Technique Tip Tuesday:
How to practice spotting to improve your pirouettes, chaînés, and turns of all kinds!
By Lynn Bobzin
One of the first things many of my dance students beg to practice in dance classes is turns. Pirouettes, chaînés, piqué turns, fouetté…the list goes on and on. Dancers love the feeling of spinning. A whirling body in motion requires strength, control, balance and alignment in all the right places. However, one of the most important aspects of turning is also one of the most easily forgotten, and that is spotting.
So what exactly is spotting?
Spotting is a term dancers use when turning to describe the focus of the eyes. Spotting is finding a fixed focal point in in front of the dancer for his/her eyes to lock onto in order to keep the dancer’s place. Effective spotting can help minimize dizziness after multiple turns.
A favorite book of mine on ballet vocabulary is the “Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet” by Gail Grant. According to Grant, spotting is “a term given to the movement of the head and focusing of the eyes in pirouettes, déboulés, fouetté, rond de jambe, en tournant and so on. In these turns the dancer chooses a spot in front and as the turn is made away from the spot, the head is the last to leave and the first to arrive as the body completes the turn. This rapid movement or snap of the head gives the impression that the face is always turned forward and prevents the dancer from becoming dizzy” (p 113).
Ways to Practice:
Place a small sticker or picture on the wall at your eye level or slightly above eye level. Face your spot marker stand a few feet away, and using small steps, slowly begin turning your body with your eyes focused on the spot. As your body continues to turn, keep looking at the spot over your shoulder. Before your body completes the turn, whip your head around to find the spot with your eyes again. Let your body complete the turn, once again facing forwards.
TIP: Remember to keep your body turning at the same speed. Resist the urge to speed up your body during the turn when your head whips around. Your head must always make it back to the front first!
Check out the video tutorial that demonstrates this exercise here.
Once you feel comfortable with spotting, you can begin to use your plié, relevé and snap to your passé for beginning turns. Start with quarter turns, changing your focus with each new facing. For example, when practicing a quarter turn, place a spot on the wall you begin facing as well as the wall you finish facing, making sure you turn your head from one spot to the other without allowing your gaze to linger in between the two. Work your way up to half turns, and before you know it you are on your way to singles, doubles, triples, and more!
Of course practicing at home can never replace the benefits of regular technique classes. If you are interested in learning more about turns or improving your turning skills, a Ballet, Jazz, or Lyrical class would be great to try! Class descriptions can be found on our website and it’s never too late to register for the dance class that is right for you.
Keep practicing your spotting technique, and you will see great improvement in those turns!
Grant, Gail. Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet. Dover, 1982.
DanceTutorialsLIVE. “JAZZ DANCE TUTORIAL: Spotting A Turn | Beginner Pirouette Pt 1 Technique w/ Dana Alexa.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltpwOaa5P6Q.