Turns are an important part of dance vocabulary. Turns in place on one foot — pirouettes, attitude turns, and turns in arabesque, for instance — form a category of ballet movements that are difficult to learn well, and require considerable skill in control of the body.
Three characteristics of turns are important in the proper execution of the movement: body form, rate of turn, and balance. The aesthetic body form can be learned only by example and by careful criticism from a dance teacher. Turnout of the supporting foot or a straight horizontal leg in anarabesque turn are important aspects of a good turn in a purely artistic sense. But other properties of a turn, the most important of which are rate of turn and balance, are open to physical analysis, an understanding of which may give the dancer and dance teacher a better sense of the turning process.
Three considerations addressed here are the importance of the distribution of body mass around the rotation axis, the way the torque for the turn is exerted and angular momentum generated, and the way a dancer maintains balance over a supporting point. In order to investigate more carefully the way a dancer initiates a turn by exerting a torque on the floor, experiments were carried out in which this torque, and the resulting angular momentum of the dancer, could be measured.