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Natural Turnout


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I have been pretty successful with my dancing but I just don't have the natural turnout. I am very good at "faking it" and using what I have, but my knees are starting to hurt after my summer intensive and I obviously know that I can get badly injured . I have repeatedly heard from my teachers to keep my knees over my toes. I just really can't, though. Any advice on increasing turnout would be great since I just don't have it naturally. I do have a good amount of strength in my hips, but not flexibility.

Edited by prodancer95
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Hi, prodancer95, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. :P


You are correct in that knee pain and repeated corrections of "knees over toes" are signs that you need to improve your turnout. I would bet almost anything that you're forcing turnout now, which is why your knees hurt. It wouldn't surprise me if you were rolling in on your feet as well.


In order to get better turnout (where the feet end up on the floor) it is necessary to increase the rotation of the thighbone (femur) in the hipjoint. This makes the entire leg turn out, not just the parts closer to the floor. In order to get better rotation, you need two things: flexibility and strength. Getting flexibility is done with any number of different stretches, notably the "butterfly" where you sit down on the floor, draw up your knees, and let the legs open to the side. You can hold on to your ankles to help you in this one. In developing strength, you can start by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you and turn out the legs from the hips, then relax and let them go back to neutral.


When standing, don't try to turn out your feet so much as you work on rotating the whole leg from the hipjoint. Give up a little turnout now, so that later, you can pick it back up safely. Your knee pain should go away. When you do a plié, make sure that your knees go out to the side on the same line that the center toes of your feet are pointing. Patience! This is going to take a while!

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 5 weeks later...

i have the exact same problem, but i have a good middle split and a decent frog. even though im working on my flexibility and trying really hard to rotate from my hips in class my turnout is still worse than other dancers i know who do not have a good middle split or frog. it very weird because i am able to turn out my working leg but for some reason not my supporting leg. does anyone know what im doing wrong?? :) i feel like my only major problem in my dancing right now is my turnout. my fifth position is terrible!! help!

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  • Administrators

Hello cfriend, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. Unfortunately, you have posted on the Young Dancers board, but your profile says parent and ballet accompanist. Your post sounds like a young student. Can you please clarify this situation for us?

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  • Administrators

Very good! Thank you for getting your own registration, and welcome!

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And now, to the actual question:


Turnout is where the feet end up on the floor; rotation is the degree of turnout that comes from the position of the thighbone relative to the hipjoint. Just turning out the feet from the knees won't feed the bulldog here. In fact, it will likely cause trouble. What you have to work on is the rotation of the upper leg, not just the lower part. You will need to work the whole leg, right from the joint down to the floor. One of the better basic exercises for rotation involves simply sitting upright on the floor with your legs in front of you. Turn out the legs from the hips and release. Do that a few times. It's a simple thing that you can make part of your pre-class warmup.


When working, try always to remember and feel that your turnout comes from the hip down, not from the floor up.

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