The Art of Properly Using your Turnout and Not Over Rotating

The issue of improperly using your turnout and over-rotating in the feet is a worldwide issue

Written By Julie Friedrich, Associate Director for College and Career Programs, Francisco Gella Dance Works

As a teacher, I see this on a daily basis. As someone who has sustained a major knee injury and had major reconstructive surgery as a result, I am adamant that students use turnout from the proper placement and do not over rotate.  

I am grateful that I had a teacher who demanded using turnout from the proper place. This emphasis on proper alignment in the body is crucial to being an injury-free dancer. I remained injury-free until I was 17 years old – while dancing full time, all day long. In today’s environment, I am seeing too many young dancers with injuries that could easily be prevented by maintaining proper alignment and not over-stressing the body by forcing it into positions that are not suited to their anatomy.

Many young dancers do not understand that this early wear and tear on the joints as a result of forcing themselves into positions that their bodies are not meant to be in will have lifetime impact and make them more susceptible to injuries. This is a very black and white issue. Forcing turnout causes injuries. Period.

Myth about turnout: If your feet are turned out 180 degrees, that means you’re using your turnout.

Truth: Turning out requires rotating your legs from the inside of the hip all the way through to your feet.

To maximize flexibility in the hips, most dancers need to begin training early while their bones are still growing. The best age range for building turnout-related flexibility is between 8 and 12 years old. Proper stretching can also improve rotation slightly after the age of 12.

But all the flexibility in the world will mean nothing if you don’t have the strength to control it. Turning out correctly uses the lower abdominal and lower back muscles, the glutes and the thighs. It also requires proper placement. In order to get the most turnout, you have to pull up to create room between the bones. In other words, if you sink into your hips and legs, tuck under and grip your turnout, you won’t be able to maintain your rotation as you move from one position to the next.

I have also observed that the dancers who force their turnout at the barre are never able to maintain it in the center. You should always be working within your natural and proper turnout so that it can be maintained at all times and even more so in the transitional steps of your dancing.

The detrimental effects of over rotating and misusing your turnout

Forcing your turnout can affect numerous parts of the body, not just the knees. When the knees, ankles, and feet are wrenched into a position that’s beyond a dancer’s natural limits, extra pressure is placed on the bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in order to hold them in that position. This affects the entire alignment, causing the dancer to grip and compensate. Dr. John Brummer, a podiatric surgeon who consults with the School at Steps in New York City, says that forcing turnout can irritate and inflame the ligaments around the ankle joint. “When you push your ankle bones against those ligaments, you put undue pressure on them, causing a strain injury,” says Brummer.

Forcing turnout from the ankle also causes the tibia (the large shinbone), to twist.  This twisting irritates the tibialis posterior muscle, which attaches to the tibia, and can result in shin splints.

All of the unnatural twisting, weakens the ligaments that are responsible for the stability of the ankle and the knee and disturbs the natural line of the Achilles tendon, causing tendonitis.  Tendonitis can also develop in the patellar tendon which attaches the quadricep muscles of the thigh to the tibia.

In conclusion, proper alignment, use of turnout stemming from the hips, and the use of the lower abdominals and back muscles along with the thighs and glutes, will allow for you to engage your turnout from the proper place. If you want to avoid unnecessary injuries and have a long career, remember this: forcing turnout causes injuries.


Why Your Technical Training Is SO Important

Mastering technique… and the art of movement.

What separates dancers who have mastered technique, from those who have mastered the art of movement is clear. Movement mastery requires that dancers couple their technical training with control, strength, and artistry.

With technical expertise comes a refinement that allows dancers to speak clearly and eloquently through their movement, but it’s not enough. A dancer must learn to express themselves through these movements versus mastering the steps themselves. Think of technique as the vocabulary and grammar that you in need in order to properly formulate a sentence. Similar to the tone or resonance of your voice, a dancer must understand how to layer their artistry with their movement and technique in order to be seen, as an orator who uses intonation to evoke emotion within their audience.

A technically well-trained dancer who has learned how to express their movement with attention to detail adds beauty and power to any style of dancing. More often than not dancers are more focused on learning steps versus strengthening their vocabulary which will allow them to convey a much richer and attention-grabbing story or feeling when they dance. For example, when you are practicing a petite allegro, small quick movements will strengthen smaller muscle groups giving you access to more power, versatility, control, and endurance. With intentional practice and training that focuses on mastering the fundamentals (through your regular training regimen and also intensives), you have an opportunity to really dig into your technical vocabulary and core movements that are not only physically challenging, but that will elevate everything else that you are doing when you move.

So whether you are a competitive dancer, concert dancer, aspiring choreographer, or looking to land that audition, the success of your dance career depends on mastering these fundamentals if you want to stand out. Intense training that supports you in mastering the essential technical building blocks of every dance genre will help build a much more compelling dancer. The dance becomes more memorable because the audience sees the dance expressed with such nuance and intention. It’s been said that technical expertise and mastery brings true freedom because dancers have more tools at their disposal to express themselves, and are not limited by lack of strength, power, or technical ability to master precise movements with ease. When a dancer masters fundamental technique and knows the ‘rules’ they can choose when and where to break them. Knowing when they are going outside the ‘rules’ brings an intentionality to the movement being created and brings these dancers who have taken the time to master  the basics to the forefront when dancing among a group of dancers who lack the same So if you are looking to stand out, join us for our upcoming intensives. Check out our upcoming events here.

The Importance of College Planning for Young Dancers

Don’t leave your future to chance… College is THAT important.

One of the most important components of preparing for a career in dance is to demonstrate the ability to set yourself apart from the crowd. This ability is expressed in who you are as a dancer but it is also developed within your learning environment. It may seem like there is always time to get ready for college but dancers who are serious about preparing for their future, start planning for this process as early as 7th grade. While it’s a common thought for some dancers to think they don’t need college, a fantastic way to get your foot into more doors – and to prepare for a long and sustainable career – is to obtain a college degree. 

Our team of expert mentors at Francisco Gella Dance Works crafted a free tool to help you get started today: College Prep Readiness Checklist

Obtaining a college degree displays that you can personally and artistically commit to a desired course of action and succeed in reaching a intentional outcome. The ability to address issues and the maturity to resolve them is a benefit of attending college and one that is essential to many of the most successful dancers in the world. It’s crucial to understand that there is a whole world to explore outside of just dance studios and stages, therefore understanding the college application process can be a life changing tool for many young aspiring dancers.

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