The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Turned out February 21, 2013

Filed under: ballet,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 12:16 pm

The Royal Ballet gives us a bit of a history lesson on some parts of ballet technique and their evolution:

The Royal Ballet

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:
turnout 1

turnout 2

turnout 3

turnout 4

turnout 5

and for a giggle:

turnout 6

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.


2 Responses to “Turned out”

  1. atlantic Says:

    I agree that at least some degree of turnout is required. During every single class I have ever taken, I do realize the movements would be easier if I had better turnout (and could maintain that turnout). Turnout is one of the key elements of certain moves. You really can’t do good fouettes without it. It does change your balance when the leg is in a la second.

    Perfect turnout may not have been required in the past given the level of technique, but I don’t think a dancer could really move up nowadays without it. Remember, old school petipa ballets really only had the prima doing crazy stuff. The corps dancers are rarely seen doing pirouettes.

    I think that turnout can be improved, but I also think the Russians have a point with the whole body screening thing. It just makes it so much easier to dance if you aren’t constantly fighting your turnout.

    And don’t fee bad, I am positive it is not physically possible to land in a perfect 5th from assemble. I have accepted that I will never be at 180, but I do wish I did. It does look prettier.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    A lot of fans seem to confuse turnout with extensions. I ad a discussion with a casual fan who could not distinguish between properly turned out developpe and one that is cheated but with higer leg. Students too. Many have been taught to cheat turnout by uncredentialed teachers, or worse use wrong mechanics to improve turnout. All children before age of 11-12 have facility for increasing turnout but care must be taken to ensure proper technique. Here in the U.S. we don’t have the level of teaching that Russia or France has with their selective programs producing top talents. Here the norm is to get your first years, the most crucial years for proper placement, in local dance studios before finishing last years at professional schools. It’s no wonder the fundamentals of American dancers, turnout being one fundamental, appear to be lagging behind countries with strong, national schools.

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