Twisting and turning skills are vital in many athletic and artistic endeavors. Figure skaters, gymnasts, and ballet dancers typically have a preferred side of turning (or directional turning preference) on the ground and jumps. Some prefer to turn clockwise (CW) while others turn counterclockwise (CCW). This video looks at the turning tendencies of athletes and ballet dancers. The turning propensities differ widely depending on the activity. I review some academic research on turning preferences in humans with some surprising results. Innate biological factors can explain some turning preferences, but learned behavioral factors are also a likely determinant.
This video was 50 years in the making.
The topic of hand, foot, eye, ear preferences and turning tendencies (the field of study is called Laterality) has fascinated me for years. I am left-handed; as a child, other kids in school were not shy about pointing out my unique characteristic in handwriting sessions, particularly when I was the only lefty in class. Nobody hassled me about it, maybe because it was a perceived advantage in playground softball. Even today at age 61, people still make comments. I participated in a corporate volunteer event painting fences at a New York City park recently. Paintbrush in my left hand while everyone else painted right-handed, someone pointed out, “Hey! You’re left-handed.”
I danced at Ballet Midwest, a non-professional company in Kansas. I definitely preferred CW and struggled with CCW pirouettes and tours. On en dehors pirouettes, the most common and well-known turn in a male variation, I felt more robust with a more solid base turning on my dominant left leg. I was puzzled that the other presumably right-handed dancers preferred turning CW. I thought I was the strange one, a left-hander turning CW while right-handers also turned CW.
A light bulb turned on above my head watching Olympic figure skating, probably the 2002 games. I noticed that almost all skaters jumped and turned CCW. Why do presumably right-handed skaters turn CCW while ballet dancers turn CW? After thinking about it a while, I posted Why Do Ballet Dancers Turn Clockwise? in 2014 followed by Francesca Hayward, Cory Stearns on Counter-Clockwise Turning in 2017.
The first article is one of my most popular balletfocus.com articles with many comments. I thought about the issue more and reviewed academic research, and the video is the result. Check it out and let me know if you have any comments.