Troubleshooting Pirouettes

West Coast Swing Online Spins & Turns

The previous post in this series covered the fundamentals of pirouette turns. This post will look at a number of common ways that a pirouette turn can go wrong, along with suggestions for troubleshooting the issue.

You are throwing yourself onto your supporting leg. If your body is moving horizontally when you start your spin, that horizontal momentum has to go somewhere, and that’s when your center moves away from your supporting leg. To fix this issue, start with your weight on the three toe base of your supporting leg and gather the free leg to your ankle, rather than pushing from the non-supporting leg to the supporting leg.

You are rolling to the outside edge of your foot. Rolling to the outside of the foot can cause everything from falling off balance to slowing your turn. The outside edge of the foot is not stable, and putting weight on the outside edge of the foot functions like a brake, slowing your turn. To fix this problem, make sure you are balanced on your three toe base before starting the turn, and work on your ankle strength to support yourself over the three toe base.

You are throwing your arms around. It’s tempting to throw your arms around the body in order to create power, but that only pulls you off balance. When closing your arms, they should both meet almost directly in front of your belly button. If your arm is crossing your torso, you are pulling your center away from your supporting leg.

You are slumping forward. A solid, upright posture is necessary to keep your weight over your axis of rotation. If you pitch forward, your head (which is about 10% of your body weight) is suddenly pulling you off balance. You can fix this issue by focusing on maintaining good posture throughout the turn.

Your knees are locked. Locking your knees makes you wobbly and unstable. As you spin, think about softening the knee without dropping into a bend. You want to be able to use the knee as a shock absorber and adjuster.

Your core is too loose. A loose core makes it difficult to keep the body as a whole centered over the supporting leg. Fix this issue by engaging your core muscles as you prep for the spin, and staying engaged until you step out of the spin at the end of your rotation.

Your free leg is flailing. A free leg that moves all over can easily shift your center of balance enough to make you totter. This issue can be fixed by deliberately drawing the free foot to the ankle of the supporting leg and keeping the foot in contact with the ankle throughout the turn.

Your heel is dragging. If you let the heel of the supporting foot touch the ground, it acts as a brake. Make sure that you keep your weight over the three toe base and your heel slightly above the ground. This issue might be a sign that you need to work on your ankle strength, or you may be shifting your center and moving to the heel to compensate. If the problem is your centering, see if you can fix the underlying reason that your center is not remaining in place.

You are rocking from toe to heel and back. This might be a balance or ankle strength issue, but it could also be a way to cheat the last part of the turn if you don’t have enough power. Check that your upper body is prepped correctly and that you are pushing the three toe base into the ground throughout the spin. If you can keep your weight pinned to a very small part of your shoe, you’ll find that you don’t need much power to make it around.

Your head is pulling you off balance. If the timing on your spotting is off, you can be tilting the head when you turn instead of keeping the head level as you rotate your neck. Practice doing baby steps around as you spot and notice what your range of motion is for your neck. You should be able to flip your head without adding any tilt.

You are rotating too far. The first thing to do is dial down the amount of power in your prep—use less contrabody, a softer close of the arms, and less abrupt unwinding from the core. Ideally, you should be able to gauge your energy so that you run out of juice just as you face the direction you want to stop. On occasion, it is okay to put down the heel of the supporting leg or part of the free foot in order to act as a brake. However, if you need to do so on every spin, you are giving yourself too much juice.

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