Achieving the Perfect Turnout

By on October 20, 2016


External hip rotation is really the pillar of good ballet technique. You can spot poor technique from a mile away, and turned-in legs and feet are a dead giveaway. Turnout and rotation are imperative for stunning technique, but not all of us are blessed with a 180 degree turnout. There are, however, a few ways around to achieve the perfect turnout, even if you aren’t genetically inclined to have it naturally!


There are three aspects of turnout: hip rotation, knee rotation, and ankle rotation. The most important one to focus on is hip rotation at the very tops of your legs. If you don’t turnout your hips, it puts a lot of pressure on your knee joint. If you don’t turn out your knee, it puts a lot of pressure on your ankle joint. All aspects are important, but the hip rotation is definitely the one you need to focus on first. Rotation at the hips is achieved by proper hip alignment. It is important not to tuck your pelvis to achieve more rotation as this will put unnecessary stress on your hip flexors and will make them extremely tight. At the same time though, you don’t want a sway back. Instead, make sure your spine is completely neutral in its alignment. Think of wrapping the insides and backs of your legs all the way around to the front of the room- visualization really helps fire up the right muscles! Even if it doesn’t look any different, you are using the right muscles. Give yourself cues that work for you. I like to imagine a zipper going up the inside my legs and a spiraling sensation going from my feet to my hips.


Practicing on rotator disks really helps get the correct sensation in your muscles. Once you’ve practiced simply rotating in and out, try some with a gentle plié. Make sure your kneecap is directly over your second toe. This ensures proper alignment and is good muscle memory so your body knows how to land properly turned out from a jump. Ankle rotation really only needs to be utilized in arabesque to wing your foot for an elongated line, so on all other occasions, your foot should be in a neutral alignment: neither pronated in nor out.


Turnout is something that most people need to constantly think about, and in order to make your dancing look clean, turnout is essential. Other cues that help me are thinking about “presenting my heel” in any extension to the front. Telling yourself these simple instructions while you’re dancing can really make the difference between sloppy and professional, and take your technique to the next level!


About Alexandra Pullen

Alexandra Pullen was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her initial ballet training at a local community center. Pullen studied at Dance Center Evanston, Evanston School of Ballet, and Chicago Ballet Arts, and the Ruth Page School of Dance, where she joined their company, the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Academy of Ballet in Chicago under Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev. She toured with the Joffrey Trainees to perform as Clara in The Nutcracker Suite. She studied on scholarship at summer programs of the San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2012, Pullen competed in the Youth America Grand Prix Chicago Semi-Finals and received a gold medal in the classical category and a silver medal in the contemporary category. She was a Finalist in New York City. In September 2012, Pullen was awarded the Shoot for Change Scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, and joined ABT Studio Company two weeks later. Pullen joined ABT as an apprentice 2013 and was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2014. With ABT, Pullen's rep included Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Ashton's The Dream, Manon, Cinderella, Gaite Parisienne, Les Sylphide, La Bayadere, and Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita. She toured ABT to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Australia, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. This is her second season with Colorado Ballet.

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