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Buddy

Technique

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To the Left (Counter-Clockwise) seems more logical to me, (since most individuals are right-handed) following the rotation you would be creating by throwing a ball side-arm for instance.

This may be getting too much into technique, but in dance, the plie and legs create the torque for turning. The arms can help, but dancers can turn well without using their arms, so they're not strictly necessary. I've noticed too that ice skaters don't spot their turns, whereas it's essential for a dance turn. Perhaps all of this accounts for the difference in directions? BTW, have you ever noticed too that the vast majority of assisted turns also only go in one direction?

--Andre

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That's interesting, Buddy, because many dancers would tell you that they pirouette better to the right because they are right handed! However, experience has shown me that hand preference is no guarantee of the direction in which one prefers to turn.

That's interesting, Hans. I'll check out right hand/left hand bias at the rink, when I get a chance. Thanks.

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My instructor. . . always asks me . . . why dancers spin to the right (Clock-Wise).
I can't explain why most dancers find right-turning easier. I always assumed that skaters turned to the left because when they rotate their jumps to the left, they land on their right (usually stronger) leg. I'm not sure the coordination is the same for skaters and dancers. For example, skaters don't spot, do they? :)

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Andre, carbro, thanks for the additional thoughts. I'd like to spend some time mulling this over. This might be good input for a New Topic.

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Left turners, like Plushenko, land on their right leg for all jumps, but for the three hardest jumps -- Axel, Lutz, and Flip -- pick with their right leg and take-off from their left leg, which takes strength. The Toe loop takes off from the right leg with a left pick. The two edge jumps, both unassisted, take off from the right and land on the right, which takes a different kind of strength.

What confuses me, though, is that left turners in figure skating lead with their left side. In ballet, the standing leg for left turners is the right leg, but the left shoulder leads the turns.

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Handedness causes us to develop our muscles somewhat assymetrically. I would assume that dancers work to develop their strength symmetrically. Ambidextrous people may, in fact also develop symmetry of their muscles. (don't know). One would think that if one has these muscular assymetries it would impact on how one executes any handed motion. No?

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What confuses me, though, is that left turners in figure skating lead with their left side. In ballet, the standing leg for left turners is the right leg, but the left shoulder leads the turns.

That depends whether we're talking about en dehors or en dedans :)

This may be getting too much into technique, but in dance, the plie and legs create the torque for turning. The arms can help, but dancers can turn well without using their arms, so they're not strictly necessary.

Well...to get really picky (and perhaps too BT4D-ish) the force for a pirouette is supposed to come from the back. Obviously some of it comes from the legs, too, but dancers are taught to think of it as coming from the back. So the arms are not really necessary, but the movements the arms make help engage the back in the correct manner for the pirouette.

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Most people turn better to the right (I believe he's a right turner, too, isn't he?), and it's good to be reminded that even Angel is human. :) I don't think it's too uncommon for dancers to select the side they turn to, especially for solos. Choreographers and stagers often make changes to accommodate dancers' strengths, too. Last month, it was interesting to see on which side of the stage each Bluebird started his solo for the Royal Ballet performances of Sleeping Beauty.

--Andre

Andre, just to have some fun here, let's remember that folks in the UK and some other countries drive on the left side of the road. Racing events, if I'm not mistaken go left, counter-clockwise.

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That depends whether we're talking about en dehors or en dedans :)
I was trying to take that into consideration, but which leg is the equivalent of the standing leg -- the take-off leg, which varies by jump -- or the landing leg?

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And how about pique and chaine turns? In everyday life, I can do almost nothing with my left hand. But I was much better turning to the left -- and finding a spot -- from day one, in both these kinds of turns. This is true regardless of the lead leg in the piques.

Is it common for dancers to be equally proficient in piques and chaines, left and right?

As for fouettes, where so much turning happens standing on one leg, wouldn't relative strength of foot and ankle play a big role in the dancer's choice of direction?

As an audience member, looking at fouettes and pirouettes, I can't help but consider right-turning to be aesthetically pleasing while left-turning seems rather jarring, especially in multiples I haven't a clue where that came from! :huh:

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I was trying to take that into consideration, but which leg is the equivalent of the standing leg -- the take-off leg, which varies by jump -- or the landing leg?

Not a clue as far as that goes, unfortunately. :huh:

Is it common for dancers to be equally proficient in piques and chaines, left and right?

No. :)

As for fouettes, where so much turning happens standing on one leg, wouldn't relative strength of foot and ankle play a big role in the dancer's choice of direction?

It can; however, I can do far more grands pirouettes to the right en dehors (standing on my weaker left ankle) than to the left because I spot better to the right.

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Racing events, if I'm not mistaken go left, counter-clockwise.

Sorry for the off-topic post, but only some racing events go CCW (eg. NASCAR and IRL oval races).

--Andre

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Horse racing, track events . . .

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My instructor. . . always asks me . . . why dancers spin to the right (Clock-Wise).
I can't explain why most dancers find right-turning easier. I always assumed that skaters turned to the left because when they rotate their jumps to the left, they land on their right (usually stronger) leg. I'm not sure the coordination is the same for skaters and dancers. For example, skaters don't spot, do they? :huh:

carbro, I'm not sure exactly what "spot" means in dancing. In figure skating the skaters do skate in a circular direction onto a spot from which they begin the actual spin, hopefully not moving from that spot. This is done on the front tip of the blade. Sonya Hennie (spelling (?) ) did spins using the length of her blade, which one famous commentator (I forget who) thought was quite an accomplishment.

I cannot recall ever seeing a figure skater starting a spin from a stand-still position. (Wrong! I do it myself, but only in practice. Also my instructor wants me to 'swing' my arms into the revolution.)

This might be getting a little closer to why figure skaters go left and dancers go right.

Figure skaters may have to put a lot more turning energy into moves like spins and jumps because of multi-revolution, triple-quad demands, these days. This might explain why Angel Carrella with his mega-spins likes the left. Thus other parts of the body come into play leading back to the throwing of a ball example that I mentioned. Maybe? Maybe? I still would like to think a lot more about this.

It seems like you, Andre and I are doing the mid-night shift tonight. I wish us all a good night's sleep.

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Sorry, Buddy.

When a dancer turns, the head remains front, the eyes focused on a specific point, until the rest of the body is halfway around. Then the head snaps front, ahead of body, eyes returning to that point, until the dancer is halfway through the next rotation. This is true in most turning steps (pique, chaine, pirouette, emboite), unless the body is in arabesque or attitude position.

By contrast, don't skaters keep their chins directly over their sternums until they've stopped turning?

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unless the body is in arabesque or attitude position
...or leg held to the side or front at 90 degrees, dependent upon which school of training one is discussing, otherwise known as tours in big poses! When tours in big poses are done in sequence the tours are spotted.

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Sorry, Buddy.

When a dancer turns, the head remains front, the eyes focused on a specific point, until the rest of the body is halfway around. Then the head snaps front, ahead of body, eyes returning to that point, until the dancer is halfway through the next rotation. This is true in most turning steps (pique, chaine, pirouette, emboite), unless the body is in arabesque or attitude position.

By contrast, don't skaters keep their chins directly over their sternums until they've stopped turning?

I should have caught that before. You are absolutely right in the direction of your question. Skaters do 'not' as far as I've noticed focus on one point when spinning. I've wondered why? I'll ask. I will have to look up the word sternum to answer the rest of your question.

Of possible interest is that a skater like Irina Sluitskaya (spelling?) does an amazing double spin with one foot held over head, then switching to do the same on the other foot. Her transition from one foot to the other for the second spin is done with minimal entry gliding. I have to say that I used to watch all the figure skating that I could. Now I skate, but my real viewing passion is what I call "Lyrical Dance" (essentially ballet at the moment). Thus I can't give you details about the 'pros' like I used to be able to.

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I am confused about the clockwise vs counter clockwise issue. I would have thought that a trained dancer develops their musculature in perfect symmetry.. or as close as possible.

Why would there be any "advantage" to making a step in either clockwise or counter clockwise direction? I do understand that our individual handedness causes most of use to "favor" one side.. and consequently develop our muscles, movements and memory of same.

Perhaps the fact that most people are born right handed means that they favor that side... "pushing" off the strength of the right side and effectively turning "left" or counterclockwise. I would have thought that with years of training this preference would be "neutralized"... and dancers would be able to perform equally well in either direction of rotation.

This also raises in my mind another meta issue about choreography. Have any productions of any ballets been performed as the mirror image. Are stagings actually in fact "handed" favoring the dominant right handedness of most people?

Fencing is a sport I think of as right handed... but perhaps it is not. Any thoughts on handedness?

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Have any productions of any ballets been performed as the mirror image.

Great idea, DefJef!

I did see a performance once, two nights in a row. where the lead dancer did a huge show stopping jump in one direction and the next night did it equally well in the other direction. The rest of the ballet stayed the same both nights.

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I will have to look up the word sternum to answer the rest of your question.
Sternum: Breast bone. In other words, the skater's head does not move from straight forward, wherever the rest of the body is facing.
Have any productions of any ballets been performed as the mirror image.
Often, corps de ballets are divided into stage left and stage right halves, each mirroring the other.

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Yes I understand some mirror symmetries within a ballet, but .. for whatever reason... ballets are not "bilaterally" symmetrical and for whatever reason one finds various "asymmetries".

For example I have noticed at the Met in both ABT and Opera when a boat is part of the libretto it always seems to travel in the same direction from stage right to stage left... if my memory serves me correctly... but my memory is not all that good.

These sorts of directional asymmetries may have no meaning or rationale... or they may be subconscious... who knows. I do know that in classical architecture bilateral symmetry seems to be a very important element.

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Def Jef, dancers do try very hard to be able to do everything equally well to each side; however it is not possible to make both sides perfectly equal. Even with dancers who are very close to doing everything well on both sides, if they get injured that can throw everything off again.

I noticed years ago that at the Washington School of Ballet classes seemed to be divided evenly between people who favored turning to the right vs. left whereas at SAB most people turned better to the right, but I don't know whether that's due to training differences or coincidence.

As for asymmetry in ballet, I'm not sure it's possible to make an existing ballet perfectly symmetrical, and that formula could get boring to watch (and dance) if followed too slavishly. For example, if one immediately had to do every step to the other side, it would hamper the choreographer, and having two of every lead dancer would be a little strange as well. Symmetry in ballet is a beautiful thing, but I think we're fortunate choreographers aren't overly scrupulous about it. :yahoo:

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Hans,

I am not advocating perfect bilateral symmetery. I am just wondering why the hand of a ballet is never reversed (I asume it never is).

And I am wondering is the entire dance uses symmetry? Why spin to the right and not the left for example when a ballerian comes whirling down the center of the stage? Is the direction often what suits the dancer or the dance?

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I think I see what you mean...for example, why not do, say, Agon entirely to the other side? I don't know, I'm sure it's possible.

When a dancer is doing a "trick" step, for example a lot of fouett├ęs, s/he turns to his/her preferred side, and the ballet master or choreographer usually arranges things so that the pirouettes work to either side. When only two or three pirouettes are required, the dancer should turn to the side that suits the choreography, as such a small number of turns is the minimum a professional dancer is expected to be able to do in both directions. As carbro has mentioned, though, certain stars will sometimes change the choreography so that they only turn to their preferred side, occasionally to the detriment of the way the movement flows.

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I wonder if a "mirror image" ballet would look the same, or startlingly wrong, like looking at your face in one of those true-reflecting mirrors (you think you look ugly because you are surprised into seeing the asymmetry of your face).

In my studies as a graphic designer, I've found that, for a Western audience that reads from left to right, movement that flows that way is perceived as "progress," while movement from right to left is interpreted as "resistance". So that even purely visual arts are not entirely crosscultural. Imagine the final tableau of the full Apollo, where he and the Muses ascend the staircase (left to right). If reversed, would it look more like a "return" than an "ascension"?

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