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To torque or not to torque: The summative contributions of the knee, tibia and foot in the use of turn out

Posted By Maggie Lorraine on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, February 23, 2015

In a previous post we examined the structure of the pelvis and hip joint and observed how the anatomical variations of the structure can impact on an individual’s ability to externally rotate their legs in the hip socket (turnout). We know that in most cases, dancers do not possess perfect turnout or complete external rotation from the hip. Often turnout is viewed as the placement of the prescriptive positions of the feet on the floor, however it is important to remember that turnout is an aligned movement of the whole leg from the hip joint culminating in the centering of weight over the foot on the floor whilst dancing. Ergo turnout is an action not a static position.

Dr. William Hardaker and Dr. Lars Erick, in a paper delivered with Martha Myers to the 1984 Olympic Scientific Congress, estimated that the 180° turnout is achieved by 60°-70° rotation of the leg from the hip and the remaining 40°-30° is picked up by the knee, tibia and foot. At the tibia, torsion is defined as an axial twist of the tibia or shinbone. Dancers in their growth years may develop external tibial torsion as a result of turning out their feet beyond the range of the hip joint. The torsion has been measured as widely varied as 16° to 60° and also with differing amounts of tibial torsion in each leg.

The small bones in the foot allow a gliding action to occur at the arch and it is not uncommon to see dancers force the lower limbs beyond the normal limits of the hip’s range of motion, creating a compensating action called pronation or “rolling in” of the feet to achieve the perception of greater or perfect turnout. The injury rate for the foot and ankle complex is the highest of all joint systems and the illustration below clearly indicates the risk potential. Note the change to the alignment of the Achilles tendon and the weight distribution on the inside of the foot as a result of the pronation of the foot.


Many factors contribute to the safe and efficient control of turnout whilst dancing. Rather like a team, body alignment, core control and the recruitment of muscle groups, which activate and control turnout, all play their integral part. Should one part fail there is a chain reaction that effects the efficiency of the others.

Many years ago I learnt what was for me is the golden rule of alignment and turn out. The weight of the body should fall like gravity, through the centre of the bones and the weight of the body is evenly distributed over the feet on the floor. This ideology creates stability, strength and control in a way that would be difficult to achieve through the action of torsion of the knee, tibia and pronated foot. The bonus of the aligned mode of working, is that turnout can be improved by the efficient recruitment and strengthening of the turnout muscles and the intrinsic foot muscles supporting the body weight on the floor.

Follow these links for more information:

Information for this article has been drawn from the IADMS Resource Paper

The following IADMS link provides an excellent training program for dancers:

Further reading:

Grossman G, Krasnow D and Welsh TM. Effective use of turnout: biomechanical, neuromuscular, and behavioral considerations. Journal of Dance Education 2005;5(1):15-27.

Maggie Lorraine is the Leading Teacher in Ballet at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and is a member of the IADMS Education Committee.

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  teachers  turnout 

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Comments on this post...

Matthew A. Wyon says...
Posted Sunday, April 26, 2015
I think Gayanne Grossman's article (Grossman, G. (2003). "Measuring dancer's active and passive turnout." J Dance Med Sci 7(2): 49-55.) is more relevant than the paper by Hardaker, Erick and Myers (1984). I note that Gayanne's paper isn't mentioned in the resource paper which is a pity as its a very well researched and written paper by a dance PT with a wealth of experience and knowledge
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