If they’ve said it once they’ll say it
again: more turnout! In ballet we’re expected to
hold a 180-degree turnout of our legs at all times while
executing ballet movement.
This turnout comes natural for some, but for others it takes
hard work to attain. We learn early on that this is the
golden rule of ballet, so we do whatever we need to achieve
this look. Drastic measures should not be taken to attain
turnout; forcing the turnout can lead to a multitude of
problems including knee and hip injury as well as tendon
damage. Such an unnatural position needs to be achieved with
the greatest of care. Starting young, before the bones are
ossified, is usually the best way, but there are other
healthy ways to achieve your best turnout. There’s no doubt
that the best place to learn this is in the classroom, but a
couple of tips can always help maximize your time in
1) Stretching the turnout
The turnout requires a flexible hip joint and it also
requires the muscles around the hip area to be limber as
well. Stretching this area as much as possible will certainly
help your turnout. A center split with the stomach to the ground, is one at their maximum
turn out stretching potential. In order to get to this point,
holding a stretch in this manner (but only as far as is
comfortable for your body) will help. After achieving this stretch position; roll
all the way through and bring your legs back to a turned out
position with the feet together in a flexed position. If you
put in your time, and do these stretches daily, for at least
a half-hour to an hour, then your turn out will inevitably
· Never stretch a cold muscle; make sure you are properly
warmed up before trying to stretch.
· Do not put weight on the leg you are stretching.
· Remember that form is crucial when stretching. You can go
from flexibility to injury simply by arching your back. Stay
focused while stretching.
· Do not over stretch tendons, make sure your focus is on a
particular muscle and listen to pain.
· Do not force a stretch, Slow and steady is the idea.
2) Mind over matter
Turnout is a very physical thing, but your mindset is a very
important tool. The correct form can only be achieved with
the right mindset. While in any ballet position, the body
needs to be turned out not only from the hips but also from
the inner core. This turnout should be reaching from the top
of your head to the tips of your toes. Think of the center
line of your body; imagine every muscle pulling outward, and
being turned out. This energy and mindset can guide your body to stay in the form
that will maximize your turnout and ultimately, your techniqué.
· Your bone will actually be rotated in the hip-socket. Imagine
your rotated bone, your socket and the tendons attached;
imagine the rotation constantly.
· Imagine your body energy as two fields, with each energy
field on either side of your center. Picture both stretching
outward into a line of eternity. Imagine this pull and exude
· Think of your energy shooting down through the floor while
you pull up. This gives the mind a feeling of defying
gravity. This energy shooting downward will improve your
balance in turnout.
· The energy you should posses while dancing should be
spiritual and deep. A strong energy equals a dancer people
want to watch. Some of the greatest known dancers succeeded because of this. Think Margot
Fonteyn, her technique wasn't perfect, but she is still
considered one of the greatest ballerinas of our time…it
was her spiritual energy that drew people to her.
Turnout not only needs a flexible joint and muscle, it needs
strength to hold it. Strength is only developed through
persistence. All ballet exercises contribute to turnout but
they are useless without form. Body placement is essential to
correct muscle development. Without it, the muscles that are
supposed to further pull the turnout into position, will not
strengthen in the right areas. If this happens, your turnout
and overall dancing will be effected. Form is the single most
important rule of dancing as we all know, so don’t take it
· Think hips; do not try to turn out from your knees, even in
the least. This is the number one way ballet dancers injure
their knees. Be mindful!
· When stretching with your foot at the barré, or doing an
extension, make sure your hip is rolled down and isn’t
lifted whatsoever. A lifted hip can ruin a good pirouette and
any other basic ballet move. This must be constantly attended
to during all barré exercises, especially rond de jamb,
grande battement and fondu.
A turn out at the ankle can maximize the look of a
better turnout than you actually have. This must only be used
on the lifted leg in adagio. Do not use it on the leg that
you put weight on.
All in all turnout is one of the most important attributes of
technique. If you don’t work on your turnout then you
aren’t working on your dancing. Do give this the highest
priority as an early student, because it will be the key to
your success in your future dancing.