Technically Speaking : Learn to use the right muscles to get the best turn-out
Technically, what is turnout?
Turn-out is the outward rotation of the legs that characterises the stance and movement of classical ballet. When correctly done, the whole of the leg is rotated so that the feet point sidewards at 90 degree angles (full turnout of both legs being 180 degrees). Because the rotation occurs in the hip socket, the natural alignment of the leg is maintained, that is, the knees remain over the toes, and the hips over the knees.
Engage the muscles
Your ballet teacher might prod you about where the top of your thigh meets your bottom to get you to engage your turnout muscles. Some people call them your seat muscles, and, confused, students promptly tighten the buttocks. In fact, the impetus for turnout – for the rotation of your leg – comes from a set of muscles right inside the hip/pelvic region, known as the deep six lateral rotators of the hip, and you can turn out your without fully engaging your glutes.
Some teachers differ in their opinion as to how much you should use your glutes for turnout – suffice to say here that you should never just rely on them, as:
(1) you will overwork them and get a ‘bunching’ effect in the muscle, and
(2) without using the deep rotators too, you’re missing out on the chance to really turn the femur in the joint, to work your turnout to its full potential.
Your potential, maximum turnout (sometimes called your structural turnout) depends on the structure of the top of your femur and the shape of your hip socket. But the muscles and ligaments in the hip also play a part, so stretching and strengthening them can greatly improve your functional turnout, that is, how much of your potential you actually work to.
Condition your muscles
Effective ways to condition your turn-out muscles include floor barre exercises (you can’t cheat), and using a theraband to create resistance as you work your leg, e.g. in tendue. But if you really, really want to sort this area of your technique out once and for all, go for Pilates and the Deep Six.