Thursday, January 20, 2011

Turn Out your Turnout!

Ballet dancers have been turned out since the time of ballet de cour, well before the days of ear-high developpes. Turnout enables the dancer to move easily from side to side, to jump, and to pose without ever turning away from the audience. Dancers have always believed that it looks better that way. Back in the days of court dancing, women wore huge, concealing skirts, but men showed their well-formed legs in elegant silk hose. Turnout displayed those handsome calf muscles to better advantage.

Turnout is what enables a dancer to raise the leg elegantly to the side without displacing the hips or torso. Try to do this without turning out and you'll find that when your leg reaches waist height, your hips become uneven and your alignment is lost. Turnout facilitates everything you do in ballet, and batterie would be quite impossible without it: absent good turnout the heels get in the way of the beats.

Proper turnout starts deep in the hips socket and continues all the way down the leg to the knee, ankle, and foot. Led by the inner-thigh musccles, the entire leg rotates. A few lucky dancers have a full 180-degree turnout, but it's impossible to dance with none. Work fully with what you have-your imperfect turnout properly used looks better than perfect turnout on someone who can't control it. You can and should stretch gently to help open your hips. Turnout should be carefully coaxed, never forced.Working in incorrect, overly turned-out positions can cause injury.

Your knees are aligned directly over your toes at all times; position your feet accordingly and do not roll inward, especially when you plie.

  • Turn out both legs equally at all times
  • Don't let the pelvis "tuck under" in and effort to increase turnout
  • It's a rotation within the hips, not a clenching of the buttocks
  • Don't force your feet into a perfect toe-to-heel-heel-to-toe fifth position if it means the slightest compromise or straight knees or a properly placed pelvis
  • Never force your feet to turn out in a plie and then try to straighten your legs - it could injure your knees
Now you have achieved an almost perfect state of readiness; your body is properly placed and lifted, correctly turned out, free of tension. There's just one more thing: a pleasant, intelligent expression on your face.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a sheet of "homework" from my pre-pointe teacher. I have no idea where she got it, or even if she wrote it herself. The page looks like it was scanned out of a book. I just want to say, if anyone recognizes it as theirs, please contact me. Credit is where credit is due.


  1. there is a dance studio around the place where i live that EXPECTS their dancers to have perfect turnout despite all of the injuries your worksheet has listed. it is so sad to me when dancers, like you said in your last post, think a little too much on the word "perfect."