Introduction: Pirouettes for the Beginning Ballerina

For many of us who are just beginning ballet, we often desire to skip the bar work and fast forward to the fun stuff--the spinning, the pirouette(essentially a 360 degree turn) on pointe or demi-pointe. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to accomplish a pirouette in proper form. This exercise will focus specifically on a pirouette en dehor (meaning outwards and clockwise). 

A key tip for any ballet move that involves spinning is this: Always spot--meaning you should pick a point of reference before your spin that your eyes can come back to. Whether it be a spot or crack on the wall, focus your eyes there at the beginning of your turn and bring your head back to that same spot at the end of the turn. You don't want to get dizzy!

*This tutorial will be geared towards those with a basic working knowledge of ballet terminology. 

Step 1: Step 1. Begin in Fifth Position

To begin a pirouette en dehor, we must begin with our feet in fifth position.  Start with your right foot in front this time. The feet should be as close to parallel as possible--not overexerting the body--with your right toes touching your left heel, and your left toes touching your right heel. 

*If you are not able to bring your feet to a parallel position, then that is perfectly fine. Do what you can without straining the muscles or joints.

The arms must be held in first position. Keep the arms rigid and curved. They will act as your source of balance through the spin of the pirouette. First position arms can be seen in the photo, curved in front of the body and held level with the center of the rib cage.

Step 2: Step 2. Step to Second Position

When stepping from the fifth to the second position, leave the left foot (back foot) in place, and step the right foot (front foot) directly to the side. The right foot should remain on pointe and extended straight to the side so the hips are open.

This will put you in a wide stance with your right foot extended past the line of the shoulders and pointing outward. Your body and hips should still be facing forward and should not move when you transfer positions.

*Again, the left foot remains in place.

The arms should also move into second position simultaneously and in rhythm as the feet do. Do this by fully extending them out to the side of your body and holding them level with the top of the rib cage as your right foot slides out to the side.

Step 3: Step 3. Step to Fourth Position

Now, still keeping your left leg in place, ron de jambe (circle the leg) the right foot back while keeping the foot on pointe and gently gliding across the floor. The toes of the right foot should be in line with the heel of the left foot upon completion of the ron de jambe. This is fourth position. Keep your feet parallel and leave the left and right leg slightly bent once in fourth position.

*Bent legs are important because they will allow you the power to push off and gain the necessary momentum to pivot. 

*Fourth position looks like fifth position, but with the feet spaced apart.

The right arm should also move forward to the front of the chest (remaining slightly curved), while the left arm remains in place and outstretched to the side. Again, the arms should begin and end their movement at the same time as the legs. 

Step 4: Step 4. the Spin

At all times during the turn, the arms should be held firmly in first position (same as the beginning position). The pirouette is one continuous movement.
* Only push hard enough off of your back foot to make one full turn. The back and body should stand erect without falling forward. 

Use your back foot to pivot and push off of the floor, coming up to pointe or demi-pointe on the left foot. Your right foot should slide up your left leg and rest just below the front of your left knee, in passe, as you begin to turn en dehor. Hold this passe position for the duration of the pirouette.

*Remember: this is all one continuous motion and as soon as your back foot pushes off the floor, you should begin to turn towards the leg that is in passe (in this case, the right leg, so the turn is clockwise). 

If done correctly, your body will have spun a full 360 degrees around and be facing your spotting point. 

Step 5: Step 5. the Final Pose

There are many different ways to land a pirouette. For this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to land in an extended version of the  fourth position.

Upon completing your spin, lower the left and right heels so they meet with the floor at the same time. You do not want to slam your feet down. Instead, you should engage your legs and core and make a controlled landing. 
*Be graceful!

The left foot should remain in the same position that the pirouette started in and the right foot should extend behind you. Remember your fourth position.
*The feet should be near parallel with one another. 

The arms should be in fourth position too; however, with the right arm extended forward and the left arm extended to the side. The arms should not curve or bend. 

Congratulations on completing your pirouette! To pirouette to the other side, simply reverse the placement of the feet and begin again with the exact same movements.