Turnout

The following is a tentative draft of a section from “The Carriage of the Body and Positions of the Feet,” chapter 3 of the work in progress The Technique of Eighteenth-Century Ballet (© Edmund Fairfax 2018). Some aspects are discussed in detail in other sections or chapters, and the reader would simply consult those sections in a completed work, but these are not available here at the present time. To sidestep the high fees demanded by institutions and publishers for the use of copyrighted images, I use careful tracings of original illustrations instead, with irrelevant detail from background, costume, etc. omitted when desirable, and these tracings are presented below. In some cases, originals are presented below temporarily until tracings can be furnished.

 

3.4.1 Turnout

One of the most basic features of eighteenth-century ballet technique and a defining element of the so-called true positions of the feet was the turnout of the legs, that is, the outward rotation of the ball of the thigh bone in the hip socket such that the knees and toes come to be directed toward the sides rather than the fore of the body, a practice that is no less fundamental today in classical ballet than it was more than three hundred years ago. As Noverre puts it (1760: 315, 319), “nothing is more needful in order to dance well, Monsieur, than the turnout of the thigh,” for “a dancer who is turned in is a clumsy and disagreeable dancer; the contrary position gives ease and brilliance and lends grace to the steps, développements, the positions, and attitudes.”

 

3.4.1.1 The Rise of Turnout

Fig. 1. Final “ballet” from the Le ballet des Polonais of 1573, reproduced in Kirstein (1984: 52).

The practice of markedly turning out the legs in dancing was not a novelty even at the beginning of the eighteenth century but predates our period of study by several decades and seems to have emerged in response to those forces which brought about the growth of dance as a theatrical art to be performed on a proscenium stage. In the late sixteenth century, most court spectacles, one of the major forums for “theatrical” dance performances, were planimetric in pattern; that is, the performance was mainly “in the round,” with the audience sitting on three or all fours sides of the performers, observing the spectacle on the same level as the performers or even looking down at them from a surrounding gallery. A scene from Le ballet des Polonais of 1573 (fig. 1.) illustrates this clearly. Such an arrangement, while well suited to showing off to advantage the intricacies of figure dancing, resulted in spectacles that lacked a central focus or background.

Fig. 2. Copy of a view of the stage from Les nopces de Pélée et de Thétis of 1654, reproduced in Kirstein (1984: 81).

By the middle of the seventeenth century, the proscenium stage had become the norm, which resulted in the spectators being shifted to one single side of the performance space and separated from the theatrical illusion directly in front of them by an architectural “window” (fig. 2).

This arrangement ensured that the performers appeared in relief and required now a more frontal treatment on the part of the dancers, for which parallel positions of the feet were rather ill-suited, as legs without turnout appear foreshortened when moved to the fore or rear, at least with the dancer facing forwards. As Vieth notes (1794: 2/387-389),

if a dancer presents himself en face, all the movements at his hips, knees, and feet occur on the same plane as the eye of the beholder as soon as he dances with his feet and knees held straight to the fore. These parts are seen foreshortened in every bend, and the beholder consequently can hardly make out the movements, which then have no effect.

Parallel positions make lateral movements difficult. As Vieth again writes, “in such a position, furthermore, the dancer can do steps only to the fore and rear; everything to the side would appear most unsteady and clumsy,” especially since “the toe of the rear foot would otherwise knock against the heel of the front foot or would have to swerve around, which would rob the step of all lightness and speed.” Nor can the legs, when held without turnout, be raised sideways to any height (without greatly displacing the upper body) in order to fill, as it were, the larger space of the theater, a decided disadvantage in a performance space wherein “most steps are done to the side, and only these can have an effect on the viewer’s eye if the dancer presents himself en face.

It is precisely during the period wherein the proscenium stage was being introduced – that is, the end of the sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century – that references to the use of marked turnout in formal dance begin to emerge in the sources. By 1600 many Italian ballroom dancers no longer conformed, at least at times, to the old prescribed practice of generally dancing with the feet more or less parallel, that is, with the legs held such that the toes of the feet were directed to the fore of the body. In his Nobiltà di Dame, a later edition of his earlier Ballarino of 1581, Caroso (1600: 13, 38) inserted a few fleeting censorious references to the practice of dancers now commonly availing themselves of a turned-out position, at least in certain movements. In the execution of the bow, for example, he admonishes the reader to

see to it that the toes of the feet are most straight [i.e., parallel], and directed towards the lady, or anyone else to whom [the bow] is done, whether in dancing or not; and see to it that you do not do what everyone generally does, to wit, have one foot look south and the other north, so that it seems that one’s feet are naturally crooked.

Likewise in his description of the fioretto ordinario, he instructs the reader to keep to the old manner of doing the final movement, such that “the toes of the feet are always straight [i.e., parallel], and not askew as is done today by those who execute it.”

Other sources intimate that the use of turnout was gaining ground as a distinctive element of formal dance during the first half of the seventeenth century, although it is clear that not all dancing masters were in agreement about the degree of turnout to be used and even where turnout was to be employed. Some writers prescribe different degrees of turnout depending on the movement to be executed. De Lauze (1623: 29, 48), for example, has his simple barre exercise done “with the toes of the foot off the floor as well as of that on the floor strongly turned out.” In the cabriole, however, he instructs the reader to execute the cuts “with the toes of the feet turned out a little, both in rising and descending.” In some places, only the gesture leg is to be markedly turned out, especially in movement to the side, particularly in round dances, or brânles, wherein “one continually observes the circular path of the place, which is very easy to do by having the toe of the foot well turned out” (1623: 38, 41). De Lauze notes in connection with the third brânle, for example, that the dancer is to move “with the toes strongly turned out, mainly the toes of the right.” Negri (1602: 47) in like manner has the dancer in the cinque passi turn out one leg, but only a little, that is, “with the left foot four fingerbreadths in front of the right, almost in a straight line, with the toe of the foot turned out a little.”

Some dancing masters of this period felt that turnout was needed only for men rather than women, since the legs of the latter were hidden by their long skirts. As de Lauze notes (1623: 54), “several masters think that a lady does not need to keep the toes of her feet turned out; hidden from sight, it simply matters not – such masters hold – how they are moved.” Other sources prescribe that the legs always be strongly turned out, such as Montagut’s pirated manuscript version of de Lauze’s handbook, which includes a number of additions and changes to de Lauze’s original text. While de Lauze has the toes of the feet “turned out a little” in the cabriole, for example, Montagut’s version has them “strongly turned out” in the same step ([1619?] 2000: 159). Indeed, Montagut consistently has the feet turned out strongly throughout his manuscript.

The little evidence extant suggests that it was in the 1640s or at the latest the 1650s that the practice of keeping the legs well turned out became firmly established as the norm in fashionable formal dance. Indeed, after these decades, the contradictory prescriptions concerning turnout evident in the dance handbooks from the first few decades of the seventeenth century more or less disappear, and thereafter sources regularly prescribe that the feet be turned out or at least fleetingly allude to the practice. Esquivel (1642: 10v), for example, writes broadly that “as to the turnout of the toes, this is to be done in all dancing, for it looks most ill if they point inwards.” (The rompido is the only step that Esquivel describes wherein a lack of turnout is evident, and here only in one of the feet.) In his diatribe against certain members of his profession, the dancing master du Manoir (1664: 33-34) makes clear that a marked degree of turnout was by his day basic to the art of dance: “some of you would do better to learn to keep your head up and turn your feet out well than busy yourselves with speaking ill thus of a boundless number of persons who are far better than all of you such as you are.” Mercurius (1671: 161-162, 166) in like manner notes that the feet were to be markedly turned out, that “I would have here all those who dance be well reminded that they must always turn out their feet well in dancing and even in walking and never turn them inwards.” By “well,” Mercurius meant “as much as possible,” as he makes clear elsewhere:

moreover, while dancing, you must keep the body straight and even when moving and not brandish the hands too much even though you must move them rather often, hold the knees nicely stiff [i.e., stretched straight] in bringing the legs forward, turn out the feet as much as possible, not let the head hang but hold it correctly upright, present a friendly, lofty countenance and not tread too much on the floor.

Illustrations showing fashionable individuals either standing or dancing with their feet noticeably turned out begin to make regular appearance in the visual sources by the 1660s. Perhaps one of the best known is Janssens’s painting of the future Charles II of England at a ball in the Hague c. 1660, which depicts him dancing with his feet turned out (click here to view).

 

3.4.1.2 Turnout in the Eighteenth Century

The eighteenth-century handbooks are emphatic about the importance of turnout in the French art of dance. Most of them, however, seldom prescribe a given degree of turnout; a number of them simply instruct the reader to turn the legs out “well.” Chavanne (1767: 10, 46), for example, notes that a position is formed with the “legs well stretched and feet well turned out” and later instructs the reader to have “the feet well turned out without appearing constrained.” In his section entitled “Dancing,” Nivelon (1734) instructs the reader to place his lower limbs such that ”the Feet appear well turn’d and without any Affectation.” Rameau (1725a: 79-80) likewise notes in connection with the pas de menuet that “when these demi-coupés are done, you must open the knees and turn out the toes well.”

Taubert (1717: 411, 510, ?, 710) writes that the dancer should “turn out the toe of the right foot to the right side and the toe of the left foot to the left side as much as comfort will allow.” Elsewhere, he writes that “the master has the pupil stand with the heel right behind the other or close beside as well, with both feet quite turned out so that the toe of the right foot comes to be turned straight out to the right side and the toe of the left foot straight out to the left side,” that is, “so that the knees and toes come to point outwards to both sides almost under the shoulders.” In connection with the initial assemblé of the pas de sissonne, Taubert notes that the legs are turned out so much that “the legs come together at the calves” in the retombé plié into fifth position of the feet.

Sol (1725: 52-53, 18) goes so far as to say, in connection with first position, that the feet are placed together “with the toes of both feet fully turned out, one to the right and the other to the left,” while in connection with fourth and fifth, he simply notes that the feet are turned out “well.” Sol’s description of the manner of having the pupil dispose his feet during a lesson also clearly indicates that the feet were to be fully turned out so as to form a straight line:

the dancing master must be seated and have the male or female student in front of him. He must have the student bring both his or her feet against his own, turned out, with the four heels and the four toes one by the other, so that there is no space between the four feet.

In agreement with the foregoing remarks, the plates in the handbooks by Rameau (1725a), Tomlinson (1735), Delpêch (1772), and Kuskov (1794) show the dancers’ feet markedly turned out.

Needless to say, the degree of maximum turnout varies from one individual to another, and very few (even professional) dancers have bodies with full functional turnout such that they can have the feet form one diametrical line in first position and yet maintain a correct alignment of knee over toe. Wiser dancing master from the period stress that the degree of turnout was to be determined by the individual’s unique conformation. As Feldtenstein puts it (1772: 53-54), “the need to turn out the toes of the feet is equal to the need to avoid doing violence to oneself; anyone who overdoes it here and applies unnatural force, loses his fine bearing and the artless charm of fair nature,” for “a true master, on the other hand, will know how to determine the correct amount of turnout in accordance with the natural conformation of each body.”

The correct amount here was – and still is – the maximum outward rotation that the leg could effect while still keeping each knee directly above the toe of the foot below, a principle intended to avoid the irreparable damage to the knee and ankle joints that can arise from prolonged misalignment. As Weaver clearly states (1721: 104, 133), “the Rotula, or Knee-pan, ought to be directly in a Line over the Toe, or point of the Foot;” thus “it therefore behoves us in our Art, to take a particular Care in preserving the Knee in its proper Situation.” Such proportionate turnout was thus natural, for the rules of dance were to be “according to the Dictates of Nature; agreeable to the Laws of Mechanism; and consonant to the Rules of Proportion: And, that whatever Positions, or Motions, derogate from these Laws and Rules; such Attitude, or Action, will be absurd, awkward, disagreeable, and ungentile.”

Lange (1751: 26) also alludes to this proper alignment of knee and toe in a turned-out position: “draw the knees back then so that they are close one against the other and are turned out, that is, so that the top of the knee comes to be turned out and even with the toe of the foot.” Gallini (1762: 160) likewise notes that students of dance should be told not to turn their feet out but rather to “turn their knees out, which will consequently give the true direction to the feet.” Vieth (1794: 2/369) also stresses that the correct degree of turnout was to be determined by the amount of rotation possible at the hip and not below at the ankle:

the direction of the foot must be governed by that of the upper leg, for the knee cannot turn at all, and the ankle only slightly, while the top of the upper thigh, which is spherical, can rotate in the socket, and there are muscles here which can turn it outwards.

In the so-called true positions of the feet, both feet were to betray the same degree of rotation. Dufort (1728: 4-5), for example, notes that the feet are placed such that the “toes are equally turned out.” Chavanne (1767: 13) writes that the legs should be rotated with “the feet equally turned out.” Gallini (1772?: 1/168) likewise notes that the dancer forms his positions with “the toes turned equally outwards.” The equal rotation was to ensure that the body remained correctly balanced, for as Hänsel observes (1755: 66), “turn one foot inwards, in any position, even a little inwards; the body at once will come to be awry and hang to one side.”

 

3.4.1.3 The Representation of Turnout in Beauchamps Notation

The feet represented in Beauchamps notation often do not show a marked degree of turnout, and this led earlier dance historians to assume that only moderate turnout was in fact the norm in the eighteenth century. But this failure to show a marked degree of turnout should be seen as a manifestation of the abstractness of the notational system and not as a literal representation of actual practice, in the same way that music notation from the period at times does not capture actual practice, or as Couperin (1717: 39) puts it, “we write differently than we play, which makes foreigners play our music less well than we do.” Indeed, both visual and textual sources clearly point to the use of “full” turnout throughout the period, that is, the turning out of the legs as much as an individual’s conformation will allow while keeping the knees and toes aligned. That abstract notation and actual practice need not agree is also apparent from Roller’s brief illustrated treatment of Beauchamps notation (1843: tables 1-2), for example. He similarly shows a less marked degree of turnout in the notational examples, at odds with his separate assertion that the dancer broadly was “to hold and move his feet in a diametrical line” (1843: 4), that is, fully turned out such that the feet, when in first position, form a “diametrical” or straight line. The same discrepancy between prescription and notation is also found in Bartholomay (1838: 57, pl. 1). See §3.4.1.5 below, however.

 

3.4.1.4 Developing Turnout in the Eighteenth Century

“Full” turnout was no less difficult then to develop than now, for “it is utterly needful to overturn the order of things and force the limbs by means of an exercise, both long and painful, in order to have them take on a position utterly other from that which they were originally given” (Noverre 1760: 316). Vieth (1794: 2/387) also stresses the need for practice: “a highly turned-out position is unnatural to man, and only through persistent practice will one succeed in keeping this position (which is most necessary to our modern dance) from being forced.”

The soundest method for developing turnout was “a moderate but continual exercise” executing “ronds or tours de jambe, en dedans or en dehors and grands battements tendus working from the hip” (Noverre 1760: 321), a view repeated in part over a century later by Desrat (1895: 325). The latter writes, “Ronds de Jambe, dance movements consisting of describing a circle with the foot while the other supports the body; they are part of the elementary exercises of dance and are meant to turn the feet and legs out.”

And such exercises needed to begin at an early age. As Noverre (1760: 316) remarks, “it is impossible to bring about this change, so utterly needful in our art, without endeavoring to effect it from the time of childhood. It is the only time when success is possible because all the limbs are supple then and easily take the direction desired.” Méreau (1760: 112) likewise foregrounds the need to start early: “it is necessary merely to get children at an early age used to turning out their feet in an easy manner, for when they are old enough to learn to dance, the master teaching them will demand of them that turnout which one must have when dancing.”

Fig. 3. A tourne-hanche (Méreau 1760: 124), after an original.

When faced with legs that would not open as freely as deemed desirable, some ill-advised dancing masters from our period, apparently lacking an understanding of anatomy, resorted to devices designed to force out the feet to a more impressive degree, availing themselves of such contraptions as the tourne-hanche (‘hip-turner’) and the boîte (‘box’). These devices, or at least similar ones, appear to have been in use already by the 1730s, for Winter (1974: 108-109) mentions that a 1734 edition of Rameau’s Maître à danser in the Bibliothèque de l’Opéra contains an advertisement for a machine designed by Deshayes “to turn the feet outward, without pain.” The tourne-hanche (fig. 3) as illustrated in Méreau (1760: 124) is not unlike a turnout device remembered by Roller (1843: 21-22):

this was a round wooden disk with a diameter of two feet, upon which lay two small boards, the length and breadth of a foot, fitted out with two edge-guides movable on a dowel in the middle of the disk in order to be placed in the direction that they were to be held by a peg extended to the fore. On these two boards the pupil was placed, and the feet were forced out more and more by the position of the boards until a diametrical line was reached along which the poor student often had to stand for a long time.

A simpler device was the boîte; here recalcitrant feet were forced open when the student stood in the narrow rectangle formed by the trough-like opening of the contraption. One example is shown on the left in fig. 4 from 1767. The boîte clearly continued to be used well into the nineteenth century, as shown by the woman in the same figure, taken from an illustration c. 1845.

Fig. 4. Left: detail from Grown Gentlemen Taught to Dance by J. Goldar after the painting by John Collett, 1767, reproduced in Ralph (1985: 109); right: “here’s an odd notion to invent a machine to maintain fourth position. My dear child, in order to succeed, first a dancer must break her legs,” from a lithograph c. 1845, reproduced in Kirstein (1984: 143, 266), both after originals.

More than one source from the period allude to these contraptions and in the same breath damn their use as harmful and counterproductive. Noverre (1760: 320) writes that the tourne-hanche, “far from being effective, cripples those who make use of it by forcing the waist to take on a much more disagreeable defect than the one it is desired to overcome.” In like manner, Feldtenstein (1772: 54) mentions that “those wretched machines, which masters wish to use to train the body, are most harmful.” Vieth (1794: 2/368) also found fault with “many dancing masters” who resorted to “forcible bending, even machines . . . such that the pupil will be lucky to say that he has survived this cruel instruction without wrenched limbs and dislocated joints.” Vieth goes on to lament that such forcible bending resulted in a distortion of the natural alignment of the leg, that

it is most perverse if the feet of the pupil, for example, are straightway fully turned out and sandwiched in foot-boards in order to get them at last to turn outwards but which twist the feet at the tarsus, and the knees and legs cannot follow in the same direction but face to the fore while the feet go to the sides.

Peacock (1805: 150) also mentions “the tourne-hanche; a machine greatly exploded, on account of its tendency to distort, rather than improve, the position of the knees, thighs, and haunches.”

 

3.4.1.5 Caprice and Compromise in Turned-Out Positions

The technique of eighteenth-century dance was not rigid and unvarying, however, or to use Taubert’s amusing analogy on the lack of consensus about the minuet step (1717: 619), “it is just as if a sack of cabbage heads had been emptied down the hill and one came here and another there: quot capita, tot sensus, ‘many heads, many notions.’” Other dancing masters prescribe a more moderate degree of turnout, and even different degrees for different positions of the feet. Dufort (1728: 8), for example, notes that the feet in fifth position form “almost a right angle.” Feldtenstein (1772: 56) similarly mentions that the feet in fifth position form “a kind of right angle.” Vieth (1794: 2/394) also prescribes only a moderate degree of turnout, wherein “the feet form roughly a right angle or also a somewhat obtuse angle; a position with too much turnout will always be unnatural.” Magri (1779: 1/26-27) gives two different moderate angles for two different positions, an “obtuse angle” for first position and a “right angle” for fifth.

Such lack of agreement on the precise degree of turnout and varying degrees of turnout for different positions is also to be found in the early-nineteenth-century sources. Hentschke (1836: 117), for example, notes that first position is to be formed with “both feet with the heels together (assemblé) at an angle of 60-90 degrees,” while in third position the feet form “an angle of 90 degrees.” Helmke (1829: 137-39) also prescribes different degrees of turnout, such that the more the feet cross, the more the amount of turnout is decreased. Thus, in first position the feet are to form an “obtuse angle,” while in third, the feet form a “right angle” and in fifth “an acute angle.” While acknowledging full turnout of the feet, Kattfuss (1800: 22-23) prescribes a middling degree of rotation for the legs:

fig. a [in fig. 5] shows then the body and the turnout of the feet according to the first lesson. Figs. 16-20 [in fig. 5] give the five positions or placements of the body. The turnout of the feet, I have drawn then as they seem to me to be the most natural and unforced. Correct proportion everywhere, even in a turned-out position, can become exaggerated. This exaggeration becomes affectation and error.

Fig. 5. Positions of the feet (Kattfuss 1800: pl. 1), after an original.

Roller (1843: 3-4) notes broadly that “the toes of the feet are turned outwards away from each as much as the pupil can without being hindered from standing quietly in a stretched position,” but later insists that the feet must be fully turned out:

if they are turned out enough that they form a right angle at the heels, it is moderate, as shown in fig. c [in fig. 6], and is sufficient for walking and for movement in educated circles, as nothing forced is to be seen here. This turnout is not enough, however, for dance and even constitutes an impediment to the execution of a number of steps, such as the pas battu. A dancer of skill must without the lest effort be able to hold and move his feet in a diametrical line, as shown in fig. d [in fig. 6].

Fig. 6. Dispositions of the feet (Roller 1843: pl. 2), after an original.

Bartholomay (1838: 57) prescribes in connection with first position that “the feet appear to be on one and the same line,” that is, along one diametrical line as shown by d in fig. 6. Compromise, however, was possible: “this first and most difficult position, indispensable for ballet-dancers, must be practiced in early youth; with adult beginners, one can be content if the position of the feet forms a large obtuse angle if possible.”

Like Weaver before him, Théleur (1831: 87) intimates that the precise degree of turnout of the feet was determined by the amount of rotation possible in the upper leg, for he writes that “great care should be taken never to allow the feet to be turned out more than can be accompanied by the knees, by which means all danger of deformation will be avoided.”

These differences in the prescribed degree of turnout in both the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries may be due to factors other than mere caprice. Many of the remarks about turnout were meant to apply to movements outside of dancing as well, for even in such mundane actions as walking, the feet were to be turned out, at least among those belonging to the more cultivated classes (§4.7), and all of the so-called good positions except fifth were used in the conventions governing standing, walking, and bowing among the cultured of our period. As is evident from Roller’s quotation given just above, turnout in his day was more limited in movements outside of dance “where nothing forced is to be seen.” The same is more clearly stated by Lambert (1820?: 4), who contrasts the turnout of theatrical dance with the limited degree of rotation deemed fitting for an elegant walk in daily life:

The practice of dancing more calculated for the stage than an assembly-room, is fit only for a stage dancer; as the course of practice for this, is to turn out the hips, knees, and feet too much to look well in walking. Stage dancers may, in general, be known by this; the outward position of their knees and feet renders their appearance mechanical and inelegant; therefore this theatrical style ought to be avoided.

A few of the eighteenth-century sources explicitly indicate, like Lambert and Roller in the following century, that the turnout fitting for a genteel walk was to be less marked than that observed in dance. As Meletaon (1713: 115) remarks in his discussion of walking, “a no lesser affectation can be seen in those who turn their feet out too much as if people were to think that they know how to dance well.” Bonin (1712: 118) also speaks against turning out the feet too much in genteel walking and prescribes that the amount of rotation for one foot not exceed forty-five degrees:

the feet must be turned out but not at all so mathematically as if the foot and leg need to form a right angle. If, however, someone takes delight in such trigonometrical steps, then I would advise him to keep a protractor under the heels of his shoes and set his feet at the forty-five degree; then he would be assured of the best figure.

And all of Weaver’s remarks about the five positions of the feet (1721: 104-106) are clearly given in connection mainly with standing rather than dancing. In a similar vein, “A New Treatise on the Art of Dancing” (June 1785) prescribes that the feet not be turned out too much in executing the bow before the ballroom minuet, for “to be the man of fashion in this dance, he should not, when he begins the bow, bend his head too low, nor turn out his toes too much; let ease and nature be his objects.”

Furthermore, the extant descriptions of turnout from the eighteenth century are found in handbooks that deal mainly with ballroom dance and were intended not for professional dancers but for social dancers. As discussed above (ch. 1), the technique used in the social dance of the period was generally less exaggerated than that used in the theater and was to show an “Artful Carelessness,” as Weaver words it (1712: 65-66). Thus, a more relaxed degree of turnout appears to have been a feature of ballroom dance as well, in the same way that rises on the toe were not as exaggerated as in the theater (§4.2.4), for example, or heights of leg extensions were more modest than those on stage (§3.10). The degree of turnout given by Dufort and Magri was then merely the bare minimum suitable for ballroom dance and not necessarily the maximum that these writers would prescribe for the theater. Indeed, Weaver (1721: 104) writes that the outward rotation of the correctly aligned legs had to form at least a right angle in order to be considered truly turned out: “The Angles at the Heels will be somewhat obtuse; for if such Angle at the Heels should be acute, then the Toes, though they are not really turn’d inwards, may yet be said by us (as a Term in our Profession) not to be turn’d out.”

 

3.4.1.6 Dancing Without Turnout

Eighteenth-century ballet dancers did not always dance with their legs turned out, however, regardless of the style of dance cultivated. The so-called Spanish and false positions, for example, which were used in the comic and grotesque styles (§3.5-6), required the knees to be turned forwards and inwards respectively. And in the twisting movement the tortillé, which could be used even in the serious style, the gesture leg passed in and out of a turned-out position (§4.11).

It is also apparent from depictions of eighteenth-century theatrical dancers arguably in poses that commonly little or no turnout (in one or both of the legs) was used in attitudesnot surprisingly since such poses were typically taken from the visual arts and thus were, strictly speaking, moments of non-dance (Fairfax 2003: 172-179). Those shown in figs. 7-8 are merely a few among many from the whole century.

Fig. 7. Left: a late-seventeenth- or early-eighteenth-century dancer, after an original reproduced in Kirstein (1984: 64); middle: a dancer in the role of a Roman, after an engraving by Johann Georg Puschner (Lambranzi 1716: 1/21); right: detail of Auguste Vestris, 1781, after an engraving by Sandby “Bass Relief Found at the Opera House,” in the Toronto Reference Library, Canada.

Fig. 8. Detail of Charles Didelot with his wife Mme Rose (left) and Mlle Parisot (right) in the ballet Alonzo e Cora at the King’s Theatre in London, 1796, reproduced in Au (1995, 48), after an original.

This frequent lack of turnout in attitudes was equally characteristic of early-nineteenth-century ballet as well. Blasis (1820: 51) explicitly indicates that turnout was commonly reduced, in order, presumably, to make especially the curved line of the bent gesture leg in a pose more apparent to the spectator: “In arabesques [not to be confused with the modern counterpart] and in sundry attitudes, the feet should not be fully turned out; otherwise these positions would be graceless.” Many examples of nineteenth-century poses formed with little or no turnout, such as those shown in fig. 9, can be found in such collections as Winter (1974) and Kirstein (1985).

Fig. 9. The Kobler sisters in a pose, after a sketch by J. Jelgerhuis dated 1812, reproduced in Winter (1974: 232).

It might be added as a historical note that the unvarying use of marked turnout in the formation of the attitudes – and arabesques no less – of contemporary classical ballet, with the bent knee of the gesture leg always well lifted rather than lowered, appears to be due to the influence of the so-called Russian school. At least, this is certainly suggested by an illustration found in Vaganova ([1934] 1969: 55) depicting attitudes effacés (fig. 10) said to be typical of the early-twentieth-century French (1), Russian (2), and Italian (3) schools.

Fig. 10. Attitude effacé, French (1), Russian (2), and Italian (3), (Vaganova [1934] 1969: 55), after an original.

Bruhn (1963: 45) was later to write that

in the old-style attitude, the hips were not squarely and firmly held, and the knee dropped, while the toe flipped up. In a short modern tutu, this position is extremely unattractive. Dancers trained only in this old-style attitude find it practically impossible to achieve the classical line demanded in Petipa’s ballets and those of contemporary choreographers: the hips held firm and straight, the raised thigh well back and at a perfect right angle to the supporting leg, and the lower part of the leg, from knee to toe, absolutely parallel to the floor.

But still in the earlier part of the twentieth century, Grazioso Cecchetti (1892-1965), the son of the famed ballet master Enrico, writes that “in arabesques and attitudes, the foot of the supporting leg should not be fully turned out” (1995: 96).