đź‘€ The Science Behind Spotting

May 5 / The Dance Scientist
Regardless of what age and stye you teach, being knowledgable about how spotting works is an important part of teaching turns in dance.
“Classical ballet demands excellent postural control, both statically and dynamically. Postural control is the act of achieving, maintaining, or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity” (Hopper et al., 2014).
the science behind spotting

Since spotting is a complex topic, this blog will only go into depth a little! And I decided to organize it into a list of 7 simple tips that ANYONE can apply starting TODAY.

Spotting serves 2 major roles
- Not just for aesthetics, it also helps avoid dizziness

Practice changing spots

- By using different spotting locations since this is an important part of dancing- turning in different ways & positions

VOR helps pirouettes

- Ability of eyes to move equal/opposite to head motion, so it helps us spot during turns

Try finding a balance

- Between overly whipping & not whipping enough. Like a dial that you could turn to a 5/10

- If we overly whip head - we get neck tension. If we don’t whip it enough, the spot won’t be clean enough

Tips on Finding This

- Don’t think whip, think use your eyes and let that bring you around

Spotting Relies on Many Systems

- The visual, vestibular, & somatosensory systems sense the body’s position, while the motor system maintains balance 

Sticker Spot Imagery

- Imagine dot at your chin level right in front of you
- Stare at the dot: let the body rotate, & quickly return eyes to dot
- Can be a fun & visual way to teach spotting

Learn More about These Topics:
  • Ball, K., & Tillman, D. (2010). Peripheral vision and balance control in athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 28(8), 881-889. https://europepmc.org/article/med/31205229
  • Christy, J. B., Cochrane, G. D., Almutairi, A., Busettini, C., Swanson, M. W., & Weise, K. K. (2019). Peripheral vestibular and balance function in athletes with and without concussion. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 43(3), 153–159. https://doi.org/10.1097/npt.0000000000000280
  • Cicchella, A., & Caminiti, C. (2015). Effect of Different Spotting Heights on Ballet Pirouette Performance. Acta Kinesiologiae Universitatis Tartuensis, 21, 19–30. https://doi-org.cucproxy.cuchicago.edu/10.12697/akut.2015.21.03
  • Denardi, R. A., & CorrĂŞa, U. C. (2013b). Effects of instructional focus on learning a classical ballet movement, the pirouette. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 17(1), 18–23. https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313x.17.1.18
  • Haber, C., & Schärli, A. (2021). Defining Spotting in Dance: A Delphi Method Study Evaluating Expert Opinions. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 540396. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.540396Hopper, D. M., Grisbrook, T. L., Newnham, P. J., & Edwards, D. J. (2014). The effects of vestibular stimulation and fatigue on postural control in classical ballet dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 18(2), 67–73. https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313x.18.2.67Klostermann, A., Schärli, A., Kunz, S., Weber, M., & Hossner, E.-J. (2022). Learn to Turn: Does Spotting Foster Skill Acquisition in Pirouettes? Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 93(1), 153–161. https://doi org.cucproxy.cuchicago.edu/10.1080/02701367.2020.1813239
  • Lin, C.-W., Chen, S.-J., Su, F.-C., Wu, H.-W., & Lin, C.-F. (2014). Differences of Ballet Turns ( Pirouette ) Performance Between Experienced and Novice Ballet Dancers. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 85(3), 330–340. https://doi-org.cucproxy.cuchicago.edu/10.1080/02701367.2014.930088
  • Nigmatullina, Y., Hellyer, P. J., Nachev, P., Sharp, D. J., & Seemungal, B. M. (2013). The neuroanatomical correlates of training-related perceptuo-reflex uncoupling in dancers. Cerebral Cortex, 25(2), 554–562. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bht266
  • Pyrka, P. (2021, September 29). How crucial is spotting? evidence-based Pirouette Hacks for Adult Ballet Learners. Ballet Misfits. https://balletmisfits.dance/blog/2018/11/29/spottingstudy
  • Putnam, C. A., He, J., & Mitchell, C. J. (2010).
  • Schärli, A., Haber, C., & Klostermann, A. (2023). Does a visual reference help ballet dancers turn more successfully? Human Movement Science, 88, N.PAG. https://doi-org.cucproxy.cuchicago.edu/10.1016/j.humov.2023.103062
  • Schärli, A., Hecht, H., Mast, F., & Hossner1, E.-J. (2024). Gaze behaviour in pirouettes – does spotting help to keep a dancer stable? The Swiss Sports Science Society SGS, 14(4).
  • Spot on Workshop by Jennifer Milner & Dr. Katie van den Heuvel, Performing Arts PT https://www.instagram.com/p/CPbq4TSgp1Q/ 
  • Veronika K Blog Post - https://www.veronicakballet.com/post/sharpen-your-spot-how-visual-tracking-exercises-can-elevate-your-turns
  • Uchiyama, M., & Demura, S. (2009). The role of eye movement in upright postural control. Sport Sciences for Health, 5(1), 21–27. https://doi-org.cucproxy.cuchicago.edu/10.1007/s11332-009-0072-z
learn more in this printable e-book


A basic guide on Spotting - its history, eye tracking exercises, how to properly spot without feeling dizzy, what happens when spotting isn't used properly & much more!  
This PDF of over 98 evidence-based teaching tips includes:
- Professional dancers tend to be less dominant on visual system
- Why spotting helps postural control during turns by telling your body what to do & how to respond
- Why spotting started in the late 19th century when multiple turns became common
- How the room, the stage, the lights, or the choreographers impact turns & spotting
- VOR’s - How these reflexes kick into gear when dancers turn & why this is important to understand
- BONUS!! - 28 exercises for spotting - including rib/trunk mobilizer, neck rotation checks, fascia neck massage, mirror marches, Levator Scapulae stretch, Sternocleidomastoid & Scalene, Suboccipital Release at base of skull, paintbrushes on ceiling (Feldenkreis technique), number maze exercise, sticky tape exercise, chair for thoracic mobility, oculomotor function of sicods using a pen, VOR exercise using a letter, eyeball exercise laying down, ball balance exercise, paternered pendulum track, & MORE!!
Over 25 tips for $3.99.
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