Dancer Health

How Turn-in Helps Your Turnout

Deborah Vogel is a neuromuscular educator and director of The Body Series. Here, she works with Mariah Aivazis. Photo by Jim Lafferty

Turnout—the outward rotation of the hips that dancers are constantly striving to improve. Yet few actually have the 180-degree outward rotation that is so idealized. In her 40-plus years of working as a movement analyst, Deborah Vogel has only come across a handful of dancers who have it. "That's structural," she says. "They have a shallow hip socket, so the head of the thighbone can move in a greater range. The rotation at the hip for the general population, though, is 90 degrees—about 45 degrees in each direction."

Although a dancer's range of motion depends on her structure, Vogel says she can still improve her turnout. "They're not going to get to 180. But if they have good muscle balance, they can improve their ability to stand in greater than 90-degree turnout."


By muscle balance, she means having turn-in muscles that are just as strong and pliable as the turnout muscles. "If you have better muscle balance between the inward and outward rotators, everything works better," she says. "You can turn out more effectively."

To help dancers loosen up their inward rotators to increase the usage of their individual turnout, Vogel developed a dynamic stretch using a long stretchy band for feedback. By targeting excessive tightness in the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), the primary turn-in muscle located at the front of the hip, the stretch helps to shift the dancer's pelvis to a more neutral and upright position, allowing her to access her turnout muscles more easily.

First things first, find the TFL

Stand on your left leg with your right in a tendu to the side. Be sure that you're working from your natural turnout. For most people, that means your leg will extend on a diagonal rather than directly to the side.

Place your right hand just outside of, or lateral to, your anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS), the bony projection at the front of your hipbone.

Lift the tendu leg slightly off the floor and turn it in and out. Feel the bump of muscle moving under your right hand. That's your TFL.

Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Mariah Aivazis, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

Before you stretch, release that muscle

Loosen up the muscle before the stretch. "If you can get a muscle to release its tension, then it will stretch easier," says Vogel.

Roll out your TFL on a foam roller or pinky ball. Roll back and forth and then stop in the most tender area. Wait for approximately 30 seconds or until you feel a release.

Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Mariah Aivazis, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

It's time to stretch, with some extra feedback

Vogel's variation on the traditional runner's lunge stretch targets the TFL. She suggests using a stretchy band to get more feedback. "One thing I like about the band is that it really helps to bring the pelvis upright and into better alignment more easily," says Vogel. "It helps to remind your body where neutral is."

Loop a stretchy band around your left upper thigh just under the glute and securely attach both ends to a chair or barre in front of you.

Go into a lunge with the right leg forward and left knee on the floor. To protect your kneecap, place a folded yoga mat or any soft object underneath your knee. Your legs should make a 90-degree angle. Your pelvis should be slightly in front of the supporting knee, upright and facing forward, not down.

Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Mariah Aivazis, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

Lean slightly forward. To target the TFL, turn out the bottom leg and the front foot and tuck the pelvis slightly.

Tip: Don't go too far forward into a full lunge. This tilts the pelvis forward so it's facing down. Instead, actively engage the gluteal muscles to draw the pelvis down and back. "It's not going to hurt you, but if you go forward too much, you're missing the stretch," says Vogel.

Bring your left arm up over your head. Lean slightly to the right to increase the stretch. "They may feel it right there where the muscle is, a little bit up in their side or abs or even a little bit down the leg," says Vogel. "If they feel a stretch around that area, whether a bit higher or lower, they're on the right track."

Photo by Jim Lafferty; modeled by Mariah Aivazis, courtesy of Broadway Dance Center

Tip: Keep your hipbones facing forward. Avoid letting the pelvis rotate toward the back leg, especially as you lift your arm and bend to the side.

Give your turnout a rest!

A common misconception is that to improve your turnout, you need to be turned out constantly, whether you're dancing, walking or even at rest. However, Deborah Vogel points out that, over time, if you are constantly contracting your turnout muscles, you will begin to have less-effective outward rotation. Any muscle that is constantly contracted loses some of its tone, making it more difficult to engage. "Imagine keeping your biceps contracted for hours at a time and how fatigued it would get!" she says.

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The Contemporary Competition

"I'm not looking for robots," SuperTrav immediately explained. He gave the dancers shapes, but from there, each was expected to make the choreography his or her own. Everyone got sweaty and exhausted, and after 90 minutes, it was time to perform in groups of three for Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and Travis.


Allen Genkin

The ballroom babe struggled during hip hop last week, but (naturally) crushed the ballroom choreography. This time around, the judges still couldn't resist Allen's charm, and he got to stay—though, Nigel said, "We need more."

Cole Mills

Cole has stood out during each round of choreography thus far, and not just because of his full-back tattoo. Travis called him absolutely beautiful. "I don't know where you came from or where you've trained, but I am very excited for you," TWall said. And he made it through.

Tessa Dalke

The pressure was on for this early favorite—and the judges weren't feeling her contemporary performance. Vanessa was expecting more, Travis didn't think she commanded the space with her energy, and Nigel said she needed to step up. But they weren't ready to give up on her, so she stayed for jazz.

Sydney Moss

She stood out, Nigel said, simply. She got to stick around, too.

Hannahlei Cabanilla

All the judges agreed that they couldn't take their eyes off her. Hannahlei made it on to jazz as well.

David Greenberg

The ballet dancer didn't totally crush Travis's choreography, so the judges decided to send him home. "I hate this part," Travis said through gritted teach. (We hate it, too.)

Eddie Hoyt

The judges needed to make cuts, and despite Eddie's awesome personality, the tapper's "SYT" journey ended here. Tear!

Evan DeBenedetto

The other tapping standout in the competition killed this choreo. Vanessa said he rose to the occasion, and he made it to the jazz round.

Bridget Derville-Teer

Nigel told Bridget she lost him today, and Mary didn't connect with the performance. Bridget was sent home—but Nigel hopes to see her again. (Season 16, girl! Be ready to crush it!)

Genessy Castillo

Genessy seemed to lose confidence halfway through the performance, but the judges still adored her, so she made it through.

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Emily was totally captivating in this round. Her jumps were the highest, her expression the fullest, her performance the boldest. Travis thought the competition was hers to lose: "Girl, I can't wait for you to get on the show so I can work with you," he said. Holy ultimate compliment, TravMan!

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With 33 dancers left, it was time to bring in Mandy Moore for the final round of choreography. Her jazzy group routine featured all the dancers shining in their individual styles, plus a grand finale where everyone came together. "If they can't hang in the group routine, then it is cutsville, buh bye," Mandy said. STONE. COLD.



This routine looked so fun. (Was anyone else standing up, trying to learn it at home? No? Just us? OK.) The high-energy choreography was fairly simple, but there was a LOT of it. Each group got just an hour to perfect their portion of the routine—and to choreograph two eight-counts of the performance themselves. Intense much?

There were so many wonderful moments during the enthusiastic performance. Emily Carr was a standout again. The tappers looked awesome, and Jensen Arnold had undeniable presence. (The entire ballroom group is looking super strong this year, TBH.) The exhausting routine earned a standing O from the four judges, whom we were not envying at that point.



But cuts had to be made, and Tessa Dalke, sadly, was one of them. Other favorites—Alexis Gilbert, Jay Jackson, Gaevin Bernales—were sent home, too.

The Last-Chance Solo Round

The remaining 27 dancers got to perform one final solo before the judges chose the Top 20. Jay Jay Dixonbey's number was powerful, precise, and pretty darn perfect. Chelsea Hough rocked heels for hers. Hannahlei Cabanilla earned a "love. her." from Mary. And Allen Genkin wrapped things up with a booty wiggle, a big smile, and a Magic Mike-esque shirt toss that Nigel called "a little desperate." (AGREE TO DISAGREE, NIGEL.)

Without further ado...

The "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 Top 20

THE GUYS

Jay Jay Dixonbey

Cole Mills

Justin Pham

Slavik Pustovoytov

Peyton Albrecht

Dustin Payne

Evan DeBenedetto

Darius Hickman

Kyle Bennett, Jr.

Allen Genkin

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Genessy Castillo

Magda Fialek

Jensen Arnold

Stephanie Sosa

Dayna Madison

Sydney Moss

Brianna Penrose

Chelsea Hough

Emily Carr

Hannahlei Cabanilla

BUT WAIT. After the reveal, there was another reveal: Turns out only 10 dancers will continue on to the live shows. What is happening?!

Next week, each of the Top 20 dancers will be paired with an All Star and a choreographer. See you then for more madness!

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AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

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If you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully). ainsliewear.com, $50

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Get ready to laugh!

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When Brittany Purtell heard one dancer was repeatedly bad-mouthing another on her eight-person competition team in early 2017, she knew she had to take action. "We got word about bullying among the team members," she says. "It started at their school and then carried over to the studio." A dancer was spreading rumors about her teammate: "Something along the lines of 'So-and-so is not trying; she's not practicing; she doesn't deserve to be on the team,'" says Purtell, who directs the Senior Elite team at Open Space Studio in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Concerned the bad-mouthing could lead to a serious rift among teammates, she planned a camaraderie-building session, where students filled poster boards with dance compliments about one another—and themselves—and decorated the studio with hearts where they'd penned why they love dance. She's heard no complaints since, but statistically speaking, she likely will face some variation of this challenge again.

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