I believe that the true purpose for turnout has been utterly lost.

Those who discovered its power probably did know its power and essential nature, though it is rarely commented upon in any surviving documents. (Collection of Letters from Noverre)

Today we have a situation where amateur participants and beginners in ballet are actually fearful of ‘turning out’ believing that doing so will injure joints.  Thus we have the usual general widespread opinion that ballet is meant for only those if a certain ideal ‘flexible’ physique, when actually, I have discovered that all body types and ages can successfully and safely turn-out without danger or harming the joints.

The lost purpose of turnout is quite aside from the generally well known features of turn-outs other merits: aesthetic quality (it looks nice) and it is necessary to allow the higher lifting of the leg, especially evident to the side (ala seconde) The lost purpose however, has an even more important, useful, and yes, exciting function… Turnout:  creates a tensional torque in the legs at a level of the bodies central mass that allows for huge leverage and lifting power through the levers of the legs all without really needing to utilize directly the muscles!

It is a method of, if I may coin a word, torquenique.

So we have been getting the glorious features of the beauty of the line, the utility of the lift and now, most importantly, we understand and can thus harness the power of the position!

To express the art of classical dance in its highest form we MUST utilize turnout.  This utilization must and can occur in the very first lesson.

There are several other features of this fact that must be discussed and fully understood by anyone attempting to implement this requirement.

The major difference and the original approach in my method come under this original feature:

When starting with fully turned out perfect positions of the feet, we are actually going to be using the mass and stability of the body and its bones to effect the position; we are NOT going to be using the muscles.  We don’t even have to worry at all about the muscles, I have discovered that there is no such thing as muscle memory anyway, and any training in ballet (or anything else) is not really training the muscles to do anything, but we are simply training the nerves!

This training of the nerves comes under the heading of EXPERIENCE.  Experience is the crucial method we must use to train ballet dancers, all our exercises have been in actual fact, realized or not, been giving the body/brain/nervous system human being individual one thing only, EXPERIENCE.  (also expressed as time spent in position pose or doing movement) Now it is also a very special kind of experience: The experience of Joint positions. This also means the position of the bones. We know that joints contain large junctions of nerve fibers leading from one area to another, well consider simply that these junctions also provide the feedback to the ‘brain’ exactly where those limbs are, in other words, the joints are like the body’s GPS system.  The bones are hard, predictable, always the same spatial, mass as before, while the muscles are soft, fuzzy, sometimes tired, weak, variable. The bones/joints are certain and stable, the body uses them to know how much effort to apply where in order to maintain balance and move.

Its quite simple, but its implications can be staggering.

Ballet training should be simplified and speeded up 10 fold by not worrying a wit about muscles and focusing instead upon the joints placement movement and giving the body time to experience these positions.

The muscles follow the command of the joints (nerves) not the other way around!

We have been trying to make the muscles effect (cause) turnout when actually all we needed to do was place and set the proper joint positions in perfect turnout using the weight of the body and allow the muscles to adjust their tensional compression to those demands!  It is like the muscles purpose is to protect the joints and boy can they. I believe our joints to be the strongest segments of our body and all they require is a chance to experience that demanded position and they will comply. The joints however, do not respond to the muscles directly.  The differences between the two approaches can be described like this: the olde fashioned limited and slow way goes from the OUTSIDE >< IN: muscles, joints, nerves, bones while what I suggest is working from the INSIDE OUT <> Bones, nerves, joints, muscles.  This is more the way nature works from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Luckily the body responds immediately to this new approach and easily learns this new approach, which is good for us because it means this works.

Findings: Turn-out is a must and can be safely achieved following simple fast learning procedure I have tested and developed.

It starts in perfect first position in demi-plie, not on straight knees – this works from the bottom up: floor, heels/feet, ankles, then a very slowly and careful straighten the knees and allow yourself to feel the muscles compressing around the knee joint (to stabilize and protect them) then simply holding that position for some time.  We don’t need to worry about the pelvis sticking out or having funny protrusions at first, the point is we MUST giving the body a chance from the bottom up to adjust gradually to this new ‘torquenique’!  Believe me, the body learns this very fast – one time through will set for you the use of this torquenique idea.  Remember, work from the bottom up, establish the feet solid in a perfect 1st position straight across.  Then after the ankles feel the tension (they will be fully stretched, a good thing) then the tensional pressure will move up through the shins to the knees – a key intersection that must be protected, let your muscles have a chance to rally around this joint – that step is crucial to making this work and protecting your own knees… try to allow the tension to occur but controlled and really try to maintain perfect turnout at the feet.  Yes, we are “forcing” the turnout but in a controlled manner and by using the weight of the body itself to hold it there, not the muscles!

Then we can simply tuck under the pelvis which increases the torque even more again, not worrying about any other aspect of the body, this is an establishment action, not a posing exercise.

After tucking the pelvis properly we then approach a more perfect ballet form which is soon going to be the starting and ending pose for every exercise at the barre and in the center (in it most primitive and basic form).

You can actually do the above at home in your shoes (in the kitchen!) which gives an easier time of it because they grip so well to the floor yet will allow release somewhat of  movement of your bones (in the shoes) while maintaining the perfect turnout.  Street shoes are also wider and allow for easier balance.

The dancer, doing the above, will immediately notice the amount of torque in the legs and THAT is the power and purpose of turnout and that torque is what aids immensely in movement of the legs, powers the jump and makes jumping so much easier without over emphasis on the muscles, turnout effects the same result.  It is better because once this torquenique is mastered, (turnout) the effort required is dropped immensely and the muscles and mind are free to focus on other aspects of the dance endeavor.

Try this and see if I am not right.

Terpsichore Tipster.

See the full exposition of the Axioms of dance here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-axioms-of-classical-dance/14422725