January 18, 2012

Frozen Turn Syndrome

It happened sometime last week. I lost my pirouettes. Not entirely, as singles are still fine, but doubles are nowhere to be seen. Seriously, this sucks. Yeah, I know there are worse things to loose (like your marbles, the love of your live, your iPhone), but I'm still at loss over this disappearing act. It's not like it hasn't happened before, and it does happen to everyone. You have a bad day, and your pirouettes suck. Usually I get over it and my axis back under the pirouette.

But last week something happened to trigger a bad case of frozen turn syndrome (FTS). Suddenly I have no nerve to go for the multiple turn, no confidence at all. It's ridiculous, really. I mean what's the worst thing that could happen? I fall down, and it would not be for the first time. I fail - and so what? We take class to learn, and mistakes and f***-ups are part of that learning process. As long as you finish your turns with some style (even if you finish on all your fours), it does not matter.

This past Monday I tried to get back on the proverbial horse with a couple of doubles, but failed again as if I had never ever turned before. Watched in dismay as that horsey pas de chevaled away. Then our teacher gave us a no-hands exercise to do. You place your hands at your hips and turn using only your plié and your head to spot. Did I already mention that I'm the worst spotter? I may have a quick mind, but my head is the slowest to spot. Anyway, we did the exercise eight times on both sides, and I was told to repeat with the second group. I wish I could have yelled out "Look, no hands!", but my turns kept getting worse, not better. Next up, pirouette once without hands, followed by a double with hands. Again, eight times on both side.

Our teacher tells everyone to go for the double, but I do pithy singles instead. And this is not my first year in ballet. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I've done thousands of pirouettes - most of them doubles. Some even triples. By now I know that I'm overthinking my pirouettes, and my teacher notices the same. It does not help, as I start to overthink on the overthinking, you know? I just can't relax into the turns. I have turn jitters.

After intermediate class I take basic level class in pointe shoes. I'm still learning to turn singles on pointe, so there is no pressure for more. Somehow this relaxes me a bit. After that last class I stay and practice, and I am determined. Driven. I'm the last student in the studio, my teacher is counting the attendance list, back turned away. I breath, empty my over-busy mind, plié, rise and turn. And turn. Perfectly balanced, en dehors, like I got all the time in the world! It took me seven classes, 165 minutes of warm-up and no one watching - but I got my turning groove back.

Now I just need to do the same in class. Wish me luck, and remember: turn first, think later!


  1. You'll get it, I know you will!

    When left to my own devices, I suffer from acute FTS. My teacher is awesome (of course) and will stand right in from of me repeating, "Plie, turn Lorry! close. Plie, turn Lorry! close." He does it to try to block out my own thoughts because he knows that I am prone to overthinking myself right into standing frozen in plie for all eternity! We do that turning exercise too. I am determined & I remind myself of what you told me, Johanna! I am the boss of me!

    I will turn and you will to. Don't think, just go!

    1. Thanks, Lorry!

      I know what you mean.. Sometimes I've turned my best pirouettes when practically ordered! With teacher standing in front of me, there's no place to escape to, no time to over-think. Just turn. :)

      With me the freezing point happens after the first revolution, I come down no matter what.

      But today I will think of you! We are our own bosses, dammit :)

  2. I too have FTS, as well as GJP (grande jete phobia).

    1. I wonder if there should be a FTS-support group.. ;) Turning is supposed to be fun, not debilitating!

      I suppose we all want it so bad that we tense up before we give ourselves the chance to succeed?

      I am familiar with a mutation of GJP, the grand jeté en tournant phobia.

  3. They always come back when the teacher isn't looking....!!

    1. You know it! One of my teachers has never seen me turn a clean double, not unless she has eyes on her back :D

  4. I too have lost my Pirouettes - but this has been going on for a much longer time than yours. I can totally relate to what you've been going through and I love how you finally got it back.

    I've been overthinking everything too, but if I think of nothing and just go with nothing more than fingers crossed and a prayer, it gets worse for me. Pirouettes are one of my key focus areas of 2012, and I will keep at it. If ballet was easy, it wouldn't be half as fun!

    Keep dancing, keep turning, keep writing, Johanna! I love your blogs.

    1. If your FTS has turned chronic, there is one possible cure: start anew, from turn zero.

      Check out your balance position - where is your center? Practice quick passé retirés, pay attention to your alignment.

      Is your plié deep or perfunctory? Do you tilt your hips? Is your head level? These are all things you could look at, seperately.

      When you re-start your turning, begin with quarter pirouettes, make it all about the balancing. Proceed to half turns, then full turns. Slow turn, quick head.

      Visualize yourself turning, from start to finish.

      Really pull up before you turn, make sure your popo is under your axis.

      Don't think of nothing, but limit preparing to one correction per turn. Like, "I will deepen my plié", or "I will spot-snap-spot".

      I hope you'll get your pirouettes back!

      Thanks, Jean :)

  5. Don't worry you'll get it back! I go through phases like this too, and they are just awful. I always get so frustrated I could cry. Then I have a great turning day and all is right with the world. Good job on sticking with it.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth!

      Yeah, I call it the rollercoaster of learning ballet. Ups and downs are all part of it. Thank goodness it usually gets better!

  6. You got a point about the overthinking. I believe that's the worst that can happen to someone in ballet class.

    Glad you got your pirouettes back :)

    1. I love this quote from Samuel Beckett:

      "Dance first, think later. It's the natural order."

      Of course you need to be alert in class, and concentrate on whatever you're dancing. But you gotta give your mind the opportunity to relax and enjoy the music and the moves..

      Thanks, Lalatina! :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...