Improving Your Turn Out

ballet youth legs

Flat turnout is a dance milestone that everyone dreams of achieving. Here are some stretches and exercises to help you strengthen and improve your turnout.

What is turn out?

Dictionary definition: Turnout (ballet), a rotation of the leg which comes from the hips, causing the knee and foot to turn outward, away from the center of the body.

My definition: Turnout, is a ballet position effected by the amount of flexibility in your hip joint. It involves turning your leg and foot out away from the center of your body. perfect turnout is when each leg is turned out to 90 degrees.

How to stand in turn out (correctly)?
1. Start in parallel with you feet touching

2. Turn out both legs rotating at the knee.
-You should be able to keep your balance and keep both legs straight.
– It should NOT hurt!

3. Pull up. Make sure you are standing up straight with your core engaged, back straight and bum in.

4. Do not roll forwards on to your feet. Your weight should be evenly spread between all 5 toes on each foot. With your arches up (this will naturally happen if your weight is spread evenly and you are ‘pulled up’, but i find it helps to visualize what is happening)


Improving your turn out

In Class
– Being aware in class is the main thing that will help you improve your turn out. During barre work maintaining your best turnout will strengthen your muscles and give you more control of your turnout when in arabesk and performing jumps.

– Corrections and guidance from your teacher are invaluable.

– Keep your turn out in the forefront of your mind even when your not doing barre work. Turnout is equally important when turning and doing center work.

At Home
* Always warm up first before stretching or doing any strength exercises. Breaking a sweat will make sure your muscles are ready and prevent injury.

– Frog stretch – lay on your front (tummy), legs in pilé, knees turned out, feet flat together. Your feet should be straight or slightly raised, they should not be dropped down towards the floor. Press your feet down slowly till you feel a stretch and hold it for at least 30 second before relaxing, repeat 3-5 times.

– Butterfly legs – sit up straight, legs bent out to the side, feet joined in front of you. Push your knees towards the floor keeping your feet on the floor. Try to get your chest on to your feet, trying to keep your back flat for a more intense stretch.
Bring your feet closer to your body once you can get your knees on the floor.

-Strength exercises- holding your turn out correctly is hard work on your muscles and simple exercise to strengthen your ankles, calves and thighs will help you control and keep your turn out.

Exercises that will help with this are:
– Squats
– Dead lifts
– Box jumps – rise onto your tiptoes and jump to the four corners of an imaginary box, keeping on your tip toes.
– Bourrée
– Echappé

Stick to it nothing happens over night! YOU CAN DO IT! 🙂

Up In Lights Dance Academy

*Always work within your own personal limitations. Stretching should never be a bad or burning pain. For any persistent, burning or stabbing pain always go check with your GP before continuing to dance.*

Photos from :

-Lois Greenfields beautiful photography of motion in form – other examples of Lois’s work can be found at

Stretching For Beginners

The most common question i get asked as a dance teacher is ‘how can i improve my flexibility?’
So here are my top 10 tips for stretching at home. 🙂

1) Basics Are Best
Forget fancy complex stretches to start with, you won’t remember them and 9 times out of 10 they’re less effective than the basics.

2) Pain is your friend
Push the stretch until it starts to hurts. There is NO point stretching a muscle if you can’t feel it being stretched. – This is also how you know it’s working.
Quick point I should make is that stretching pain is not a burning horrible pain. It’s a nice pain ….as weird as that sounds.

3) Flat Back
When people stretch you see a lot of arched backs and curved spines, as they try to get their nose to their knee etc. You will achieve a far superior and more intense stretch by keeping your back straight/flat.
4) Warm Up
The worst thing you can do is stretch when you’re not warm. This is where most people go wrong and get injured. ALWAYS WARM UP! Even if its just having a hot bath before hand. Your muscles need to be warm to be able to stretch effectively. Plus stretching at the end of a class will mean you wont ache tomorrow!

5) Water
Water is so important for a healthy body. It keeps your joints lubricated and improves muscle tone. When you stretch and exercise you are breaking down impurities, you need to drink plenty to flush them out. You need to keep hydrated!

6) Strength
The worst thing people can do is just focus on becoming really flexible. This will NOT make you a great dancer. You need to be able to control it. There’s no point being able to kick your leg above your head if you cant hold it there. Add body conditioning, strength work and weight training to your weekly workouts, to make the most of your new found flexibility.  7) Push it
Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. So push it! Complete your full sets you can do it !

8) Hold It
Its all well and good being in the right position with a flat back and feeling the stretch but you must hold it for at least 20 seconds.

9) Make It Routine
Stretching once in a blue moon won’t improve your flexibility. You need to make it routine. Even if it’s just 5 min a day. Little and often is better than 2 hours once a month.

10) Make it personal.
Everyone has their own limits. Don’t compare yourself to others. Set your own goals and do it for yourself not other people. Flexibility isn’t an instant thing, it takes time but stick with it and you will get there!

I hope this helps.
As always -any persistent, burning or stabbing pain always go check with your GP before continuing to dance.

Up In Lights Dance Academy