The Royal Ballet gives us a bit of a history lesson on some parts of ballet technique and their evolution:
The bit on turnout fascinated me. It is a subject that has come up frequently in this blog. I’ve just started to research it online; here are a few articles:
and for a giggle:
My own take on it is that turnout is essential for range of mobility and a certain level of safety, particularly in ballet where everything is balance, balance, balance. Jazz and modern are more about throwing one’s weight around and/or isolation, so turnout — although it is needed — is less essential. (Again, I repeat — it still is necessary to an extent.) And it looks good.
The real controversy surrounds the issue of 180-degree turnout. I read somewhere that the reason (most, not all) Russian dancers seem to have less trouble achieving this is that they are chosen at an early age for having a specific body type. Dancers in much of the rest of the world drift into ballet class when their parents put them there, usually, and there is no selection process until they are in their teens (or pre-teens) and have some training (usually). Therefore, if they are properly trained they end up with whatever turnout is safe for them individually. It isn’t as pretty to watch, but trying to force a turnout is as dangerous as not having one at all.
When I was in ballet school, I was considered to have a good turnout even though it was less than 180 degrees. I remember hearing that most professional ballet dancers in the west at the time had less than 180-degree turnouts. Honestly this was never an issue in most of the west until Makarova created her version of La Bayadere for ABT. This was the first big clash of Vaganova vs. the West, or rather mid-century Russian vs. non-Russian, outside of Balanchine’s SAB. To Makarova’s credit, she did manage to get the entire corps to at least fake 180-degree turnouts in the famous Kingdom of the Shades scene.
I agree that the purity of a 180 degree turnout is much nicer to look at than, say, someone standing with their feet in a V shape. But ultimate safety depends on whose body is doing the 180-degree turnout. To some extent, it needs to come naturally. Forcing it only causes injury.
And is ballet any less ballet if done on a less than 180-degree turnout? For that answer, I just watch dancers dance. I’d say “no,” because I’ve honestly never seen anyone dance an entire variation on a 180-degree turnout (in particular, I’ve seldom seen anyone, Russian or not, land an assemble in a perfect 5th position although I’ve seen a lot of quick corrections 🙂 ). Huge turnouts were apparently even more rare back in the day, before Vaganova — even in Russia. Anna Pavlova made it to principal dancer at the Maryinsky without much of a turnout, for instance.
Again…yes, ballet wouldn’t be ballet if it were danced on parallel feet. Turnout is not optional. It’s the amount of turnout that is under debate.