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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Teacher's Opinion on Turn out


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I've started to take private classes on technique and I've been having a great time exercising only the basics like painfully slow plies, and tendus.


However, my teacher is forcing me to use a 180 degrees turn out where I do not believe I have the ability. Because I'm now rolling in when I force my turn out, and during tendus I wing my foot because I'm constantly thinking of my heel but I do not have the strenght to turn my heel down or up from my hips, so the combination of rolling in and winging makes my feet sore a lot.


I suggested my teacher that I use my tendu with a 170 degrees to the sides instead of a 180; so that it would have been quite easier; and I wouldn't roll in nor wing but he said "Till today I've never forced any of my students to use 180 degrees straight; because I don't believe in forcing the turn out to look perfect I just believe in using the natural limits correctly. But you have the natural limit of 180 and I want you to do that in the way I want it. Do not choose the easy path." And he actually doesn't force my friend that I'm taking my classes with to use her turn out like I do; she is allowed to use it with a lesser angle. The real problem is, I believe that if I continue to work in 180 degrees, I will have winging and rolling in as "habits" and it will take a lot of time to get rid of them though my teacher corrects it every time he sees that I'm doing something wrong...


In these conditions, would the student know her/his limits better than the teacher; or am I just hiding behind my logic to camouflage my weak muscles? How to understand this?


P.S.: When he turns my leg out during a side tendu I can easily stay like that in a perfect 180 degrees with my hips tucked in; but I still do not believe that it is a proof of my "natural" ability since as soon as he puts my feet down I start rolling in and winging again.

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Skyish without seeing you it is not easy to decide what the situation actually is, but it is clear that you do not have enough faith in this teacher to accomplish what is being asked at this time. It is wise to question what is going on. It does sound as if you are uncomfortable with the decisions he is making on how your body may be able to function with this type of work. The known fact is that you are uncomfortable and this does matter. Since you are taking a private class and you are not a young teen, maybe you could speak frankly with him about what you are trying to accomplish over a long period of time in taking private lessons with him. Perhaps your goals for yourself are not in agreement with his. If this is the case, then maybe he is not the private teacher for you. :)

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Pronating and rolling in on your feet is never good, no matter how much ability for turnout your body has. Turnout is developed over time using proper placement and attention to detail of HOW you are doing things --- and making sure your legs execute every movement turned out to the fullest, throughought the movement (not just at the beginning and the end).


If you have the ability to achieve 180-degree turnout, then proper application of the ballet exercises will develop this over time. If not --- well, the purpose of turnout is to give you stability and freedom of movement of your limbs. It's important that you develop turnout to the maximum possible, and that you use it to the maximum possible every day. The specific degree of that maximum is not so important in terms of how well you will ultimately dance.

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Hello, skyish, and I concur wholeheartedly with what vrsfanatic and davidg have responded in their posts. Really good advice...One wishes and strives for that perfect rotation, but any rolling in ("feet sore a lot"...red flag warning!) I feel strongly is not in your best interest. This may compromise your knee health as well. I have a negative opinion about forced turnout beyond what a student is capable of executing...It's just a position I have taken as a teacher and former dancer...


"Very few human bodies possess the capacity for perfect turn-out. Students should remember that they are trying to achieve more than the ability simply to turn their legs outward. Their goal must be to develop the muscular strength to control and maintain their own maximum degree of turn-out at all times while they are dancing." Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren

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There's a big problem when we describe 180-degree turnout as "perfect." Perfect for what? Who defined perfection? Who said the body was supposed to move into that position anyway? This terminology seems designed to just make us all feel bad about our bodies and to encourage pronation and forced turnout (which is definitely IMperfect). High degrees of turnout should be described for what it is, in a non judgmental way: "180-degree turnout."


I strongly believe that we need to forget the idea of "perfection" in ballet. There is no such thing as perfect in professional ballet, never was, never will be. But many students persist in this belief.


Instead, we need to replace the idea of "perfect" with the ongoing working reality of trying to make the best we can with the resources we have available. And that is the case whether you're an amateur or a professional. Professional shows and professional dancers are never perfect, they are the best that could be accomplished given constraints on budgets, dancers and (most especially) time.


Also... one thing that makes ballet beautiful is that form follows function. Pronated feet and knees pointing a different direction from the toes are not functional, and also not beautiful. The goal of training is to create the most functional (and beautiful) form and movements possible, given the body you have. That is quite different from trying to achieve an imagined form that may or may not be functional or beautiful on your body.


Finally, there is the question of whether your body (any body) can achieve beautiful form and function in ballet. Either you believe it's possible, or you don't. I believe it is possible.

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For those taking recreational ballet, davidg is correct but for those interested in a career in ballet, the understanding of movement in a straight line (180 degree) is required. :)


(edited for clarification)

Edited by vrsfanatic
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I respectfully disagree with that statement the way it's written. There are many beautiful professionals in major companies with less than 180 degree turnout. Alexandra Ansanelli of the Royal Ballet come to my mind immediately, and there are many, many others.


Can you clarify a bit? :)

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By the way before it turns into a discussion on whether 180 is a must, I need to tap in.


I'm not talking about a "forced turnout" here; my knees are aligned with my toes. I'm able to do that. But only with some help. And if there is not an outer force helping me, I start with changing my center of gravity and I put my weight forward onto my arches, and I'm not successful at using my turnout when I tendu to sides so I wing my feet instead of turning my heel down from my hips. My teacher says that, in a case where I have the ability for 180, if I avoid this degree and go for something easier, just because I'm weak, I'd never have the strenght to achieve it without help.


He keeps correcting my lines when I roll in, or wing, but still I feel like I have to do them, because when I'm on my own I cannot stop doing them. For one second or 2 I can stay like that perfectly but after that I go bad again. And I trust my teacher, he is really new and foreign to me, but observing how he treats my friend, he really knows what he is doing.


I just needed advice on; would I get that strenght by forcing my body to the fullest with instantly corrected compromises, or would I get it by doing something else, going for an easier position and avoiding what I can do up there at the end of my limits, and "then" I'd be able to do it without compromises? Because for me, an ability is an ability; and it should be there whenever I look, and an ability is not a "potential". I feel like 180 is my potential, not my ability. And again in my opinion, I should work towards it to achieve it, not "with" it. But according to my teacher 180 is my ability, and I have to work "with" it because working towards it would make me lazy.


P.S. About the discussion above, my teacher really doesn't think that 180 is a must. As I told you he never forces my friend; and my friend is working with 170 or lesser. And he always says "The angle doesn't matter, you still can be a really good dancer" but it is me and probably only me that he forces.

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Sounds like you just need to do some exercises to get that turnout muscle stronger. There's a book I LOVE called "Tune Up Your Turnout" which gives just those exercises.


Yes, it can be done just doing what you do in ballet class, but if you want to get stronger just that bit faster, you probably need to do some work outside of class. I do mine about 3-4 times a week, often at the gym, always working the turnout muscles. I can tell that my turnout's improved by about 10 degrees since I started doing the extra work, using some of the exercises from that book I mentioned above.


Be cautious about the rolling in, though. I have naturally flat feet (yes - even after 30 years of ballet!!), and use "Fabs" to help keep the ankles in alignment so that I can work the turnout. That might be a temporary "fix" for you so that you can concentrate on the turnout without worrying about hurting your ankles.

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lampwick, not problem in disagreeing with me. :)


I will move this discussion to Cross Talk so as not to digress from the original subject.


Skyish, thank you for clarifying that your turn out is not being "forced" beyond your natural rotation abilities. Stick with your teacher's work, as long as he is working with the rolling and knee issues that are disturbing you. You will feel weaker while you are working to change aspects of your technique. In time, the newly improved you will feel more comfortable.. If you trust the teacher is not forcing your turn out then it seems it is you who needs the convincing that the possibility of standing in this new way (for you) will help to develop your work in the future. :)

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What are "fabs?"


"Fabs" are arch support things that go round your foot. You can wear them with low-heeled sandels and in ballet and pointe shoes, if you wish.


They are made by someone called "Dr. Roth." I think they're available from Discount Dance if you're interested. I swear by mine...broke an ankle a couple of years ago and that foot has not only the custom inserts from my doctor but also I wear the "Fabs" to keep my arch up.


The other foot only gets the "Fabs" if I'm in ballet slippers and my ankle on that side is bothering me (I sprained it during the Adult Dance Camp this summer).


I love 'em, but I will say, they are NOT cheap.

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I searched for your answer looking in the mirror; however I just decided that I need another person to say that. Because it seems that I'm able to keep my knees on the sides, but I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong with my ankles, heels, or even toes. But I guess the important part here is my heels? I guess, with the little I know of geometry, even if I keep my knees on the sides, my heels go to derriere. So no, I really don't think that my heels are like ( ); not even close to that actually. I would say 165-170 degrees? Wow, is that really possible to have ( ) look on your ankles? I'm not even close to that! On the floor maybe. But not in releve. So it is unfair to call my turn-out 180 degrees!




I will try and find a cheaper solution. I think I can come up with something =) thanks for giving me the idea.

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For those taking recreational ballet, davidg is correct but for those interested in a career in ballet 180 is required.


Hiring practices of professional companies can certainly be of interest to someone evaluating his or her chances of getting hired. But as a dancer, one cannot change professional hiring practices or one's bone structures; one can only change the way one trains. Real or perceived hiring practices should NEVER be used as motivation to train in a dangerous manner, no matter what one's aspirations are.


Looking at it from the other side: any any company that hires pronated dancers will end up in short order with injured dancers. Therefore, if a company insists on 180-degree turnout, it will have to find dancers who can do it without pronation or other distortions. If your body is structurally incapable of that, then there's no point in hoping you can dance for such companies, nor is their any point in injuring yourself trying.


So either way --- no matter what you hope to do with your ballet training --- I recommend the approach to training I described above. And I have always recommended that dancers train to the highest standard possible, given their chosen time commitment. Evaluating your prospects in the ballet profession is a separate matter.


I'm not talking about a "forced turnout" here; my knees are aligned with my toes.


Skyish, I don't really understand what you're saying. Some posts say "forced turnout," some say "not forced turnout." Either way... in my experience, the best way to develop things over time is to maintain correct form free of distortions, and to push it gradually over time.


For example, leg height: I've developed high extensions by starting to work low. And now I can do all sorts of things without hiking up my hips. But if I'd insisted on practicing all the time with my leg above 90 degrees, I never would have had the chance to develop the muscles in the right way to support it: every time you place your body in a distorted position, you reinforce that distortion.


You probably do have the potential for 180-degree turnout, and your teacher is right that to develop it, you can't just take the easy way out. But you also have to work at a degree of turnout TODAY that avoids distortions such as pronation or rotation below the knee. And then you really "push" it at the hips, trying to get a little bit of extra degree every day, in every position, in every movement, in every part of every movement. And you try to get even higher on your legs every day, just a little bit. Over time, if your body can do 180 degrees, those techniques will develop it.


In my experience, some teachers are really good at helping me in this process, and some are not. I have no way of knowing how your experience with your teacher "stacks up" in this regard.


And a clarification on what I said above: if your body is capable of 180 degree turnout, then I believe that developing and maintaining that turnout is absolutely necessary for you.


I am very dubious about "fabs." I have never seen anyone seriously recommend such a system of training in ballet.

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