Wednesday, October 6, 2010

turnout troubles

every dancer has that one thing that is a constant pain in the butt; sometimes its flexibility, sometimes its straight legs...but for me, its turnout.

i've never had perfect turnout, despite sitting in the "frog" stretch for hours on end, and while i can fake it very well at barre, when it comes to center floor work, it really hinders my dancing.  i'm off balance, i can't properly develope, my hips are never quite where they need to be, etc.  i always think about those scenes in "Center Stage" when all the teachers are yelling at Jody for not having perfect in my attempt to discover the secret to perfect turnout, i've decided to investigate it further.

turnout actually originates from the hips rotating outwards all the way down through the knees and toes.  its the rotation of the hip that forces the knees and feet to turn away from the center of the body; if the knees and feet initiate the movement, its incorrect (a la me during class...) and is one of the most common ways dancers injure their knees.

a lot of different factors come into play when assessing turnout, including the flexibility of the hip, leg, and certain ligaments in the leg, along with the ability to rotate within your hip sockets.

stretches to help turnout include the ever popular "frog" as previously mentioned, where you lay face down, pelvis flat on the ground, knees bent, with the bottoms of your feet touching.  the goal is to completely be flat on the floor, so that even your stomach, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, and feet are all on the ground.  this can also be done laying with your back on the ground, feet together and knees bent; this time however the challenge is to get your knees and thighs to lay flat on the ground.      

another great stretch to help turnout is the center split.  i know, i know, no one likes the center split, but it really does help...or so they say!  holding a center split is a great way to help achieve maximum turnout.  there are two effective ways to stretch the center split.  one way is up against the wall: with your back flat on the ground and your butt as close to the wall as possible, extend your legs upwards and open them into second.  i like this way because gravity helps push your stretch even more.  some people do these stretches with ankle weights to help even further pull your legs downwards.  i've never tried it, but as long as the weights aren't too heavy, it sounds helpful!

another way to stretch your center is to sit on the ground in your best center split, leaning forwards with a straight back, attempting to get your stomach to lay flat on the ground.  kinda old school, but i think its super effective (i'm currently in that position as i type!).

its recommended that dancers do these stretches daily for at least half an hour in order to improve their turnout.  its important to also remember to never force the stretch; slowly easing into it is kinder to your muscles and will help you gain the most from the activity.

a friend also recommended the book "tune up your turnout" by deborah vogel, but i've yet to purchase it.  if you have read it, let me know if it is worthwhile!

and when all else fails, don't forget the importance of your mind and imagination.  sometimes imagining my body on a center line, with everything rotating outwards and away from that center, helps me remember to turnout from head to toe.  hey, whatever works right?!

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