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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Turn out in adult dancers


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Before anyone says check the archives, I have and although turn out issues have been mentioned a lot on the young dancers board, I don't think they have been discussed on the adult dancers board.

The questions that I want to ask are:

1.What happens if, when you were younger, you never realised that turnout was a major thing in ballet. I can't remember what my turn out was like when I was 11. Therefore, how do I know if the turn out I have now will improve or not? I keep pushing it as in doing exercises and it has improved..I think..But will I ever know when to stop trying to get the best turnout, or is this part of dancing, in that you always try to aim for more?


2.Say you did have very good turn out when you were yonger, but stopped ballet, and then picked it up again years later, could you ever expect to regain that turn out that you had years earlier? or rather Can your degree of turnout actually get worse as you get older, if you don't do anything about it?


and to beginner adult dancers on this board


3.What do you do to keep your turn out or what do you do to improve your turn out?


I am just curious to know. I wish I had known more when i was 11/12 years old, but then ballet was just something I did after school and at weekends, and it may be too late by now.

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Xena, I had to think a bit before I answered these good questions. Let me hasten to add that they are personal answers, and may not reflect The Ultimate Truth.


1) If you are unable to remember how much turnout (and rotation) you had as an eleven-year-old, the chances are 50/50 that it was adequate or better, naturally.


2) I have found that students who gave up ballet in their teens after having studied at an intermediate or better level tend to keep most of the turnout (and rotation) as a sort of reserve in adulthood. That range is there to be recovered. I don't think you turn in with age, barring some other gait-changing event, just lose range.


3) I kept dancin'! ;)

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Guest beckster

3) I try and do the frog or butterfly or whatever its called stretch when I'm watching TV. I'm not actually convinced that this helps my turnout! Unfortunately my housemates already think I'm insane to do ballet in the first place and have little patience with me taking up half the living room floor while they are trying to watch Eastenders! (My living room is very small, not enough space even to do the splits. My bedroom is even smaller. I blame my lack of flexibility on this - it has nothing to do with me being lazy).


I actually think that my turnout (since I am at the stage of just rediscovering what my muscles are capable of) improved most just from USE. I have a nasty little habit of standing in a natural first position and using then releasing my turnout muscles while waiting for the lift at uni. I have had some very funny looks when the lift arrived unexpectedly just when I was testing whether my knees were over my toes by doing a plie. :P

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Yesterday a teacher gave me an exercise to help turnout.


After class, sit with your back flat against a wall. Pull your legs into the "frog" position with your hands around the ankles. Pull in as tight as you can go and use your elbows to push down on the knees. Hold this for as long as you can, working up to holding it for -- the teachers idea not mine -- 15 minutes.


I tried it today right after class. I held it for five minutes then slowly let the legs out. I felt the stretch at the base of the pelvis below the hip joints. As I got up, I felt like I was going to walk bow-legged all day. That went away in a few minutes, but I was left with a nice, well stretched feeling in the thigh muscles used for turnout.


Don't know if it has long-term effects, but it sure felt good. Only do this one after class when your muscles are good and warmed up.

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That one should work all right; just make sure you aren't holding onto the feet instead of the ankle and stretching into a sickled-in foot. Stretches are good, but you also have to build the muscles you need to support rotation from the hip, so that you don't have to do it as a passive exercise.

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Guest Colleen

I actually find that you get more pressure by pushing one knee down to the floor with your hands, then trying to push the other knee to meet the floor. If you can't make them both touch, then go as far as you can. I find that you can't really get as much strength from your elbows as you can from your hands. Or even better, if you're lucky and have something to help you, while they're watching tv on a couch, just sit in front of them on the floor and have them put their feet on your knees while you're in the frog. When you get better at it you can even try to get more of a stretch by pushing forward from the base of your spine so that you have a flat back.

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Colleen, I tried that one the other day and wow, it certainly does feel like its doing something good!

I have 3 weeks until my ballet lessons start! so I am trying to get myself back into the swing of things. I've had over two months off! yikes.., but I'm doing body sculpting and dance aerobics 5 lunchtimes a week to try and boost my energy levels...but its goos to hear what other adult dancers do to keep themselves all bendy and turned out, since I don't have any adult dancers out here to discuss things like that with anymore :-(


Jeanette x

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Guest Sonja

Hi 2 Left Feet, interesting to read the positive reactions to the exercise you suggested... I used to do it as well, until I ran into a ballet teacher who thought this was absolutely NO GOOD at all... She said this for two reasons (I hope I can explain this well enough in English!):

1) Your upper body and legs are not in a straight line as if you were standing, so while this is a good exercise to spread your legs, it's not really that useful in standing position.

2) She also said that turnout comes mainly from your - "lower back"! So you have to develop those muscles so that they help you to maintain that position of turnout instead of simply becoming more loose. This helps you to keep your - hmm, adductores?? - loose instead of tense. Floor barre was thus ***THE*** way she suggested to improve turnout.

I thought those remarks very interesting and helpful - and I hope you don't mind my comments... I would be interested to hear what others think of them!


PS: The same teacher also stressed how limited the natural turnout is - and that there are people who are naturally more turned in than out... Seems I am one of those - anatomically perfect for freestyle swimming, but going for the "wrong" thing... :P

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Hi SOnja


It is very interesting to read your last message. Yes I see what you mean about that exercise being probably only beneficial to opening the legs as opposed to turn out. My hips seem quite tight, so I find this exercise loosens them up a bit.


So what exercises did she your teacher suggest to you for your lower back? and floor barre? I know it is difficult to explain exercises, but it would be interesting to know.


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I admit I haven't been diligent about doing the exercise so far. I tried it twice. felt good both times but I don't know that it's doing anything per se. Both my teachers say turnout comes from the back of the thigh/butt muscles (it was a sub that gave me this tip). I'll keep trying it out to see if it works over time. if nothing else, it's a new stretch.


I'm also tight in my hip socket (right hip). Maybe this wil help in time.

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I've also been told I have a "natural" turnout, whatever that means. All I know is I don't have to work very hard at it (the hip only affects my plie in fifth with the right foot back and even then it's just an annoyance because I feel I should go deeper into the plie than I do). It's always a little perplexing to hear people ask about turnout advice because of this.

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Hi Xena, Just a thought but did you ever do the floor barre (think thats the correct terminology) with Sally when you were in Blighty. You lie on the floor and do things that you would normally do at the barre - Developpes, Grand Battements, etc - I find i can really feel my turnout when i do this and can really feel which muscles i am meant to be using when standing. I actually work a lot harder on the floor as i can feel every muscle in my body working which is sometimes a novelty. When doing centre work afterwards i do notice a difference and can actually feel what Nicky (my teacher) has been trying to get us feeling for years. Does any of this make sense. :confused:

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Floor barre is pretty amazing for technique and turn out. We don't have it here in S. California, but I took a class in New York. Here's the link to the web site of the woman who developed it. I believe she sells videos. Hope this link works.




Link wouldn't work, but that's the web address.

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  • Administrators

I just clicked on the link, and it works fine! :P

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Guest Sonja

Hi Xena,

sorry for not replying earlier... Well, one of the exercises to strengthen the muscles of your lower back is basically very simple, so I hope you will know what I mean by describing it:

You sit upright, legs straight, your upper body VERY straight ("pulled up", best to be controlled in a mirror), plus you use the muscles of your lower back in a way that you can feel you are "lifting up" instead of just sitting on the floor. Try to keep this position while pointing and flexing your feet in 6th and 1st position or while doing some port de bras. You will notice immediately when you loose the tension - and you will feel the muscles of your upper body back (? sorry, hope you know what I mean :P ) as well.

As for floor barre, I can only agree to what skippy posted earlier...


[ 06-26-2001: Message edited by: Sonja ]

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