A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Train Your Turn-out

Adult Irish dancers are more likely to get injured than their younger counterparts. But all dancers can benefit by taking action to prevent injury and increase their muscle strength. This article is the third in a series focusing on what adult dancers can do to maintain a healthy body.

If you dance Irish, chances are good that you have been told to work on turn-out. You make a mental note and begin your dance again, hoping that if you try hard enough, your feet will magical turn-out by themselves. Turning out is frequently talked about, but commonly misunderstood.
In her book, Inside Ballet Technique, author Valerie Grieg states that the extent to which an individual can rotate their legs is largely pre-determined by genetics. Muscle flexibility, the shape of hip bones and sockets, and the elasticity of ligaments contribute to the amount of natural turnout a person may have. Because of the genetics factor, Grieg is of the opinion that the action of turning out the leg is more important to movement than the angle that is attained. She does note that before the age of eleven the structure of the bone may be influenced by exercises.

But turn-out in your sport is a not an option, it’s a requirement.

So what’s a dancer to do? The answer may be as simple as a change of perception.

Dr. Jack Giangiulio, a dance injury chiropractor, says that at least 90% of poor hip turn out is caused by meager foot control (the other 10% can relate to a lack of lumbo-pelvic coordination, and genetics). Dr. Jack says, ”It is not usually about strength or even flexibility, it is just a matter of reconnecting (a dancer’s) neurology to coordinate the muscles.”

Try Dr. Jack’s simple suggestions to improve your turnout. A slow and steady approach to training the foot is best.

■First, check to make sure that your feet are in a neutral position:

While standing with your heels together, turn-out your feet. Ask a friend to place two fingers under the arch of your foot. If your friend’s fingers cannot fit under your arches, you are rolled-in. If more than two fingers fit under your arches, you are rolled-out. Repeat with your feet crossed over.

■Practice keeping your feet in a neutral position:

Resume standing with your heels together, making sure that the heel and all toes remain on the floor. Align your knees with your toes and hold the position for two minutes. Repeat in a crossed position. Daily repetition may be required for up to four weeks to re-train the muscles in your feet. Note: this position will require you to temporarily reduce your turn-out while your body re-trains.

■After you gain control over your feet, you can add exercises for increasing turn-out recommended by your dance teacher.

“The idea here is to teach the body that the hip, knees, and foot must always be in alignment, and to keep the foot in the neutral position.” Dr. Jack explains.

When your feet are turned out with greater foot control, your dancing will look nothing short of magical.

So do you use certain exercises to improve your turn-out?

You can find more articles on foot control by visiting Dr. Jack Giangiulio’s website http://www.danceinjurydoctor.com/.
This article originally appeared on Diddlyi Magazine.

1 comment:

  1. Found this article through Pinterest. The key thing to remember for turn out, I find, is to remember that turnout comes from the hip and involves the entire leg. So many dancers and gymnasts without a ballet foundation just turn out from the knees down, thereby putting torque on their knee joints and causing their rear ends to stick out and their back to arch. It's a recipe for back and knee problems. Our adult class is small and I happen to have grown up doing ballet, so I find that I can't not turn out. However, one of the women in my class does not have any dance background from childhood. We were talking about turnout and I explained it to her the way my aunt (an excellent ballet instructor) and many of my other ballet instructors explained it to me - that you have to imagine the point as an extension from your hip and the turnout has to be as though it spirals out of your hip joint, down your leg. This imagery helps a lot.


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