Taking Stock of the Tourne Hanche: Training or Torture?

One defining characteristic of present day classical ballet technique, namely outward rotation of the legs, was a technical accomplishment as important for the 18th and early 19th century social dancer to acquire, as it is standard practice for the professional ballet dancer today. To aid their pupils in developing the correct physical form required by dancing in the ballroom, dancing masters employed a training device called the tourne hanche, or stocks, believed to increase the outward rotation of the legs.  The presence of this training device in many images of late 18th and early 19th century dancing lessons reveals its popular and widespread use both in France and England. Viewed from the vantage point of 21st century dance training, with its highly developed knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology, the tourne hanche appears to be a useless invention at best, and a horrendous torture device at worst. This presentation will explore the use of the tourne hanche, as a training device within an era characterized by an emphasis on outward appearance, and by an aristocracy who danced to improve the way they looked.   

Anna Mouat is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Dance Division in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. Her published dance writings have appeared in Dance Connection, Dance Current, and the Calgary Herald, as well as in books and periodicals.  Her published research focuses on dance history iconography of the 16th to 19th centuries. Her book Dancing Images, published in 2013, investigates the theoretical issues and practical concerns regarding the use of historic works of art as illustration in dance history, and provides a iconographic resource of 170 images that illustrate the history of Western theatrical and social dance forms, 1581 to 1900. She is currently researching British satirical prints of theatrical and social dance from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  

Anna Mouat
Symposium Title: 
Teaching Dance 2016
Author affiliation: 
University of Calgary, Canada