was like, WTF is a ballonné?? I had never done one before.  That wasn't so fun.)

However, my pirouette anxiety is really ratcheting up.  It's so frustrating that everything else in my technique has gotten so much better, but my turns are lagging so far behind.  It's gotten so bad that I'm getting increasing comments about it from my teachers and peers.  Like several teachers have said that all my partial pirouettes (with sustained balances at the end!) are well placed and pulled up and whatnot, but when it comes to a full turn, I get all weird and twisty and lose everything.  I had lunch with my ballet friend after class recently, and she said "You are getting quite good, but you really can't turn!  I was watching you, and your face and body get SO tense when you have to do a pirouette.  I've never seen you look so freaked out."

Sigh.  I don't really know what to do about it.  And I can feel it as it's happening.  I kind of freeze, which makes it impossible to use my plié or properly hold my back because my shoulders start getting super tense and it's just awful.  I hope if I practice at home, I can get more comfortable and get out of my head.  Sometimes I think, this sucks that I can't do this right...it's been more than a whole year!  But other times I think, it's okay that this sucks...it's only been a bit more than a year.

A recent pirouette combination that I loved and did well except for the actual pirouette:
3 Ballet walks, fondu arabesque, pas de bourrée, pas de cheval, pique sous-sus, chassé forward, fondu attitude back, pas de bourreé, tendu croisé, en dedans pirouette turn from fourth.


  1. I think we have a similar pirouette problem - pulled up partial pirouettes but complete turns just aren't there. And I think the anticipation of the pirouette is the worst part, as I can feel myself tensing up or feeling somehow *different* than if the goal is just a passe releve balance or a half pirouette. I get pretty frustrated about it too, but those times when I see some improvement make it all worthwhile. As for causes of it, at least in my case I think spotting (or forgetting to) may be the culprit, or possibly losing the turnout in the supporting leg.
    Ballonnes are tough in the beginning, but they can become so much fun after a while. That's great that petit allegro has been getting better for you!

    1. Yes, that's exactly how I feel about them too! I also wonder if a cause could be that I think we b oth seem to be overthinkers and analyze every little thing? My friends who are good at turns, sort of shrug and say, it's only a single turn, you have to be easy and light with it...and you sort of just do it. And I'm all like, WHAT DO YOU MEAN (and my hands tense into claws)!!!

      Actually though, pirouettes went way better in class yesterday. I was really tired and a bit hungover (and had taken class the night before and a flexibility private right before class), and all the things I am usually good at went terribly, but turns went better. And I wondered if it was because I was too tired to be tense. Or maybe writing this has helped me exorcise some of my demons?

  2. I notice I have similar problems as you with pirouettes. Really solid quarter and half turns, but something changes with a full turn. I notice I don't always straighten and hold my supporting leg and tend to hop to finish. I almost always get a correction that I tense my shoulders and my arms are too high. I know that all of these things happen because I've mentally separated the half turns from a full one as if they were really different things. I've felt what it feels like to do a solid full pirouette and it feels really different than what my body wants to do (shrink and freak out). It feels so much more confident. But it's getting better as I try to take pressure off myself when I go across the floor. I really try to have an "I don't care" attitude and that can help. Or I just focus on ONE aspect of the turn, like my turn out or my passe or only my arms. Wish you the best as you continue your journey!!

    1. Thank you! It is reassuring to know there are others who feel this way. Going to try a more confident attitude! Here's to turning in 2016 :)

  3. Okay...a few thoughts~
    1. Inhale on the demi-plie and exhale on the turn itself. The reverse increases your anxiety.
    2. Keep in mind the *shape* you are turning in and visualize that en releve (e.g. arms in a held middle 5th/1st position) and a firm retire (don't allow any space between your toe and knee).
    3. Allow the turn to end at the 3/4 mark and finish with a soft fondu to 4th or 5th, rather than a hop down.

    There are a ton of things to consider in a pirouette, of course, but these are a few that can be helpful.


    1. Thanks as always for the tips! Number 2 is the hardest for me. It's like I KNOW that a snapshot of every position of the turn should be in that retire shape, but I feel like I don't trust that I'll get around, so I start doing weird things with my placement...