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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Developing Turnout


learningdance

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My DD (age 8) is very flexible and strong. She has "banana feet" and many other advantages but her turnout is awful. I don't know that her teachers are really focusing on it and I don't know if this is good or bad.

 

Here is my question for professionals, "How does the turnout develop? How long does it take to develop decent turnout? When should it become a significant focus in instruction? When are kids sophisticated enough with their body knowledge to "use their turnout muscles?" What are the turnout muscles? I think that they are the muscles on the inside of the upper leg.

 

Thanks

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Turnout is derived from the rotation of the thighbone in the socket joint of the pelvis. Ideally, turnout in classical ballet is considered complete at 180° across the front of a first position. This rotation is trained in over the course of years of study, and maintained by study after the "flat turnout" is achieved. It's not something which can be taught in a single year, but a continuing item of interest in class throughout the dancer's class life. Even in the little bitty ones, a small amount of turnout may be introduced, but not a lot. Pre-ballet ages can't support the rotation yet. "Turnout" itself merely refers to where the feet end up on the floor. Many students, and unfortunately more than a few teachers try to force turnout, but that never works, as it imposes torsion on joints like the knee and ankle that were never intended to take much torque, and that can lead to injury.

 

Rotation of the thigh is supported by the hamstrings, the abdominals, the back muscles and a whole host of structures that you might never suspect. We start with introducing the idea of turnout from rotation on the youngest students and train it in over the years.

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Absolutely everything Mel said! This link may be helpful as well:

ROTATION & TURNOUT

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I was going to ask what a turnout is, but Mel's description was perfect. When we found out our 9 year old who had never danced before was accepted to a performing arts school for dance we were shocked and surprised. When we asked the head of the dance department what he did to grab her attention she said he had great turnouts......we just shrugged our shoulders and said thanks. Now I at least know what a turnout is, even though I am still a dance idiot.

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Educating the parents is as much a part of ballet as the educating of the children. It's one of the reasons we're here. The dual-education process is a long deliberate one marked by moments of extraordinarily fortunate discovery. :thumbsup:

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Hahaha, well said, Mel! I appreciate your great description! I wish I had understood it when my DD was younger. Alas! I did not know this site existed back then.

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Actually, that is what we are doing here all the time. Or at least I thought that was what we are doing. :thumbsup:

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SCPA Dad, if the terminology you used, in terms of "she said he had great turnouts......" is exactly what she said, I'm afraid I'm going to have to question the knowledge of this teacher, and suggest that you take this child to a professional ballet school, if he is really interested in dance. The reason for this is that one does not have "turnouts", one has rotation, or great rotation. People can "turn out" their feet, but still have no rotation from the hips. I may be jumping on this unnecessarily, but, better safe than sorry.

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Since it was about 6 months ago when I talked to her and 7 months before that for the auditions I would fault my memory. Given that she is the chairperson for the whole dance department I am guessing she knows what she is talking about, and I was probably thinking turnouts from helping him with his wrestling. I'm not worried about the school, it is one of the best around, plus he goes to a great dance studio to study contemporary after school.

And I agree, better safe than sorry, I appreciate the help.

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The short answer is, it depends.

 

It depends upon the reason for the average turnout. Tight muscles, short tendons/ligaments, and thicker bones can impede rotation, but so can a lack of understanding what it is and a lack of developing the muscles that control it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We have recently seen a dance physio about daughter's turnout and she was adamant that turnout is a physiological factor that one is given and that there is nothing you can do to improve it. When I said that daughter had recently had a growth spurt and her turnout seemed to diminish and asked if it could be improved by stretching muscles etc., she said no and that it often diminishes after a growth spurt.

 

I was confused by this and thought that turnout could be improved with stretches such as butterfly etc. and strength training and that there was always room for improvement. Am I wrong?

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Lazerquest, we can only speak from experience in terms of seeing improvement, however, one does learn in ballet how to USE one's rotation to more effect. This can make it seem like there actually IS more, but that might not always be the case. If someone really learns how to use what they have, as long as they are not so tight that there is almost no rotation from the hips, then we should be able to see improvement in how they look. I fully believe, however, that the ballet exercises at the barre, executed very well and very correctly, with focus and energy, are the best things for improving everything. They will do much more than sitting in a butterfly. :yucky:

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My 8 yo DD has just begun to use her turnout and get it. Her teacher was just talking about turnout and she just wants their feet in a "little V" and use that as they develop their turnout muscles. Having a 16yo DD that works very hard on her turnout, it's fun to see the "Aha" moment.

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