The Biomechanics of Pirouettes in Elite Female Dancers


Chelsea Duncan

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The purpose of this experiment was two-fold: 1) to analyze the initiation, turn and landing phases of a pirouette across classical ballet and jazz styles, and 2) to examine the effect of altering the anterior/posterior width of the feet in pirouette preparation on subject perceived exertion. The subjects were eight elite female dancers, 18-22 years of age, average height of 65.19 inches (?SD), average weight of 126.87lbs (?SD). Subjects were asked to complete a single en dehours pirouette, with four different foot placements and rate perceived exertion (RPE) based on the Borg RPE Scale (0-10). Video recording was performed using a Sony HDR-HC9 camcorder mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod. Videos were analyzed using Dartfish 5.5 Pro-Suite software. For single ballet pirouettes, subjects spent 39% in the Initiation phase, 23% in the Turn phase, and 38% in the Landing phase. This was similar in the single parallel jazz pirouette with subjects spending 40% in the Initiation, 28% in the Turn, and 32% in the Landing. The freely chosen preparation width had a 100% pirouette landing success rate and an average RPE of only 0.5. At the widest preparation width, landing success rate dropped to 87.5% and the average RPE increased to 4.21. In addition, a pirouette preparation width that is freely chosen is the most comfortable, and is associated with the highest successful pirouette-landing rate.


Stuart Rugg




Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Grant

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