How's your Turnout? A Dancers Guide to Alignment

Written by Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT


Raise of hands, how many of us have forced our turnout to attain that beautiful aesthetic of an 180 degree first position. All of our hands should be raised, I will admit I too have forced my turnout back in the day during my dancing career! I understand we want to be perfect and show no deficits during an audition or on stage, but at what cost? What does forcing turnout do to our bodies?


Frist off let’s talk about where we should be initiating turnout. It comes from the knees right … No Way! Turnout should be initiated at the hips, by utilizing the external rotator muscles. By increasing the strength of the hip external rotators and lengthening the adductors which internally rotate the hip, this can actually improve your turnout without unnecessary force.


What exactly does forcing turnout do to a dancers body, let’s break it down. Imagine you are at the barre in first position and forcing your turnout, what are you feeling? One word that comes to mind is unstable, due to the misalignment that is occurring now ones center of gravity is in front of their base of support. An increase in lumbar lordosis occurs to counterbalance increased hip rotation, therefore, the abdominals are unable to be engaged while in this posture. This now puts stress on the knee joint and decreases the ability to engage the quad muscles, to keep a strong base as well as a straight knee. The ankles are rolled forward which, in turn inhibits the arch muscles of the feet to stabilize causing pronation. Since the ankles are forward with no arch support this causes the toes to grip the floor to prevent falling forward.


By working within your natural turnout you will be able to engage your core eliminating low back pain. Now this posture will allow for the hip external rotators to strengthen to initiate stability and a solid base of support. Going down the chain the quads are now able to contract, therefore pressure is taken off the knees. The arches are now lifted, the ankle is stabilized and the toes are relaxed on the floor. With this alignment strengthening is able to occur, you are able to dance freely with a decreased incidence of injury.


In the words of my college ballet professor and former Boston Ballet dancer, Jill Silverman, just remember the 13 things:

  1. 10 toes on the floor

  2. Ankles straight

  3. Knees lifted

  4. Thighs pulled up and rotated

  5. Tight tushie

  6. Tummy muscles up

  7. Hips forward and flat

  8. Ribs relaxed

  9. Chest lifted

  10. Shoulders relaxed

  11. Long neck

  12. Head and eyes up

  13. Dance, Breathe, Smile and Love it!

If you are interested more on how to improve your natural turnout to prevent injuries potentially caused by forced turnout, please visit our website or email our Dance Medicine Team, Dr. Meagan Robichaud, PT, DPT at meagan@magnapt.com or Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT at laura@magnapt.com

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