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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Tired Of Forced Turnout


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i've finally started my diploma in dance course. after a week of ballet lessons, i've decided that my ballet teacher is asking for something completely impossible from me: perfect turnout in fifth.


just because the rest of my class are dance students from professional arts school in china does NOT mean that i should be made to do a turnout way over my natural possibility. she seems to believe that one's turnout should be made from the feet, and the knees should then be made to follow the feet because she never corrects the students when they "step" into their turnout and you can see that their knees are not over their feet (and that is her most common reminder to the class).


and when i asked her a very simple question (about tombe), she grabbed my hand and proceeded to tell me not to be discouraged and work harder on my turnout. and when i try i lose my posture so i have to work on that as well. grrrrrrr......i'm just so frustrated. :)

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Guest Rosa maria

I understand you sapphirenite, that is really annoying and not healthy.


Turn out is different in everybody. If someone is getting there fifth or first position on demi plie that is forcing it. It is DEFFINITELY important to work on the turn out, but in YOUR OWN turn out.

I believe that there are just few dancers that can make "perfect fifths" and 180° firsts, and personally I am not even sure that that is nice. When dancers are too turnout I feel that the body looses sense of volume and the dancing becomes to flat. It is really really strange to see a dancer on stage with a 180° turn out, even if they are able to do it, once the movement is in charge, not even SYlvie Guillem is always completely turn out,and thanks God I think, because I don't think it will be nice to watch, it will deffinitely look less fluid.


So, why force in the barre the fifth position if then in the center it is not going to be able to be the same way?, unless we are not moving, because as soon we do glissade assemblé, the real turn out will come out and if we try to force the fifth during the movement, the movement will NOT be free ( we probably won't get to jump and will be very rigid in the upper body and kill our knees). So what is the point??

I don't mean by this, let's work paralelle, but just lets be honest with our turn out , acccept it and try to improve it carefully, from the top of the leg, and if we have the chance with a smart and good teacher that respects OUR body and helps us to improve.

If the teacher is not accepting our turn out, I don't think that is a good sign.


Sorry sapphirenite, I didn't mean to write this long and be so critical ,but the turn out topic annoys me a bit, because I think it is a "fashion in ballet" that is becoming more and more extreme and is not really leading to a better dancing.....

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Rosa Maria, brava!!! :)


I couldn't put it better myself. You are quite correct, and there's hardly anything better than correct!

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Guest grace

i agree with rosa maria. good advice, there.


sapphirenite - could i ask where you are studying, and what age you are?


reason: SOME teachers believe that, when you enter full-time training, at 15 or 16 or 17 years of age, having been pre-selected as having appropriate physical facility for ballet as a performer, it is appropriate to USE full turnout, ar almost full turnout, even if you haven't got it.


what they are aiming to do, is to achieve the look of maximum turnout, with dancers who are aiming to be professionals. sometimes, if the work is done VERY carefully, some aesthetic benefit CAN be gained without injury - even though this runs counter to the best-practice advice, offered above by rosa-maria above (which i agree with, wholeheartedly). i am wondering if this is your situation?

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FOrcing turnout is bad for Me, bad for everybody I've heard of, and probably bad for you.


My teacher Miss Xiao has us stand facing hte barre in parallel, lift our toes like they do in Bali, flex the ankles, and turn out on the heels, then setting the metatarsals down, and finally laying the toes down -- "THAT IS YOUR TURN-OUT" she says.


I find that on a good day my rotation will "open up" during hte barre, and htat by grands battements my standing leg will be more rotated than it was earlier in hte barre. THat requires a lot of relaxing into things, letting he knee fall sideways when I do passe, and a lot of attention to initiating every movement by rotating -- to the back, the toe leads away, and the hip rotates actively before the tendu begins.... None of htat happens by forcing, and it doesn't happen by concentrating on the picture -- it comes from actively rotating all hte time.....


THe hardest thing for me, and probably for most, is to pay attention to rotating the standing leg when hte working leg has so much to "do -- the standing leg is doing things too.... when i give myself a class, I often repeat an exercise, after the working leg knows what it's supposed to do and has FELT it, the second time concentrating on hte standing leg and keeping it alive....

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At the school I work with, we spend a lot of time "fixing" students who come to us from teachers that force their turn out. I've already seen children of 12 and 13 years with horrible knees and painful feet, all because someone insisted they conform to a code or standard and pay no attention to individual bodies.


We do not try to get perfect fiths early in training believing instead as Paul mentioned that, over time, the body will turn out more as they work at higher levels. Even in our older dancers we do not force it, instead workig from an "injury free" approach focusing on proper placement and muscle use. As class progresses the older dancers do in fact turn out more as they warm up.


I have seen turn out improve dramatically in people, even adults, once they are shown the proper muscles to use and how to use them.

Edited by 2 Left Feet
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Guest Rosa maria

I like the way your teacher Miss Xiao begins the barre, Paul Parrish. It seems like a nice and healthy way to start , not only phisically but mentally as well.


Isn't it such a good feeling to be working with your body and improving? and such a bad feeling to work against your body?


I think that is the way a ballet class should feel, GOOD!


Your posts encourage me, thank you.

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grace i'm pursuing my diploma at a local art school (full-time) and i'm 23. i started dance training only at the age of 19 and ballet at 21 so that puts me at a distinct disadvantage as most of my class are 16-19 and had enrolled straight from professional dance schools (though not all had serious ballet training).


our training is not just in ballet. we have classes in 5 types of dances from chinese classical (another class requiring high flexibility, yet another thing i'm not naturally blessed with) to southeast asian dances (indian this term). however ballet, with its 4 classes a week, is more important and probably the most taxing of them all.


i guess the hardest part is being the oldest in class with a bunch of highly talented/flexible young kids. and it doesn't help having to act as their interpreter for practically every class either. :wink: i only wish my teacher would recognise that fact instead of accusing me of not working hard enough.

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Guest grace
i guess the hardest part is being the oldest in class with a bunch of highly talented/flexible young kids.
sounds like it...just keep your OWN goals and your own dance enjoyment in mind, and be proud of yourself for having the love of dance, and the determination to do it. i admire you. :)
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after 4 straight days of forced turnout, i forgot about 'not supposed to be doing that' for my graded RAD class. it does get a little hard to remember which teacher requires what in which class :)

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could someone with a working knowledge of anatomy confirm this?


"while it is impossible to change your bone structure, it is possible to change the muscles controlling your turnout."


how true is this?

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It's true, I think, sapphirenite, at least to a certain extent. Mel will probably be able to give you a better anatomical explanation, so I will leave this one for him! :wink:

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It's a lot simpler than it might seem. It's virtually impossible to change skeletal structure except by a few millimeters here or there from hard usage. This change is caused by callus or placque that builds up around microfractures in bones that take a lot of percussion. (Archaeologists like to compare femurs of male skeletons to determine if the person had done heavy labor or not) Muscles and other soft tissues surrounding the bones, however, because they are soft, can change sizes and strengths, and so seem to move about under the skin. They don't actually move much in relation to one another, but their range and flexibility can be modified, sometimes to an astonishing degree.

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sapphrenite, anatomically speaking, I like to think of actually having three different ranges of "turnouts": 1) the active turnout I can actually use in class, 2) the passive turnout I can get e.g. lying on my back (restricted currently by muscles being tight), and 3) the absolute hard limit of my bone structure (of which I don't even know what it is, cause in every position what stops me from turning out more seems to be some muscle :wink:). The first can be improved to the limit the second sets; the second can be improved to the limit the third sets, and the third one is what it is. (I think some of these are called "rotation" instead of turnout in English, but I can't seem to remember which :)).


It's the same idea as with flexibility in general: e.g. your extension is most likely not as high as your flexibility alone would allow, and your flexibility (in most cases) is not as much as your bone structure would allow.


But if the sentence was offered to you as an explanation as to why you should force it, then I don't think it's true in that context. I can't imagine how forcing full turnout from the feet could build strength or flexibility, at least not in the correct way.


(Please correct me, Ms. Leigh and Mr. Johnson, if I said something that's not true or what you feel is better explained some other way. I'm still only learning the application of anatomy to dance. :))

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Jaana, you're on firm ground. :wink:


You've described "active" and "passive" turnouts, and the skeletal limit, and "rotation" is only a kind of active turnout which occurs in the hipjoint. "Turnout" is simply the place that the feet occupy on the ground. It is possible to have 180º rotation of both legs (90º from each) and the feet show only 160º on the ground! :) It's not that common, but it happens!

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