Turnout is a necessary component of any ballet dancer’s vocabulary, and yet it can be an elusive concept to master. Turnout is the outward rotation of the leg from the hip joint, which allows for greater range of movement and more graceful lines in the body. It is commonly accepted that turnout is important in order to achieve the highest level in ballet technique, and therefore most dancers strive to perfect their turnout.
Most dancers develop their turnout through hours of practice – both on and off the dance floor. The importance of stretching exercises cannot be overstated, as they help to improve flexibility and strength in the muscles around the hips.
Strengthening exercises are also important, focusing on building up strength in both hip flexors and abductors. Pilates or yoga can also be beneficial in helping to increase range of motion throughout the body.
In addition to off-the-floor exercises, a great deal of turnout comes from on-the-floor technique. Proper alignment requires that each leg be turned out from its own hip joint.
This means that one leg should not be pushed out further than the other in order to achieve greater turnout; instead, both legs must be turned out equally. Ballet teachers often use imagery such as “elbows turning out” or “shoulders turning away from each other” to help dancers find their best alignment.
Other factors such as age and genetics play a role in determining a dancer’s natural turnout ability. While there is no substitute for hard work and dedication, it is important for dancers to recognize their individual limitations when striving for higher levels of technique.
Turnout is an essential part of any ballet dancer’s technique and requires dedication and hard work over time to develop properly. Exercises off the floor such as stretching, strengthening, Pilates or yoga can help increase flexibility and strength around the hips while proper alignment on-the-floor will ensure correct technique. Age and genetics may also play a role in determining natural abilities but with commitment, any dancer can make progress towards greater turnout.