We recently discussed how our bodies achieve turnout, and how to spot compensations when you try to achieve the best turnout possible while Irish dancing. (Read it here: Smart Turnout: Part 1 – Compensations.) Today, we’re going to talk about things that can potentially limit your turnout, and a few simple ways to address it.
Ariel made a good point in her article on turnout: you must be flexible enough to achieve the right amount of movement in the hip. (Read it here: What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #6—Turnout.) However, it is necessary to balance that flexibility with strength. If you do not have the strength to control your mobility, your body will continue to compensate. Two things that can potentially limit your hip mobility are tight hip flexors and tight Iliotibial Bands (IT Bands).
You have multiple muscles that act to move your leg up and forward into hip flexion, including the Psoas, Iliacus, and Rectus Femoris. They are located on the front of your hip, and can become incredibly tight from all of the high kicking Irish Dancers do during their steps.
Your IT Band starts out as a small muscle up at the side of your hip, called the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). The IT Band is its tendon, and it is a wide, flat band that runs all the way down the sided of your leg and attaches below your knee.
A good way to start learning to turnout properly is to tell yourself to “spin your legs out” when you are doing your steps. This helps keep your hips, knees and ankles aligned, and engages the hip external rotators, which are small muscles that lie deep under your gluteal muscles, and are responsible for actively achieving turnout.
While some of these exercises may be uncomfortable, they should never cause outright pain, and are not meant to diagnose or treat current injuries. If they do hurt, adjust your form first, and if it does not resolve, please consult a physical therapist/physiotherapist, athletic trainer, or physician. (Read it here: How To Explain Irish Dancing To Your Physical Therapist Or Doctor). Also, keep in mind that all dancers are put together differently! Some people have more or less natural turnout because of their anatomy, and that’s okay! Work with your teachers to dance to your strengths so you can become the best dancer you can be!
Whether you are training for an Oireachtas, taking your first steps in Irish dancing or you just want to get fit in a fun way, Diddlyi has what you need. Access all of our online Irish dance workshops FREE for 24 hours - it takes less than a minute to register!