I’ve recently begun on the adventure that is TikTok, which meant yet another channel that I needed to try and get inspiration for. I’ve been trying to get out 4-5 videos a week to keep hope of dancing continuing alive. So far it’s been going ok. I’m not viral yet, though! As I’ve been learning about TikTok I’ve been finding that the brief structure of the videos, ranging from 15-60 seconds, doesn’t leave much room for explanation. I recently made a little video about to improve turns, just going through basic points that will help start your turning progress. But it needed a bit more padding out, which is what I’ll be doing down below! There are a lot more tips to consider when turning but that would take an age to note down (and may also put me out of a job), so I’ll just be going through the points I mentioned in the video.
Tip One that I go through is all about the take off. Before you turn you need to bend your knees. For a normal Jazz Turn, you’ll want to bend both knees to start. Some will prefer a bouncy plié, where you bend right before take off, others may prefer a smoother bend. When doing a bouncy bend be sure that you can control it properly and push your weight into the right part of the foot immediately, too forwards or back and you’re likely to wobble during the first rotation and not hold the balance. When opting for a smoother bend work on transferring the that your legs are storing up into the take off. Think of it as a spring the harder it is to push down on a spring, the more propulsion it will have when you stop pushing. Both ways have their pro’s and their cons so it is useful to try and get good a both plié techniques, because the choreographer or teacher may choose different styles for different dances or genres.
Tip Two is all about that power transference. From the knee bend position you want to pull into a high releve. I try to teach my dancers to pull the front leg up and back slightly. I do this for two reasons; posture and balance. The former of these, posture, is something that I don’t tend to let them in on for this step. But the higher they are able to releve on the leg I find the more they pull up the shoulders and hold their heads high. The latter, balance, I routinely come back to. Balance for turns is crucial, the longer you can balance the longer you can turn. Pulling up and back with the supporting leg will place that balance point directly below your centre of gravity, making your turn less wobbly when it is just getting started. The higher you releve the better the balance will be too, although students always claim that it isn’t! When you pull up onto the supporting toes you are engaging the calf muscle a lot more (for evidence take a look at the video about 10 seconds in, I releve at the side and you can see the change in my calf muscle). An engage muscle is working for you, aiding (or resisting) the movement that you want to do. In a turn you need to calf muscle to be working for you as it will help to stabilise any wobbles, assisting the ankle in reducing the impact that will have on your balance. I also believe it makes it easier as it also makes it harder. That was paradoxical sentence so let me explain; when the heel is close to the ground it is so easy to just bail out of any turn by just popping that heel down, the more the heel is elevated the harder it becomes to bail so the more committed you need to be to the turn. I would describe a turn with the heel down low as a lazy turn, you’re not showing anyone how much you want the turn to work. Therefore the turn just isn’t happening, in short, you’d just need to work harder.
Tip Three is one that I am always correcting students on, their knee placement. They NEVER want to lift there knee and keep it there. I get it, it’s hard. But so is dance. There may be a turn in a choreographic piece that requires a lower knee but for general technique, the knee should be at 90 for as long as possible. This means it needs to get there quickly and stay for as long as it can. I like to liken this to a sail on a boat, although that really doesn’t mean anything for context. Honestly the main reason I want students to have their leg at 90 is because then they all look neat and together. At 90 we can see the all have the knee at hip level, at any other level they all look like they’re different because of leg height. It also need to stay there because if it lowers it starts to look sloppy and neatness comes into this again, it’s the knee is lowering, they need to all do it at the same time.
Tip Four can take dancers a little while to master, that’s the whip of the head. We call this spotting and is used in every single turn that you do in dance, whether the spot remains the same or changes throughout. Essentially you want to keep your head (and eyes) looking towards the same place throughout your turn. This means that your body and head will need to move independently from each other. When you’re in a position where your neck cannot twist anymore, it’s time to whip the head around and get back to the spot as quickly as you can. Practice this by doing lots of little turns on the spot just shuffling the feet round and round. It’s likely you’ll find it easier to spot the head in one direction, just keep practicing both ways. Pick out a spot that is at eye level, choosing a spot to high or low will effect your balance and therefore make it harder to turn. The main purpose of spotting is to decrease how dizzy you get from turning.
Tip Five is to keep the arms strong and where they should be throughout the whole turn. This is another muscle engagement tip, by keeping the arms in position you are ensuring that your arms are ‘thinking’. They can respond to your balance changes and help counteract but mainly they are there for aerodynamics. This is a complicated subject, but in short having them in a good position will help with your turning, allowing you to glide around easier.
Tip Six, by now if you’ve mastered the above you’re likely to have a pretty solid turn, but you need to practice on both sides. Yes, that’s right, I want doubles and triples on each side. Dancers shouldn’t be these one-sided creatures that we so desperately want to be. Being able to turn on both sides makes you more valuable to choreographers and more versatile. Also it means us teachers don’t have to constantly hear “but I can’t turn on that side”! Just keep practicing, yes you’ll still have a preference over which side you want to turn, but at least you won’t have a BAD side.