If you any spend time on the internet, you’ve probably seen the vertigo-inducing videos of young dancers spinning like tops on social media. Insider featured a video of the dance trend less than a week ago and it’s already been viewed nearly 4.5 million times. It’s all thanks to the Turnboard. Created by Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson of the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet, a TurnBoard is designed to “let young dancers experience the joys of really turning.” I guess you could say it’s for when you want a clean double.
As a former ballet dancer trained by an actual Prima ballerina, I feel personally victimized by this product. Watching all of these cute ballet tots makes me shudder. You see, the aptly-named device is a really just a glorified piece of curved plastic. While yes, it looks like a lot of (dangerous) fun, it trains young dancers to turn on a flat foot. In ballet, you graduate from ballet slipper to pointe shoe, meaning that everything you have previously done on your feet, you now do on your literal toes. Congratulations and welcome to the age of bruised toenails, bunions and blisters! Good luck turning on a flat foot in pointe shoes. I’m speaking from experience. It’s not a good look.
There may be some benefits to occasionally practicing with a TurnBoard aside from the adrenaline rush that goes along with potentially wiping out at any minute. Stephanie Kurlow, the Australian Hijabi ballerina and recipient of the Bjorn Borg award, is a fan. So is Kenzie Ziegler of Dance Moms fame. According to them, the product can help a dancer find her center, spot like a pro, and improve arm placement. Way, way, back in the late ‘90s and early-aughts (ha), we did not use such devices to find center, spots or arm placement. Instead, we used literal neon spots on the wall and did excruciatingly mundane and painful exercises. Though TurnBoards were available, they were not part of our daily routine.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy one as a stocking stuffer for the dancer in your life. But don’t be persuaded by a viral video into thinking you can become the next Margot Fonteyn, spinning your way to glory with nothing more than a TurnBoard and your trusty tutu. Ballet has been around for hundreds of years and good technique comes from serious dedicated training, not silly dance trends.
Editor’s Note: Stephanie Kurlow is Australian, not Somali-American. We regret the error.