The turnout is one of the first movements a ballet dancer learns. In the turned-out position, a dancer's thigh bones are rotated sideways. The heels are together, and the knees and toes point in opposite directions. In the ideal turnout, the feet will form a 180-degree angle. Because it's such an unnatural position, learning a proper turnout requires a lot of work. Beginners must achieve the turned-out position gradually, or they risk straining their knees and injuring themselves.
The turnout allows greater extension and freedom of movement of the legs than a natural stance does. It provides the base for jumps and spins. The turnout, or first position, forms the basis of classical ballet technique [source: World Book]. All ballet movements begin and end with the five established positions of the feet -- and all of those are based on the turnout.
The other positions of the feet are:
- Second position: It's just like first position, with the feet turned opposite each other in a straight line, but with 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) between the heels.
- Third position: The feet are turned outward, with one heel in front of the other.
- Fourth position: The feet are turned outward. One foot is in front of and parallel to the other, spread 12 inches apart. The heels and toes point in opposite directions.
- Fifth position: The feet turned outward, with one foot right in front of the other and only the first joint of each big toe past the opposite heel.
After dancers learn these positions, the real fun begins. Read on for more basic ballet moves.