Lots of teachers (and other advanced dancers) get annoyed by non-teachers trying to teach people how to dance. I’m not going to do this, because if you want to dance well and improve it’s about getting good basic dance lessons, and practice.
But so many people struggle to spin and haven’t ever been taught. Here are the tips I was given via different teachers through the years. Tips from 13 years of ballet classes and 2.5 years of salsa where we were taught turning and spinning drills from a Guinness world record holder for spinning.
Hopefully some of these spinning tips will help you in both turning and spinning better as you dance.
1. Know the difference between a spin and a turn
A turn is stepping as you rotate, in modern jive that’s usually via a ‘return’ or travelling return. A spin should be on one foot and can be a free spin or aided by the leader.
2. Learn to spot
If you get dizzy when spinning, learning to spot is essential. It’s all about practice so that you’ll do it automatically. Essentially you’re leaving your eyes looking at one spot in front of you as your body turns, then when you can’t leave your head behind anymore, you whip your head around so your eyes are looking back at your spot again as the rest of your body follows. You can start slowly and build it up. This video is a simple beginner technique for starting out.
There’re plenty of YouTube tutorials and guidance on how to spot while spinning, and it does help reduce dizziness especially during multiple splns. I find spinning is easier than continuous turning in one direction because spotting is easier when you’re preparing to spin in one place.
3. Spin and turn on one foot
To spin you need as small an area as possible on the floor. Using two feet will act as a brake and make you unable to turn.
4. Turn on the ball of your foot
I’m naughty at this because I do get lazy and tend to relax into my heel when I turn, but you should be turning on the ball of your foot. Your heel needs to only be slightly off the floor. But having your weight over the front of your foot will keep your body in the right place for turning without wobbling off in a different direction.
5. Don’t lift your spare foot up
When spinning, sometimes you see people lift their spare foot in the air (usually, bending at the knee, I presume it’s a natural reflex or they want to keep the spare foot out of the way). This will make you wobble and can also catch your partner or anyone else dancing closely. When doing a basic spin, you want to keep your spare foot next to your anchored foot, just above the floor. This keeps your body centred over your legs and should help keep you upright. It’s much hard spinning with one leg raised.
6. Think down into the ground, not up in the air
Lots of dancers lift up when trying to spin. This could be because they’ve done ballet in the past which is about pirouetting on your toes in a releve position. But it’s more likely that we often turn under the leader’s and our raised hand, so the body tends to follow upwards as well.
Yes, you need to straighten out your body and think open rather than tight and leaning over, but if you keep your knees slightly bent and think about drilling into the floor, you’ll be more balanced and grounded. It will certainly suit a more grounded dance than one like ballet which is much lighter and in the air. You’ll also move less when you’re spinning.
It’s hard to explain. But if you’ve done any latin dancing or salsa, where you need to feel the floor through your feet to get the right hip action, the grounding and turning into the floor rather than upwards, is the same sensation.
7. Have good posture
To spin well, you need to engage your core. You need to stay relaxed and not tense up your shoulders, pull your tummy in and tuck your bottom under.
Then keep your arms in a suitable position. The easiest position for a free spin is to bring your arms towards each other in front of you, at chest level, in an oval shape. Bringing one arm to join the first helps with impetous in a spin, but also keeps posture and position right. Oh and flailing arms isn’t a good look.
This clip shows a comfortable arm position and the posture needed (salsa – they do a lot more spin technique than modern jive! but you can still get tips on arm, body and foot position)
8. Don’t look down
If you look down your weight balance will move and you’ll be more likely to fall. Look straight ahead for a steadier turn (or spot if you use that technique).
9. Don’t rush
So many people panic when they have to spin and try and go whooshing off really fast. But if you’re spinning or turning to music, you want to fill the beats you’re spinning on. If it’s a slow track, you’ll have longer to do one rotation. There’s no point whizzing round to find there’s still half the beat left to go.
It’s all about practice. Start with a single spin, and work up to multiple spins if you want. If you can do free spins yourself, it’s easier to then be led into aided multiple spins or turns. This clip shows the use of a clock method (admittedly for salsa spins with the prep, but the idea is the same for modern jive).
Tips for leaders
Most spinning is done by the follower, but these all apply to leaders as well. Plus if you’re prepping your partner for a spin, there’s things to be aware of.
Don’t ever force the follower into a spin. You can prep for one (either raising the arm or prepping the follow for a free spin), but only they can do the spin.
Ensure your prep is accurate. If it’s a free spin, don’t prep the spin too far out from the follower’s centre, otherwise they will be off balance and the spin won’t work. If it’s an aided spin, raising your hand and the follower’s, to just above and in front of the follower’s head. Not really high above their head otherwise they’ll struggle to keep connection. And not below the top of their head otherwise they’ll have to duck which is a totally different move.
Own your spinThe person spinning should always be the one in control of the spin Click To Tweet
A final point to remember is that you don’t have to do multiple spins. Yes sometimes it’s nice to throw some in if the situation is right and the music calls for it. For example, I can do a double or triple (when I’ve been practising for a while), but I rarely do more than a single in freestyle. Because I’d rather have an immaculate single spin than try a multiple spin when the lead or prep doesn’t feel right, or the floor isn’t smooth enough. I’ve never had a leader moan that I’ve refused to do a double when he’s led that. I’ve usually had people compliment me on my spins.
How do you get on with spinning? How were you taught?