Technique Tuesday: How to Turnout

This week we’re diving into the dance roots of barre class and discussing what it means to be “turned out” or in a turnout position. In class when we stand in first or second position, we are in turnout. In first position you might hear your instructor say “heels together, toes apart in a V” or “stand like a slice of pizza could fit between your feet!” When in turnout, there are a few more things to think about besides your feet though. If you google “turnout” you’ll find this definition:

In ballet, turnout is a rotation of the leg that comes from the hips, causing the knee and foot to turn outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. Turnout is essential to classical ballet technique and is the basis on which all ballet movement follows.

Turnout is also the basis of many ballet inspired barre movements including pliés and kicks (or grand battements). If you’ve never danced before it may not feel natural to stand in turnout at first and that is normal. It is important to work within your natural turnout. If you try to turn out your feet into too wide of a “V” shape , you might notice your knees bend or find it harder to stand with straight legs. If that happens, simply make your “V” a bit more narrow. You’ll notice in time that your natural turnout will improve as your hip strength improves. Many of the exercises dancers do to improve turnout are incorporated in barre class to strengthen and stretch your leg and seat muscles!

You might be wondering why turnout is incorporated in a barre class at all – we are trying to get fit not become ballerinas right?! Well, have you ever seen a ballerina’s body? Turnout helps work leg muscles that are otherwise harder to target. If you are doing a thigh exercise in turnout, the inner and outer thigh parts are more engaged. When working your seat in a turnout position, you’re using the outer seat and hip muscles. Remember to embrace the shake and squeeze tight to taper that side seat!

Here are a few things to remember when in turnout:

  • Your feet and legs are turned out the same, no matter how far that may be.

  • Your knees are pointed in the same direction as your toes (For example: When you plié in first or second position, you want your knees to bend straight over your 1st and 2nd toes.)

  • Your pelvis is straight up and down in a neutral spine, not sticking out, when standing.

Still have questions when your instructor says “keep your legs turned out”? Don’t be shy! Ask after class and we’ll have you feeling more comfortable in no time!

Michelle Nigro