Spot On: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques to Perfect Your Turns

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Spotting: The magical ingredient that turns one spin into two, and then three, and four, and keeps you from getting dizzy and following over during multiple turns.

For some people, it’s an elusive concept that they’ve heard of, but have yet to try and master, and for others, it’s a tried-and-true technique they rely on every time they dance. Essentially, spotting is starting at one fixed point for almost the entire revolution of a turn.

If you’re new to spotting, try this: Look at something that won’t move on a wall in front of you. Look at while you slowly rotate around in place. Because of the way our bodies are made, we cannot Exorcist-it… at the point where you are looking over your shoulder, quickly snap your head around and keep looking at that same fixed point.

Voila! Spotting. That’s it in it’s most basic form, and it can be used for ALL turns. But here are some things that happen along the way that keep you from achieving a perfect spot every time.

You Close Your Eyes

            If you are falling out of the end of your turn, you are probably closing your eyes in the middle of the turn. It’s sometimes a knee-jerk reaction. Oh God, I’m turning, let me close my eyes and pray that I make it all the way around. Keep your eyes open during the ENTIRE turn. Focus just on keeping your eyes open. It will be impossible to see your spot if you close your eyes, even if it’s just for a moment.

Your Head Is Out of Alignment

            A key to successful spotting is keeping your head in the same plane the entire time you move around. If you dip your chin forward or tilt your head back, you throw off the equilibrium of your turn. Your head is heavy! Most people’s heads weigh about 10 pounds, so use that bowling ball stuck on your spine to your advantage. When your head stays in the same plane the entire time, you don’t lose any momentum moving it around, and it’s easier to keep your eyes locked on your spot. Think about balancing something on your head the whole time you turn.

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You Forget to Breathe

            Besides putting you at risk for passing out, forgetting to breathe can crush your attempts to turn and spot your turn. When you don’t breathe, you tense up. Shoulders creep up to ears, eyes are more likely to close, and you’re much more likely to move your head around than if you just inhale, prep, and exhale on your turn. Practice a breathing in deeply on your preparation and then taking a forceful exhale through your mouth when you are spinning—kind of like you are making a “Ha,” noise, but with your breath. Besides making you conscious of your breath, a strong exhale will force you to squeeze your core, which will also assist you in keeping your balance and make it easier to snap your head around for the end of the spot.

You Don’t Take Your Whole Body with You

Spotting is imperative to a good turn, but it’s no use to you if the rest of your body lags behind. For example, if you’re turning to the right, but you don’t make sure that your left shoulder and the left side of your body come with you, you can’t complete your spot. Your left side will be slowing you down and preventing you from completing the revolution. Bringing the opposite side of the body around during a turn is especially important during multiple turns— if you get behind because half of your body hasn’t caught up, there’s no way you can keep going with turn after turn. Bringing the opposite side of the body around will also help you to naturally complete the spot—your head will naturally follow wherever your body goes.

You’re Too Tense

            Relax! Spotting requires a certain flexibility in the neck and shoulders. Roll out your head and shoulders a few times in each direction before you begin practicing. Make stretching out your neck a daily habit. It’s free and only takes a minute to bring your right ear down to your right shoulder, breathe for 20-30 seconds, and repeat on the left. You can’t expect to whip your head around if your neck is so tight it’s immobile.

Spotting and turning are part art, part science. To master them, you must practice and become hyper-aware of what is happening in your body at every moment. Don’t get discouraged if perfect turns don’t happen immediately. If you’re already a veteran spotter, use some of these tricks to take your turns to the next level and squeeze even more spins out on the dance floor.

Are you pro-spotting or against it? Do these techniques work? What helps you spot? What makes your turns solid? Comment below!

6 Comments

  • Paul Tate says:

    Excellent Article. Thank you. One question though. How do I get spotting right when I am blind in my right eye? If I turn my head far enough to see my spot point I am off balance and if I do not turn far enough I cannot see my spot point and I am off balance. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • Great question! Have you practiced spotting in a mirror? Try spotting your left eye– stare yourself down the entire time and use your left eye as your spot point. To be honest, I have never encountered this but I just tried covering my right eye and spotting and the only way I was able to do it was to spot my left eye. If you practice enough with a mirror, you can probably get it into your muscle memory enough that you can spot other objects. let me know how it goes!!!

  • Laura says:

    And then, Brazilian Zouk happened…

  • David Sander says:

    One additional method is to use the mirrors in the dance studio. I practice turns by standing on one of the vertical divides and do my turns. Its like analyzing a golf swing, you figure out your errors by seeing where you end up at the end.

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