Whether a dancer has too much or too little, turnout can be one of the most frustrating aspects of technique. Students often feel they must achieve 180-degree rotation to become successful in the field. In reality, the average person only has 45 degrees of external rotation in each leg, meaning their first position should be no greater than 90 degrees.
Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.
Deborah Vogel, co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, says the best way to unlock external rotation is to balance out muscle strength and flexibility. “Dancers are working the turnout all the time. They're always engaged and focused so much on using it. The minute they learn how to release those muscles they bring everything into balance," she says. “That middle is where dancers last the longest."
Here, Vogel suggests exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that activate turnout:
Standing Stabilizer: For Developing the Hip Joint's Surrounding Muscles to Control Turnout
At the barre, stand in a natural first position. Bring the outside foot to coupé.
Keep the gesture leg turned out and rotate your hips toward the standing leg until it is in parallel. Return to the original position.
DON'T over-rotate and lose control of the turnout muscles as you move back to coupé.
Continue the exercise, keeping the hip extended long and focusing on pulling out of the joint. To increase difficulty, repeat away from the barre.