Just the musings of a small-town professional ballerina, business owner, wife, and beagle mama as she attempts to make it through this thing called life.

May 8, 2015

Tricks of the Trade: 5 Steps to Better On-Stage Turns

Remember when you were a kid and you first stepped on stage in full costume, makeup, with the bright stage lights and full theatre before you? That first disorienting moment when you almost can't determine which way is up or connect your brain to your legs is one we've all experience and one we won't forget. My first time really experiencing that sensation was at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine, performing as a Little Ribbon Candy in Maine State Ballet's The Nutcracker. I burst out from underneath Mother Ginger's skirt and was overwhelmed by the vast, curving theatre, bright lights nearly blinding me, and not really any particular place to look to straighten out my senses. The stage can be an overwhelming place and you never know how your body will react to such uncertain and heavy circumstances.

That fear comes along for many with on-stage turns, one of the only things you can almost never be 100% certain about. Sometimes they're spot on (no pun intended) and sometimes they're just not. How can we cleanse oursevles of the fear of disorientation and truly conquer those turns so we're not overwhelmed when we have hardly anywhere to spot nor a firm sense of balance?
Copyright Rhiannon Pelletier Photography
Lizzy Dragoni in Maine State Ballet's "The Firebird"

1. Practice. You've heard it a thousand times and honestly, it makes sense. How can we expect to execute a perfect turn sequence on stage if we can't get it in rehearsal?

2. Figure out what level you spot at (high, low, eye-level), and find something to spot in on-stage rehearsals. Before the drama of the lights and dark auditorium hits you, find the perfect place to spot during your turns and return back to that place in between every rotation.

3. Do as much practicing with stage lights as possible. Every dancer knows that they can be slightly disorienting. The more comfortable you get with stage lighting, the easier turning with them will be.

Copyright Rhiannon Pelletier Photography
Lizzy Dragoni in Maine State Ballet's "The Firebird"

4. Rehearse in costume as many times as possible! When it's an opportunity for us dancers to rehearse in costume, I always take it. Even if that means using a rehearsal tutu/skirt. Costumes can throw you off tremendously, particularly in turns. You need to learn how to use the costume as a tool and work with it.

5. Calm down. Yes, I said it. Take a deep breath, stop stressing about that triple, and just do what you do best. It's important to remember that if it's not perfect, it's not the end of the world. How amazing is it that the simple pirouette, a signature movement of the ballerina, is one of the most difficult and uncertain things to execute. Personally, and I'm sure this is true in most cases, I turn better when I calm the heck down, imagine I'm just in class doing pirouettes that I do every day, and just go for it.

There you have it! Give it a whirl.
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