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Resource Paper: Turnout for Dancers - Supplemental Training

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Turnout for Dancers: Supplemental Training


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Introduction

Part One of this resource paper, Turnout for Dancers: Hip Anatomy and Factors Affecting Turnout, described the bones, ligaments, and muscles of the hip joint in relation to turnout, and discussed the five main factors affecting turnout. Part Two provides an overview of useful conditioning exercises and imagery work for improving turnout.

In addition to the muscles of the hip joint, described in Part One, the use of core support and an awareness of pelvic alignment are also crucial if turnout is to be fully functional in dynamic dancing. Generally, muscles are at a biomechanical disadvantage in poor alignment; if the pelvis is in anterior tilt (swayback) or posterior tilt (tucked), it may not be possible to use the muscles that contribute to turnout optimally. It is important for dancers to develop sufficient core support and good pelvic alignment in dynamic movement in order to have functional use of the muscles that externally rotate the hip.

Alignment and muscle balance in the lower leg also contribute to stability and control for turnout. If the dancer is standing and moving on feet that are pronated (what dancers call rolling in) or supinated (rolling out), there will not be a solid foundation to support weight, and balance will be compromised. Once the dancer is struggling with balance and adding unnecessary tension to the legs, turnout may be much more difficult to sustain, and the possibility of injury may be increased.

The exercises and imagery in this article are divided into three sections: (1) core support and pelvic alignment necessary for optimal use of turnout; (2) hip musculature exercises specifically related to external rotation of the hip joint; and (3) lower limb considerations. For those readers unfamiliar with bones and muscles discussed in this paper, there is an appendix of terms at the end.

Core support and neutral pelvis

While core support and pelvic alignment are related, they incorporate different muscle groups and demand a variety of conditioning exercises and images. In the neutral pelvic position the deep rotator muscles of the hip joint work to externally rotate the femur while the abdominals work to control the pelvic motion.

To begin, it is important for the dancer to understand how to find and maintain what is known as the "neutral pelvis.” The fundamental alignment of a neutral pelvis is taught such that the bony landmarks on the front of the pelvis, the anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS) and pubic bone, lie in the same plane. Dancers can palpate these bony landmarks as they extend and flex their spines to see what happens during inefficient positions. They can observe what happens to their turnout position while in the exaggerated positions of the pelvis. The muscle groups that work to maintain a neutral pelvis are the abdominal muscles, assisted by the psoas and the hamstrings.

  1. Start by lying on the back (supine) with the arms and legs extended. Allow the breath to be natural and the body segments to lie with as little tension as possible. Imagine the pubic bone directly above the tailbone, and the back of the head, ribcage, and sacrum heavy and in contact with the floor. There will be spaces under the neck and low back due to the natural curves of the spine. Draw the thighs toward the pelvis by bending the knees, allowing the feet to stand in parallel on the floor. Be conscious of maintaining the placement of the pelvis during this action; if the pelvis tilts anteriorly (increased lumbar space) or tucks (decreased lumbar space), repeat the reach and draw of the legs until the action can be done with the pelvis quiet. Roll both legs to one side, allowing them to drop toward the floor easily. Then roll the legs back to the parallel stance position, imagining weight in the sacrum, and experiencing the space under the lumbar spine. Roll the legs to the other side and again back to center. This action can be done several times, always establishing neutral pelvis in the stance position, not rounding the lumbar spine so that it drops to the floor.

Page 1Page 6Page 11
Page 2Page 7Page 12
Page 3Page 8Page 13
Page 4Page 9Appendix and References
Page 5Page 10

This paper may be reproduced in its entirety for educational purposes, provided acknowledgement is given to the "International Association for Dance Medicine and Science."

Copyright © 2011 IADMS, Virginia Wilmerding, Ph.D., and Donna Krasnow, M.S.

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