Turn (dance and gymnastics)

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A turning Flamenco dancer

In dance and gymnastics, a turn is a rotation of the body about the vertical axis. It is usually a complete rotation of the body, although quarter (90°) and half (180°) turns are possible for some types of turns. Multiple, consecutive turns are typically named according to the number of 360° rotations (e.g., double or triple turn).

There are many types of turns, which are differentiated by a number of factors. The performer may be supported by one or both legs or be airborne during a turn. When supported by one leg, that leg is known as the supporting leg and the other as the free, raised, or working leg. During airborne turns, the first leg to leave the floor is the leading leg. Some turns can be executed in either of two directions. In ballet, a turn in the direction of the raised leg is said to be en dehors whereas a turn in the opposite direction is en dedans. Trunk, arm and head positions can vary, and in turns with one supporting leg, the free leg may be straight or bent. Turns can begin in various ways as well. For example, ballet turns may begin by rising from demi-plié (with feet flat on the floor) to relevé (supported on the ball of the foot) or by stepping directly onto relevé. A pivot is a turn in which the performer rotates on a pivot point without traveling.[1] Pivots may be performed on one or on both feet; the latter is known as a twist turn.


Spotting is a technique that is often used when executing turns, in which a performer executes a periodic, rapid rotation of the head that serves to fix the performer's gaze on a single spot, thus giving the impression that the head is always facing forward. Spotting prevents dizziness by allowing the head to remain stable during most of the turn. This helps the performer maintain balance and, when executing traveling turns such as tours chaînés and piques, it helps the performer control the direction of travel.

Types of turns[edit]


An attitude turn is similar to a pirouette, however the working leg is held in attitude position.


An axle is a type of turn that is executed while airborne. It is usually done while traveling across the floor, particularly in jazz dance. Usually, it starts with a chaine turn, which are turns that are done in a chain like movement, in a deep plie (bend of the knees). After one chaine turn, the dancer lifts straight up in the air while simultaneously tucking both legs underneath. During this, the dancer is airborne.

Barrel roll[edit]

A sequence of two barrel rolls performed during an acro dance.

A barrel roll turn, or simply barrel roll, is a turn that involves casting the arms up and leaping into the air and rotating 360 degrees while airborne. While airborne, the performer's back may be arched and the head may be cast back. It starts and ends with the performer facing forward. Barrel roll turns are commonly used in tap and jazz dancing.


Chaînés (French, meaning "chain") is a type of two-step turn that is executed repeatedly while the performer travels along a line or curved (often circular or elliptical) path.[2] It is performed quickly on alternating feet and results in a complete rotation for every two steps taken. It is commonly used in ballet, modern, and ballroom dancing.

In the first half-turn, one foot is stepped out to the dancer's side in the direction of travel and placed in releve or en pointe; the dancer then rotates 180° on the placed foot while lifting the other foot so that it crosses over the placed foot. As this happens, the arms are brought together away from the chest and spotting technique is employed so that the dancer's head faces the direction of travel as much as possible. The second half-turn is executed with the feet together. Upon completion of the second half-turn, the first foot is stepped out again to begin another turn.

In ballet, chaînés turns are usually performed at a very fast tempo, with each turn lasting one half or one quarter of a music beat.[3] They can be performed outwards (en dehors), or inwards (en dedans).[4]


Fouetté en tournant

A fouetté begins with the dancer standing momentarily in plié (on flat foot with knee bent). The working leg is extended in fourth position en l'air (or à la hauteur) front or, in the Vaganova ballet method, à la seconde. The working leg is then whipped around to the side and bent until the foot touches behind the supporting knee while, at the same time, the performer transitions to relevé (often rising onto pointe). These movements produce angular momentum that cause the performer to rotate in place on the supporting leg. A well known example of this type of turn is the 32 consecutive fouettés performed in the Black Swan pas de deux.


An illusion turn performed during an acro dance.

An illusion turn (or simply illusion) is performed by keeping one leg aligned with the torso while, simultaneously, a 360 degree spin is executed while the torso pivots down and then back up. An illusion can be performed by turning toward or away from the working leg; the latter is known as a reverse illusion. Illusions are commonly performed in jazz dance and rhythmic gymnastics.

Natural and reverse[edit]

In ballroom dancing, a natural turn is a dance step in which partners turn around each other clockwise. Its mirrored counterpart is the counter-clockwise reverse turn.


A piqué turn is a turn that steps with a straight leg directly onto the ball of the foot and does a complete rotation before returning to plié position. The working leg can be held in a variety of positions, but retiré is the most common. A piqué turn can be taken with or without turnout.


"Pirouette" redirects here. For other uses, see Pirouette (disambiguation).
Pirouettes performed during a pas de deux

A pirouette (literally "whirl") is a type of dance turn on one foot. It is performed with turnout (legs rotated outward at hips) in ballet, and typically without turnout in gymnastics and many other genres of dance, such as jazz and modern. It is often executed by starting with one or both legs plié (knees bent) and rising onto demi pointe (heels raised), or in the case of ballerinas, to en pointe (on toe tips). Pirouettes may be executed singly or as multiple rotations; the latter is commonly performed in the adagio part of a grand pas de deux.

There are many variations of pirouettes. A piroutte can be started from second or fourth position in ballet, whereas artistic gymnasts usually start from fourth position. In ballet, the non-supporting leg can be held in retiré position or in attitude attitude, arabesque level, or second position. The performer may return to the starting position, finish in arabesque or attitude, or proceed otherwise. A pirouette is most often en dehors but can also be en dedans.


  1. ^ Ann Hutchinson (2005) "Labanotation: The System of Analyzing and Recording Movement", ISBN 0-415-96561-6, Chapter 8: "Turns", section "Pivot Turns
  2. ^ "Dance Techniques Chaines". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Agrippina (1969). Basic principles of classical ballet: Russian ballet technique. Courier Dover Publications. p. 126. ISBN 0-486-22036-2. 
  4. ^ Greskovic, Robert (2005). Ballet 101: a complete guide to learning and loving the ballet. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 158. ISBN 0-87910-325-6. 

See also[edit]