Forum: Ask a Teacher

Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By seannettaPremium member
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 09:05 AM

I'll be designing and teaching my own Irish dance classes in the fall. I have plenty of experience teaching older dancers (teens and up), and I also have experience teaching already-established classes of kids. But I've never designed my own class for kids, and it's got me thinking about how to teach them proper technique in most easily-grasped way.

In Irish dance, a lot of teachers get kids to display turnout by saying "make a V with your feet" or by putting stickers on the insides of their heels and getting the kids to show off their stickers. But I'm not completely comfortable with this, because it's teaching them that turnout is about the feet, when of course it's really about the whole leg.

To adults, I can easily explain how turnout comes from the hip. But to a 5-year old? How do you teachers start introducing such concepts, and do you have any tips and tricks to share?

7 Replies to Teaching proper turn-out to little kids

re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By OkinawaDancing
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 09:14 AM
I don't really care for that sticker theory/idea for the same reason that you mentioned. It also sets the kids up for turning out from the knee which is SOOOOO hard to reverse.

I have been working on trying to experiment with different methods to get turnout from the kids and I find that I am getting a better response to learning turnout when they are lying on the floor. I have them practice rotating the legs basically from the hip socket. It allows me to move their legs more freely too because they are not using them for support so placement is easier. As of right now it is working although it (like any other turn out aide) is a long process but it's getting there.
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids (karma: 1)
By i_am_me
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 09:20 AM
I'm not sure what the differences are between teaching ID and teaching jazz/ballet, so it might be better to hear from an Irish teacher.

However, 5 year olds do not have the body awareness yet to understand where the rotation initiates from.

When they are this little, I will use imagery like "open your story book" or "show me your slice of pizza" when they are in 1st.

That does put the attention on the feet, but conceptually they cannot understand hip rotation yet.

Body awareness of that depth comes at around age 8.

Be aware, that there are TREMENDOUS differences in teaching young students than older ones.

Continue to get as much information as you can on how to administer to the young dancer.

One of the biggest issues I have had with instructors used to teaching older/more advanced students is the inability to teach properly to youth.

Kudos for asking the question and good luck with this age group. If you enjoy little ones, you will find it one of the most gratifying ages to teach.
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By seannettaPremium member
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 09:43 AM
^Thanks for the suggestions. I do actually have experience teaching little ones, but under someone else's syllabus. Now I get to design my own, so I'm just deciding on the best approach to things like turnout.

I like the idea of getting them to lie down on the floor so they can actually feel the rotation, even if they won't fully grasp the concept of it for another couple of years.

And Irish dance turnout is the same kind of turnout as in jazz/ballet (I have taken ballet for a number of years), so suggestions from all kinds of teachers are very welcome.
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By loverofballet
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 09:50 AM
5 year olds are not capable of feeling turnout from the hips. I don't teach that concept either mentally or physically at this age. I basically use imagery like "smiling feet" for standing in 1st position or "open the window" for demi-plie in 1st. When they get to age 6 or 7, I will start them facing the barre and doing demi-plie in 1st. I can then give them very simple and gentle touch corrections for turnout and posture. Otherwise I will have them sit on the floor, legs stretched out in front and practice turning in and out.
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By ozriella
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:32 PM
I also do what some others have mentioned. Starting around age 7 they sit in a pike and alternate between turnout and parallel. Also have them lift one leg slightly off the floor and rotate from parallel to turnout. I even have them put their hand on their hip socket so they can feel it moving. I have also done the laying on the back exercise doing the same movement. My 7-8 year old beginning ballet students (and even older ones when I want to emphasize turnout) will do tendus where they rotate from the turnout to the parallel and back to the turnout before closing.

Any kids under 6, I don't worry about turn out very much. They just copy the shape of a small first. I tell them heels kissing and open the toes to make the letter "V"
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By batd_teacherPremium member
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 03:50 PM
Hi there,

I teach Highland so am VERY familiar with working on turnout with the wee ones.

Some have it right off the bat, others have to work at it. I use two fun techniques. One is use of stickers, but on their knees. I use the smiley face kind and tell them their knees must look to the corners of the room. This has worked rather well for my Tartan Tots (3 to 6 yr olds).

The older ones get it when I tell them to use their backside to hold an imaginary pencil (vertically) :) so that they start to contract their muscles in the gluteous max and the joints from the hips start to turn the leg out.

There is also the floor exercise where you have the dancer lay down on the floor. Legs flat, toes pointed and have them raise the entire leg, turn the leg out, and then back to normal, and lower. I have all groups use that one.

Oh and the tried and true, "turn out your feet!" Lol.

Good luck, hope this helps! As other posters stated, some times it is also about when the dancer finally discovers body awareness.
re: Teaching proper turn-out to little kids
By OkinawaDancing
On Sun Jun 13, 2010 06:06 PM
I surely agree with what everyone else has said, that's why I have begun to experiment with some things, however I wouldn't force any of it. It's better to have little to no turn out at that age then to teach the kids turnout improperly because they don't really understand yet. At least that is my opinion.


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