There are different schools of thought when it comes to dancer turnout. Some teachers and professionals believe that hip rotation is the most important thing to condition in a dancers body, while others focus on the elements of strength and stability to achieve the best alignment. In truth rotation, strength and alignment are all factors that make up the quality of your turn out. Read on for more information about how to strengthen your turnout!
Listen to your body and Pay attention to its natural shape:
All of us are born with different growth tendencies in our hips. Some of us have really deep sockets while others are more superficial. It is especially important to pay attention to the natural position of your femur, or thigh bone.
If you have an anteverted femur (it faces front/inwards) your tendency will be to turn in. Most dancers with this type of body will naturally struggle with turning out. Strengthening your core and glutes will allow you to stabilize your body, strengthen your foundation and allow for proper alignment. Taking barre exercise classes, in addition to dance class is excellent for strengthening abs, glutes, and the individual muscles that support hip rotation.
On the flip side, if you have a retroverted femur (it faces outwards) you will need to strengthen your internal rotation. You can do this by doing work in parallel (contemporary classes or yoga are great for this!) Our Nova Unitard is perfect to wear to a contemporary or yoga class! Increasing your internal rotation is not only helpful to improve your turn out, but it is important to fend off lower back pain.
Stand in first position with your spine in a neutral position. This means that your tail bone is neither protruding nor severely tucked under. Lift up out of your joints by engaging abs and glutes. You want to make sure you’re not dumping weight into your joints to compensate for lack of strength. Engage your quads to make space around your knees. Knees should be aligned directly under hips and toes aligned directly under knees. Lift your weight out of the arch of your foot by pushing slightly to the outside edge of your foot as to not roll forward into arch. Ground all five toes. Try a couple of plie’s here and see how this feels.
It’s more about how it feels, than how it looks:
Turnout comes from the hip, but also is extended through the knee and ankle. Proper alignment of all of these is key. It is not only the agility of rotation but the strength in the muscles around the hip, knee and ankle joints that support your turn out through different movements and positions.
WORK ON both sides of the body:
You want to make sure that you’re practicing all of your dance technique and adequately stretching both the right and left side of your body. Doing exercises predominately on either side will create an imbalance in strength and potentially cause hip placement or alignment issues. When in doubt, even it out.
Three Exercises to support your turn out:
To extend your hip flexers (from the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum)
- Kneel and place a pillow under your left knee. If needed, hold a barre or chair to maintain balance
- With both legs parallel, lunge forward on your right leg until your right knee forms a 90-degree angle. Rest your hands on your right knee. Keep your hips level and tuck your tailbone under. Engage all abdominals to make sure you’re lifting out of your joints.
- Continue to push forward into the right leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the outer front part of your left hip, and/or in your left thigh. Be sure to keep your back upright and your hips square.
- Hold this position, keeping your glutes tight, for 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
- Repeat the stretch on the right knee.
For restriction in the sides of the hips: Try the ‘Fire Log Pose’ (from theballetblog)
- Sit on a yoga mat with the legs out in front, as if to sit cross-legged
- Bring the heel of your right foot to sit on top of your left knee (make sure to flex your foot to protect your knee joint)
- Try to make your shin bones parallel with each other
- Lean back on your hands and allow the knees to drop out to the sides
- If the hips are very tight in this position, use pillows under your knees initially to allow the hips to relax in a supported position
- Slowly start to lean forward from the hips (keeping the spine straight) to increase the stretch
- Breath into any feelings of restriction, and focus on consciously relaxing the points of tension in your hips
For restriction further into the back of the hips: try the ‘Yogi Sit’ (from theballetblog)
This is especially good if you find it hard to hold your turnout in devant. Please note – this should not cause any pain in the front of the hips or your knees. Please do not do it if you feel any pain.
• Sit on a yoga mat as before, but cross the legs so that the knees line up on top of each other
• Lean back on the hands to settle in to the position, before slowly leaning forward from the hips
• Focus on keeping the spine long from tailbone to crown, and consciously releasing any restriction, rather than pushing into the stretch