Beat the Cheat: Combat Incorrect Pirouette Preps With These Targeted Fitness Exercises
As dancers, we all have our vices—those little technique cheats that we know are incorrect, and we try our best to fix whenever we can remember…but at the end of the day, we just can’t seem to banish them for good. After all, these cheats usually appear to help us: They can get our legs higher and our petit allégro a little faster, not to mention help us crank out that one extra rotation in a turn we dream about. Unfortunately, cheating proper technique also sets dancers up for a myriad injuries caused by improper alignment and undue stress on the body.
The good news: Every cheat can be beat. That is, when you know exactly what muscles and mobility pathways you need to strengthen in order to execute the step correctly. To help on that front, Amber Tacy, personal trainer and founder of the dancer-focused fitness community Dancers Who Lift, is here to guide you through a series of exercises designed to help you overcome the most common dancer cheats.
The Cheat: Turning In Your Foot on Preparation for Pirouettes
Equipment You’ll Need: Mini loop, TheraBand, yoga block/chair/step
1. Start in a parallel position, with a neutral spine and braced abs.
2. Slide your dominant foot forward until you end in a forward lunge position with a 90-degree bend in both legs.
3. Imagining there’s now a very low ceiling above you, maintain the bent back leg and slide the front leg through the center position until you reach a reverse lunge, also still with 90-degree bends on both legs.
4. Slide the working leg forward and back, focusing on landing the foot in the same spot and working through the floor with every pass.
5. Perform for 20–30 seconds on one side, then repeat on the other.
1. Start with perfect posture, abs engaged and parallel feet elevated on a block, step or stool (the higher the step, the more challenging the movement).
2. Shift your weight to the standing leg.
3. As you begin to lower the other leg off the step, allow your body to hinge at the hips (the torso may tip forward), and intentionally push the knee of the standing leg forward, past the toes.
4. Take 3–10 seconds to lower until your back leg reaches the floor.
5. Safely reset as you pull back up onto the step or box, resume perfect posture and transfer your weight on to the other leg to repeat the lowering processes.
6. Perform 5–8 reps per side.
Amber’s Note: Don’t allow the front heel to lift off the box. Go slowly, and intentionally move the knee forward over the toes.
Lateral Band Walks
1. Place a looped resistance band just below your knees.
2. Begin standing with feet parallel and directly underneath your hips. Brace your abs, soften your knees, then hinge your hips slightly behind you.
3. Maintaining this position, take a step sideways to the right as far as you can, stepping “up and over” as you move, but without letting your torso lean side to side.
4. Actively resist the pull of the exercise band as you bring your left leg slowly toward your right, returning to the starting position.
5. Step to the right 10–12 times, then reverse direction, stepping to the left 10–12 times. You can also alternate directions one after the other if space is tight!
Amber’s Note: If a dancer is turning their foot in before a pirouette, it likely means they are trying to garner a bit of extra “oomph” before the turn. By strengthening their larger muscles, mainly the hips and glutes, they’ll produce more power than that extra little heel swivel will offer.