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Turnout Question


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I have a slight pigeon toe on one foot that I *think* is from a femoral anteversion thing in that hip. I've had it my whole life and it used to be worse but ballet has helped. Regardless, my pigeon toe lead me to kind of give up on trying to really increase my turnout range very much, because I figured my bone structure wouldn't allow for a lot of improvement. (I still work on using rotator muscles correctly, I just don't force my turnout).


But then I was told by my dance teacher that you can measure potential for turnout by doing the frog stretch, or by doing the butterfly stretch lying on your back (I threw in a picture!). In both of these stretches, if the knees are able to open completely and touch the ground away from the other, that should be an indication of good external hip rotation.




My hips open up this way easily to 180 degrees like the lady in this picture. So when I'm in passé I have decent turnout.


But when doing pliés, tendus, or any type of movement in which the feet have contact with the floor, my turnout is really poor. If I lay on my back and have someone push my feet down into a 180 degree turnout, my hips just won't rotate to accommodate.


Again, one of my feet naturally points in a little bit, so if I try to rotate from the hips from a parallel to first position, it doesn't get very far.


So this is where my confusion is: if bone structure of the hips were causing my turnout to be lousy, wouldn't I also not be able to open up my hips in the frog/butterfly stretch? What is the difference between what's going on in passé vs. when the legs are stretched straight?


I'm trying to figure out exactly what is 'blocking' my turn out so I can work on it - whether it be stretching something or strengthening. If I can improve it, I would love to work on my turnout, I just always thought it was a lost case (which is fine).


:) Thank you!

Edited by Victoria Leigh
Image removed as per BTforD policy.
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An expert teacher can chime in here, but I think it's what's called the difference between your "passive" flexibility and turnout you're able to use. As teachers here often say, turnout is an action not a static thing.


Personally, I find that it's my core strength in abdomen & lower abdomen that helps me use and maintain turnout when moving/dancing.


By the way, Ms Leigh has removed your picture -- the embedding of pictures (.jpg files) uses up a lot of expensive bandwidth. The best way to post photos is to open a Photobucket or Flickr site in your BTWD board name, and paste a link here.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi athletesofgod: Redbookish is correct and so are you - yes the frog stretch is a passive flexibility indicator, and yes bone structure absolutely has a role in achieving turnout.


There is a great little book available at Amazon.com (use the icon on this site to order and I believe BalletTalk receives a benefit from the purchase) and it is titled,

"Tune Up Your Turnout" written by Deborah Vogel. It's a great resource and it is not expensive.


There are also several really good, technical articles about turnout and exercises to improve it, on the IADMS site. For some reason, my computer won't let me post links here, so perhaps another forum member can do that for you? :ermm:

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We also have a ton of discussions about rotation here on the board, especially in the YD forum and in this forum! I believe there was a post recently about this same subject on this forum. :) Check out the Pinned topics on this forum too. There is one on strengthening rotators, and one on Alignment that includes just about everything!

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Athletesofgod, my daughter could have written your post. She is 12 and has femoral anteversion, and one foot turns slightly in when she walks. Like you, she has nearly flat frog and butterfly. She has improved her turnout over the years, but she will always have some limitations. We were thrilled when she went en pointe last year because we wondered if she had enough rotation to safely do so. She does not think she will be dancing professionally, but she does want to have a career where ballet is a part of her life-as a dance teacher, costume designer, or physical therapist who works with dancers. She does well in modern, so there is a possibility of that being part of her path. She, hopefully, has many more years to dance with her pre-professional company, so she will enjoy every moment of that.


You are right not to force your turnout. Doing so can only make things worse, not better.


We do have the book by Deborah Vogel, and in it is a test to determine how much turnout you have. DD does have some limitations, but she can still dance and enjoy it. She takes a full load of classes six days per week at a school that offers very good training. She is determined to be the very best dancer she can be, and though it is frustrating to have limitations, she tries to make the most of every day.


I hope that you continue to dance and enjoy it, and that you will strive to always be the very best dancer you can be. I believe that there is a reason for everything, and one day you and my DD will each look back and say, "My challenges with turnout help put me on the path to _____, and I'm better for it because I am where I am today."


Best wishes to you! ?

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I just realized I posted this in the Adult forum. Please delete if necessary, especially if not relevant to original poster! Sorry!

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Thanks, jflyte. I'm going to leave it, because it offers a useful account of dealing with structural limitations. And it sounds as though your DD will become a member of the Adult students forum one of these days! We all want to keep dance in our lives, so best wishes to your daughter in that goal.

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Many of my adult students struggle with varying amounts of turnout and other things which sometimes cause more or less frustration. We try to work gently on what is there and to learn to work around what is not. :)

It is very helpful for me to know what IS possible, so that I know how much I can realistically "push" - but in a nice way, of course!


Another reason why the "frog stretch" is not an accurate predictor of turn-out is because the hips naturally rotate more when they are "flexed" - which is the position when you are in a deep plié or also retire (passe) position.

As the hips straighten out, and the legs, too, then the "true range" becomes evident.

That is why one measures turnout (useable turnout) usually whilst lying on the stomach with the legs straight out (behind, as it were), then bending a knee and, using gentle support on the buttocks to stop the pelvis from rocking, rotating the entire femur in both directions to see where the motion is greatest.

Oh, wait, here is a much better explanation: http://www.dance-teacher.com/2013/03/turnout-101/

(it doesn't show the "test" I learnt, but that is ok; it explains it better!)



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The difference in available rotation when the hip is flexed and extended can sometimes also be due to soft tissue restrictions - a good physio can see if there is a particular structure that is limiting range in a particular position - sometimes the Gluteus meadius and TFL can inhibit range when the hip is extended, or soft tissues at the front of the hip which can be carefully worked on under supervision. It agree it is true however that there is usually more rotation available when the hip is flexed as a general rule of thumb.

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  • 1 year later...

I have some questions about balancing while staying turnout. I am not sure if I have to create a new thread or I have to ask it here. Please, move it if necessary.

I explain the whole problem since I think the consequences are due to a same thing, whether it is balancing or turnout, I have not figured it out yet. Sorry, it is a little long but I have read the stickies and some threads beforehand.


Firstly, while I am in 1st or 5th turnout (not 180° but near) in centre or off the bar, I almost lose balance (backward). I cannot stay in that position for a while without a bar. Secondly, in 5th, my front leg stays a little bent but it does not affect the exercise. Third, the most annoying point: at the bar in 1st or 5th, I move my front leg to a retiré, until there all is ok, but at the moment I get my hand off the bar, I am rolling on myself towards the supporting leg by the front (circular movement), losing turnout both of my supporting leg and of my working leg (my knee lose turnout quite a lot too) without the supporting foot having moved at all. I cannot get back to the previous position. It is like my hand would make me hold my turnout...


I cannot figure whether the problem comes from balancing or turnout.


I have tried to work on it for a while (months). I heard that people generally do not feel and use enough the floor. I worked by placing my feet turned out and tried to use the floor. In the centre, I adjusted the turnout (moving my foot to a little less turnout position) during the exercise when I needed, that is when I had to do something on one leg (retiré, développé, battement,...) with/without relevé. It was a compromise to work on my turnout and being able to do the exercises.


It did improve my turnout and my feet felt stronger and steadier but it did not solve the problem, so interesting but useless... Moreover it often threw me off the music/not on the counts because of the feet adjustments time lost.


I gave up the whole thing (minimal turnout) and focused on others but it is like a hole in my technique.


Maybe, some of you could give me some insights towards what is involved here, the reasons, how to work to correct it. Any of it will be helpful.


Thanks for reading,


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Plume, it sounds to me like it is a matter of weight placement, both at the barre and in the center. If your weight is too far back, it causes you to sit in your hips, which greatly effects both rotation and balance.

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Ms Leigh is better qualified to comment, but I wonder if, in addition to what she advises, you might think of NOT trying to have your feet at near to 180 degrees? Our turnout is an action that comes from working correctly in our hips and femurs - the effect of this shows in our feet, but our feet in "flat" turnout doesn't necessarily mean we are actually turning out.

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Totally right, Redbookish. Thank you for adding! Very important to not turn out the feet first, Plume. Turn out the LEG, from the hip. Trying to work with the feet rotated further than the hip allows causes all kinds of problems, certainly including balance.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

There is a great, not very expensive book that may be really helpful for you - it's "Tune Up Your Turn Out" by Deborah Vogel and one can purchase it through Amazon.com.


I refer to the explanations and exercises (accompanied by great pictures of real adult students - not photo shopped advanced dancers :) ) all the time in my adult ballet classes. If you decide to purchase the book, be sure to click on the Amazon link on this site so Ballet Talk receives a bit of credit for the purchase.


Another great book is "Dance Anatomy" by Jacqui Haas. I also use this one all the time in my adult classes. It has great conditioning exercises and gives lots of very helpful information. You can also purchase this book through Amazon.


You can also go to Lisa Howell's online videos and her written explanations of finding and using turnout. She has many books and DVD's for sale on her site, The Ballet Blog.


This is not an uncommon concern for dancers, and there is lots of help out there for you!

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Thank you Ms. Leigh, Redbookish and Pas de Quoi for your answers and your help.


I understand your concern about turning out more than hips. That is not what I aim for. I do not want injuries on the short or long term so be sure I am not pushing myself too much. I only wish to go as far as I can and since I do not have any professional goal, I do not have a deadline but plenty of time to achieve it. I attempted the experiment so I had to really try, otherwise I would not have known if it was unsuccessful because I was lazy or it simply did not work. I stopped as it was made clear I was not getting to the point.


From what Ms. Leigh said, I did not think that alignement and feeling up could interfere that way and as much. I really think you are right. I have given a try without help (barre) and slowly from 1st to a retiré, I have made it without losing the turnout. I have to concentrate hard on pushing up (lifting up?), aligning my back and holding the turnout, and it works. During class, I already had to place my back a little more front for pirouettes and balance on pointe, but I thought it was settled by now. Thinking about pushing up, I remember now my first year back to ballet my teacher from this time telling me this all the time, but I was far more interested in concentrating on the steps and my feet than anything else. Well... I hope I will be able to work on it within the speed of the class.


I will look through the interesting bibliography you give Pas de Quoi - maybe anatomical terms will be a little hard. I have one book about dance anatomy with exercises but I am not really fond of conditioning. I like the constant variety offered during ballet class and conditioning is not as entertaining.




- Pas de Quoi, I have the exact book you were talking about from Jacqui Haas (translated). I read it once a while ago and it was interesting, but do you mean I should try the exercises? I have bought it for personal culture, I am not a dancer. By conditioning, I was thinking of floor barre class (which are seldom a real barre transposed on the floor).


- About the issue of not turning the feet more than the hips: is there a safe way of placing the feet before an exercise?

Edited by Plume
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