The Beauty of a Pirouette

When I was at an ABT summer intensive years ago, one of my teachers told our class that the most thrilling pirouettes aren't the tazmanian devilishly fast spins, but they are the slow, smooth turns that look like they're effortlessly in control. This made a huge impact on me because up until that moment, I had always been trying to speed up my pirouettes to make them look more impressive—and also because immediately after listening to this bit of wisdom I performed my first quadruple pirouette on pointe.

This thought came to mind Friday night at New York City Ballet's performance of Swan Lake. For me, the highlight of the evening was Daniel Ulbricht as the Jester. I've always loved watching this boy jump: Just when you think he's hit the height of his jump his body seems to levitate a few inches higher. But I'd never really noticed his turns before. The Jester's choreography includes numerous pirouettes, and man, Ulbircht hit every one of them. I counted five rotations just about every time, but what was most awe-inspiring were his landings. At the end of his turn he would slow down to show the audience his passe for just a moment before quietly placing his foot down into a wide fourth position.

What made such an impact was the amount of control he had, making it look like nothing. An untrained eye probably would have thought it was easy. But the rest of us know that the calm, creamy quality of his turns is ten times harder to achieve than lightening-quick spins.