Turn (dance and gymnastics)

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


Depending on the type of turn, the performer may be supported by one foot, by both feet, or be airborne during a turn. When supported by only one leg, that leg is known as the supporting leg and the other as the free, raised, or working leg. During airborne turns in which the feet break contact with the floor at different times, 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.

There are a wide variety of turns, which are differentiated by a number of factors. For example, 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 can begin by rising from demi-plié to relevé (supported on the ball of the foot) or by stepping directly onto relevé.


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]

Attitude Turn[edit]

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

Axle Turn[edit]

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 Turn[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2] They can be performed outwards (en dehors), or inwards (en dedans).[3]

Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant[edit]

Fouetté en tournant

For history, see main article on 32 fouettés en tournant.

For each turn the dancer stands momentarily on flat foot and in plié, as the working leg is extended in fourth position en l'air (or à la hauteur) front then whipped around to the side as the working foot is pulled in to touch behind the supporting knee. That creates the impetus to spin one turn as the dancer executes a relevé, rising onto pointe. Done properly, the dancer remains in place. The famous 32 continuous fouettés in the coda of the "Black Swan" Pas de Deux from Swan Lake are a bravura performance designed to express the strength and triumph of the character.

In the Vaganova ballet method, the leg is extended à la seconde instead of fourth position front.


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 turns[edit]

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

Piqué Turn[edit]

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, to "whirl") is a type of turn on one foot. It is usually performed without turnout in modern dance and gymnastics, and with turnout in ballet. It is often executed by starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto demi-pointe, or in the case of ballerinas, onto pointe. Pirouettes may be executed singly or as multiple rotations; the latter is commonly performed in the adagio section of a pas de deux.

There are many variations of pirouettes. A piroutte can be taken from second and fourth position in ballet, whereas artistic gymnasts usually take a pirouette from fourth position. In ballet, the non-supporting leg can be held in retiré position or in attitude, arabesque level, or second position. The pirouette 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. Although ballet pirouettes are performed with the hips and legs rotated outward ("turned out"), it is common to see them performed with an inward rotation ("parallel") in other genres of dance, such as jazz and modern.

Pivot turn[edit]

Pivot turn, or simply pivot, is a generic term that refers to dance turns in which the body rotates about its vertical axis on a pivot point, without traveling.[4] Pivot turns may be performed on one or on both feet; the latter is known as a twist turn.

Pivot turns are used in many dance genres, including ballet, ballroom, folk, and ethnic. Pivot turns vary widely in execution and nomenclature.[4] For example, in ballet, one type of pivot turn is known as a pirouette.


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

See also[edit]