Turnout: The do’s and don’ts for dancers

In classical ballet, technique turnout or hip external rotation is ideally 180 degrees of rotation outwards of the hips, knees and feet. The bad news is that for most dancers this is a physical impossibility. The good news is there are ways of safely maximising your turnout, all of which can be included in conditioning programs and dance technique classes.

dance 1

Factors effecting turnout include:

  1. Orientation of the hip socket. The hip socket (acetabulum) that holds the thigh bone (femur) is angled differently on everybody. If your acetabulum faces more to the front than the side this can make it difficult to rotate the thigh in the socket as it starts from an internally rotated position
  2. Femoral anteversion describes a forward twisting of the thigh bone. The greater degree of anteversion the more difficult it becomes to turnout the legs.
  3. Elasticity of hip ligaments. The iliofemoral that attaches the femur to the hip is the strongest ligament in the body and it’s role is to restrict turnout and extension (arabesque) however it acts to stabilise the hip so is also helpful in holding you upright!
  4. Strength of the muscles that perform external rotation such as piriformis, obturator muscles, gemellus muscles and quadratus femoris
  5. Flexibility of muscles surrounding the hip joint that help to keep the hip in the socket
  6. Motor control. This term describes the brain turn on the correct muscles with the timing and force

There is nothing we can do about the shape and angle of our bony structures such as the hip socket, femoral head and anteversion however dancers are able to safely lengthen and strengthen our soft tissues to optimise our turnout.

Stretches For Turnoutdance 2 

1.  Prone internal rotation
2.  Prone Plie in first
3.  Prone plie in second
4.  It is also important to stretch or trigger point the piriformis, glutes and TFL to allow maximum hip movement

Hold stretches for 30 -60 seconds, 3 x per day. Hold releases for 90 seconds on each point 2 x per day.


Strengthening Exercises For Turnout

  1. Parallel to first position
  2. Clams
  3. Supine Retire

Try 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions, 5 days per week.

Forcing turnout and Common Mistakes

There are many ways that dancers try to ‘force’ turnout and over a long period of time these may cause injury to the ankles, knees and back. For an injury free dance career try to avoid:

  1. Turning your feet out at the depth of your plie, keeping your feet there and then stretching your legs.
  2. Rolling the inside of your feet (medial arch) in turned out positions to get your toes out to the side.
  3. Tilting your pelvis forward and sticking your bottom out to make room at the front of your hips, increasing strain on your lower back.

Having a full body assessment of your nerves, joints and muscles by a dance physio at Barefoot physiotherapy can help you to maximise turn out and prevent injuries. Want to pop in to see one of our Physios, click here!