There is something mesmerizing about a dancer catapulting themselves onto one leg and turning two, three, five, or ten times. It’s sensational, yet not terribly rare. Ballet companies across the board expect dancers to have no trouble whipping out three or more pirouettes in class and onstage. Youtube videos of students facing off in pirouette contests, or prima ballerinas in the midst of a sparkling coda, instantly grab our attention. Feats like these make it hard to believe that merely rising to pointe for an instant was once considered an act of virtuosity.
No discussion of amazing pirouettes would be complete without Sofaine Sylve of San Francisco Ballet in an excerpt of The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitudes by William Forsythe followed her super-human fouettes from The Nutcracker coda:
For those of us who secretly rejoice in a successful completion of a clean double pirouette, this can all be incredibly discouraging. As a dancer who has struggled to capture the elusive coordination and sensation of turning, I have sought advice and tried countless approaches to ease my way in to this exclusive club of “turners”. I have been given all manner of images and tools, ranging from imagining being in a swimming pool of goo to floating on a cloud. Trying to think of every correction and tool at once resulted in my body becoming confused, and left me feeling frustrated. At the age of twenty-two, I have finally found strategies that work for my turns.