What is turnout?

I constantly see children trying stand in first position turning out from their feet to imitate a ‘real ballerina’ after looking at a photo or watching a ballet performance. I recently meet up with a friend who has taken up adult ballet classes. She told me how she finds it hard to stand like a ballet dancer and then proceeded to stand in first position turning out from her feet- Ouch!

I asked her if her teacher had explained about ‘turnout’ and she said “No, I just watch and copy her”.

In order to hopefully prevent further unnecessary injury, I therefore decided it was time to explain ‘TURNOUT’; one of the five principles upon which classical ballet technique is based.

Dancers do not stand in turn-out i.e. in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th position, they dance in turn-out. It must be maintained constantly. Without turnout, classical ballet technique does not exist.

Turnout is important for the stability, strength, mobility and range of motion. It must also be equal on each sides of the hips, legs and feet

The movement of turnout is achieved by engaging the six deep rotators of the hip joint in conjunction with the abductors. With our tiny toes ballet dancers, we look at a barbie doll and to see how her legs turn out from the hips. We stand or sit in parallel and imagine the top of our legs rotating in their hip socket. The degree of turnout in the feet is therefore determined by the rotation of turnout in the hip joint.

If one forces their turnout from the feet, it can cause chronic injuries and distortions throughout the whole body. It is especially dangerous for the knees. Also, if turnout is forced from the feet, as soon as a dancer tries to move, the turn-out disappears.


There are lots of ways we can help to increase our own turnout such as sitting like this in what we call ‘frogs’ which will help to increase the natural turnout from the hip. You can also try doing this lying on your tummy.

To find your own natural turnout- Rotate form the hips to stand in first position. Ask someone to draw around your feet then mark the line from second toe to centre of heel- this is your natural turnout.