Q: My students have varying degrees of turnout, but it’s clear to me they aren’t always using what they have. Any suggestions on how to help them?
A: Great question! Let’s address this with an exercise in standing. Start in first position and lift the left foot off the ground (still rotated), with your toes touching the right ankle. It will be challenging to keep the left leg turned out—but turned out it must stay throughout the exercise. Next, rotate the orientation of the body to the right until your right leg (standing leg) is in parallel, maintaining the same starting shape. This means you are now facing the same way the right foot is pointing. Finally, rotate the whole body back to the left until you return to your starting, rotated position. It’s so easy to over-rotate and pronate on the standing foot, forcing you to lose balance. Do this same movement at least 10 times on the right side before switching.
I like this simple, yet hard, exercise for many reasons. It helps the dancer work the rotation at both hips at the same time. It also helps improve balance or proprioception on the standing leg. And finally, it helps to train control and integration of turnout in movement when the student figures out how to return to the front without rolling in on the standing leg.
It’s easiest to do with bare feet, harder in soft slippers and definitely more challenging in pointe shoes. Have fun with it!