WATCH: How the most difficult move in ballet owes as much to physics as the physical

The climax of 'Swan Lake' requires a ballerina to complete 32 consecutive spins

WATCH: How the most difficult move in ballet owes as much to physics as the physical

[YouTube]

For those who know their pas de deux from their pirouette, the moment every ballet fan is waiting for in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake involves some rather remarkable physics. As the black swan looks out into the crowd defiantly, she starts to spin round and round in a dazzling feat of physical performance in a climax considered the hardest move in classical dance.

The part of princess Odette and her darker counterpart Odile is usually performed by the same ballerina, long considered the most enviable role in all of ballet. And its legendary climax of 32 fouettés is so well known that even those who know nothing about ballet are familiar with it.

Literally translated from French as ‘whipped’, the move comprises 32 consecutive turns on one pointed foot. As the video below explains, it is a potent mix of momentum, velocity, inertia, and gravity that keeps the ballerina moving, requiring incredible skill to pull it all off gracefully. Take a look at the video in full below:

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