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Centre: Turning Catalogue

Form and/or Function

There are a great number turns in ballet that can be differentiated. They vary in their preparations, initiation and form during the turn and landing. Turns are used throughout the class and build from simple transitions at the barre to complex variations in the centre.

For this class we defined and explored five turning categories. The turns have overlapping aspects and the definitions are by no means complete:

  • Promenade: Slow pivot or twist of the whole body in a defined shape on a narrow point of support
  • Soutenu en tournant: Using a shift into a wide position or an open gesture to generate momentum by pulling into a narrow support and turn
  • Dehors: Turning away from the supporting side
  • Dedans: Turning towards the supporting side
  • Renversé: Turn initiated with a spiralling gesture
  • In a separate section we also explored fouetté turns

Notes on our approach

Ballet has a strong focus on turning and has accumulated a rich and detailed vocabulary over the centuries. For this class, we identified five types of turning. In the exploration we started a discussion around how far criteria like dehors and dedans translate into different movement ranges. Are they worth pursuing? Are they helpful for a particular dancer?

It’s also worth asking: Are there turning possibilities that are not included in the traditional vocabulary but are part of a dancer’s range (e.g. a wheelchair user)?

Exploration and Setting:

We initially explored the five selected turns separately in distinct short improvisations led by verbal cues. The dancers were then tasked to work with set time frames, while accurately differentiating between the different types of turns.

This type of exercise gets the dancers moving in a specific way, while improvising, and develops the pallet of their possibilities. There is no inherent need to move towards setting. An improvisation like this already trains technical skills that can be commented on.

This task also gives the teacher time to observe the choices the dancers are making and register what possibilities are available to them. I was interested in seeing whether dehors and dedans can actually be performed in a wheelchair or if it comes down to a left and right turn.

Understanding available possibilities better allows us to jointly set realistic challenges. Also see Glossary notes on setting.

Score Elements:

  • 2 x 8 Promenade
  • 1 x 8 Soutenu
  • 1 x 4 Dehors
  • 1 x 4 Dedans
  • 1 x 8 Renversé


  • We applied the same process to explore fouetté and integrated this into the waltz phrase
  • Ask the dancers to select and set one or several specific turns within the given time frames
  • Apply material from their palette during the class when a specific turn is asked for (e.g. soutenu at the barre)

Observation Tasks

  • Can you recognise the different types of turns even though the dancers are all performing different material?
  • Occasionally the dancers switched the order of the score during the exercise. Can you see where?
  • Can you see possibilities and potential for other types of turns?
  • What feedback would you give to the dancers?