5 things that could affect your ability to turn

5 things that could affect your ability to turn | Vueltas Flamencas

We're talking turns this week at Flamenco Bites.

In our last post we talked about three different types of turns used in flamenco dance and shared some examples of each in performance.

Turns are a challenge for most dancers but if you are coming to flamenco dance as an adult they can feel like your Everest.

You are not alone! Even doing a clean quarter turn can be difficult.

Turns require comprehension of technique, full body awareness and also a balanced and mobile body.

Turns require comprehension of technique, full body awareness and also a balanced and mobile body.

You need time to develop these things, we all do.

As with all motor learning, some of us are quicker to pick things up than others, so no matter where you are with your turns just remember you're on a journey and there is no rush. You don't need to be able to turn like Sara Baras by tomorrow!

Before we get to what might be hampering your ability to turn let's set some definitions. I love a definition! I know a bit sad but I like it when we're all on the same page.

A turn is a rotation of the body through 360 degrees about an axis.

It can be performed in one spot or the turn could travel across the floor.

As you saw from yesterday's post there are many ways to achieve the goal of a 360 degree rotation.

For today let's use the 'vuelta de pecho' as our turn.

This image is taken from our course  'Vueltas Flamencas'  available to all members of   danza estudio Flamenco Bites

This image is taken from our course 'Vueltas Flamencas' available to all members of danza estudio Flamenco Bites

The vuelta de pecho is usually the first flamenco turn that flamenco dance students will learn.

At first glance it may seem like a quite straight forward turn, but before too long you might find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out why you are falling over or your legs feel like they end up in a knot!

Before we dive in we want you to remember that there are many many possible reasons why your turns may not be working. These 5 points a just a starting point to get you thinking.

With that in mind let's move on.

1.  Your body

Oof, harsh I know.

If you have been alive on this earth for a reasonable amount of time you might notice that your body has developed a few idiosyncrasies. In fact if you don't have some type of unique posture or movement pattern I'd be surprised. We aren't robots we're human!

Enjoy your unique body but get to know it very well.

Enjoy your unique body but get to know it very well.

There are an infinite number of possibilities that occur in our bodies that could be affecting your ability to turn.

This is where it helps to have a experienced set of eyes watch you and give you feedback.

Before you even set yourself up in preparation to turn you might need to work on some postural or movement/mobility issues.

If you can, get someone with experience to have a look at your body to see if you have anything going on that may influence your turns.


2. Feet

The placement of your feet as you enter the turn will directly affect how you are able to come out of it.

If your feet are placed too far apart when you start you won't be able to complete the turn smoothly and you'll find it difficult to transfer your weight onto one foot at the end.

That means in order to come back to face front you'll need to cheat.

If you don't cross your feet enough you'll also have problems, you'll end up with that feeling of your legs being tangled together under your hips.

Try experimenting with the placement of your feet and see what the result is as you move through the turn.

Things to look out for are your ability to transfer your weight from one foot to the other, the ability to generate sufficient force through your body when you turn and that your feet are securely placed under your hips when you exit the turn.


3. Arms

Your arms will help you in two ways when you are turning.

The first is with the aesthetics of the turn. Your arms will amplify the circular image of the turn. If you watched any of the videos in our last post you will have seen that these turns can occur very quickly (in one beat). The movement of the arms allows the audience to more fully appreciate the rotation that is happening by enhancing the motion.

The second is that the positioning and movement of the arms add impetus and transfer force to the torso via the shoulders. If your arms are out of control you will struggle to connect to the movement through your upper body and connect your upper body to your lower body.

The secret to having great arms when you turn is regular practice of braceo and specifically these 5 arm positions.

If your arms are out of control you will struggle to connect to the movement through your upper body and connect your upper body to your lower body.

3. Core strength

To be able to turn rapidly you need to have strength, but that does not mean that you should be trying to generate so much tension in throughout your mid-section (core) that you are unable to move.

You need a balance between strength (tension) and the ability to relax your muscles.

If your muscles feel the need to grip (ie. hold on for dear life) so that you don't fall over, you have an excess of tension and a lack of mobility through your centre which is accompanied by the inability to comfortably turn.

Often this situation can indicate a lack of strength or a lack of muscular organisation (reflexive core activation) in either case your body is working very very hard to keep you from falling over.

This is especially important when you are trying to maintain quiebro throughout the turn.

You might start your turn with some quiebro but if your body is too tense then you won't be able to release your upper spine to maintain the quiebro as you rotate. You'll be popping back up to vertical very quickly.


5. Spotting

Spotting is the technique used by dancers to to help prevent dizziness and preserve spatial orientation and balance.

The technique works by keeping the head fixed in one direction while the body begins the turn. When the head can no longer be held in the starting position it is whipped around quickly to face the original direction and the body follows.

As well as helping you to maintain control and balance the sharp movement of the head adds to the sharp accented movement the turn creates.

If you have yet to master spotting without quiebro you will find it very difficult to keep your balance and use the technique with your torso inclined.

If you find yourself getting dizzy or lacking focus then go back to basics and work on your spotting technique.


6. Too much or not enough force

Bonus point 😀

The force required to do one turn well is less than you may imagine.

Often, if you don't have confidence in your ability to turn, you can use too much force thinking that you will need it in order to get around.

While you do need a decent amount of force to move your body, if you use too much you will lose your balance and be unable to control the end of the turn.

Try experimenting a little and turn with different amounts of force. You may find that you need less than you think.


How to improve your turns

If you are struggling with turns there are a few things you can do.

1. The quickest way is to find an experienced teacher who can watch you turn and offer advice about why things aren't quite working.

2. If you have no teachers in your area then the next best things is to take a video of yourself performing the turn that you are working on and study the video to see where you are going wrong.

To do this you need to have a good understanding of the correct technique for each turn so you have a base movement to measure yourself against.

3. If you don't have a teacher and you aren't confident trying to critique your own videos then we recommend becoming a member of our online dance studio.

We have a course, 'Vueltas Flamencas', that breaks down the technique for the vuelta de pecho and the vuelta de tacon (vuelta quebrada coming soon). 

Each turn is broken down into it's constituent elements (feet, brazos, mirada) before all the elements are combined to form the turn. Both with and without quiebro for the vuelta de pecho.

However the most important opportunity that you have as a member of danza estudio Flamenco Bites is the ability to share a video of yourself performing a turn to our private student only facebook group.

There you will receive personal feedback from José about what he sees as well as advice on what you need to work on in your personal practice to make improvements.

Click this link for more information → danza estudio Flamenco Bites


How has your experience been learning how to turn? We would love to hear from you about what you find most difficult.

Let us know in the comments below!



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