A Dancer’s Feet

One of the most important physical features of Ballet is that beautifully pointed foot. Without a good pointe in your foot your leg line is disrupted. Dancers must also be able to pointe their feet while dancing in order to strengthen the muscles that are required in pointe work. These muscles need to be strong enough to support their body weight on the ends of their toes. If the you are not in the habit of using these foot muscles then, you will not be able to support yourself on pointe.

In the basic five positions of the feet, the entire foot rests on the floor. This position provides the foundation for supporting the body weight. The body weight centers vertically on top of the arch, distributing the weight over a triangular area that connects the first and fifth toe, to the heel. A line extending front from the heel bisects the base of the triangle between the bones of the feet, or metatarsals. This imaginary line provides a guide to deciding if your weight centers over your arch, or not. It the weight falls on the inside of your foot, your arch drops and your foot will roll inward. If your weight falls on the outside of your foot, your ankle will weaken and your foot rolls outward. Both of these foot conditions are usually caused by poor alignment and incorrect or too much of a turnout.

Your foot pointes when it is en l’air, and how you pointe your foot is very important to your technique. When your foot does not pointe along the line bisecting it, the result is called sickling. Whether pointing the foot on the floor, en l’ air, or resting your pointed foot on the supporting leg as in a retire position.

In a retire position your foot touches your supporting leg, the side of the little toe touches the front of the leg such as the in retire devant, the heel touches the back of the leg as in retire derriere. Keeping this in mind will remind you to not sickle when in a posse or performing a pirouette.

The importance of pointing your feet correctly is critical when jumping. The line of the leg while airborne, needs to remain in a straight line from the calf. The action of the foot, releasing into the air along its center line also gives power to the jump.

Barre exercises like battement tendues are essential for a well pointed foot but there are other exercises you can do at home.

Exercise # 1

Sitting down on the floor, extend your legs in front of you, with your feet parallel and together. Use your muscles to pointe your toes as much as you can. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Keeping your feet pointed, begin to flex only your toes up as far as they can flex, without moving the rest of your foot. Hold for 3- 5 seconds. Now, straighten your toes back into a pointed position. Imagine them stretching toward the floor, so you can feel your upper arch stretch. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Do this exercise several times per day .

Exercise #2

When you isolate your toes to flex them back as in exercise #1, try flexing only your big toe and baby toe, keeping the middle toes pointed. Now repeat this with the other toes and keep your big toe and baby toe pointed.

Exercise # 3

Have a partner place their hand on your foot and gently push your foot toward the floor when you pointe. When you flex, your partner is to keep their hand on the top of your foot and gently push down on your feet as you try to flex them up toward the ceiling. This will create a resistance for your feet to work against.

Exercise #4

Standing with feet parallel about and shoulder width apart, contract your buttocks, and feel your quadriceps, the large muscle group on the front of your thigh, tighten as they pull up your kneecaps. Raise your heels off of the floor as high as you can. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your heels to the ground. Repeat 10 times. You can also do these exercise on the edge of a step and when lowering your heels toward the floor, try lowering below the step. This will also stretch the Achilles tendon.

Exercise #5

Stand with feet in parallel first position, near a table, or barre, and place your hands on it for balance. Plie, and be sure you are keeping your knees over your toes. While you are in plie, lift your heels as high as you can. With heels lifted, and legs still in plie, straighten your legs, hold for a few seconds then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Repeat as often as you can and in different positions, turned in and turned out.

Always work on pointing your foot better than before…….

6 thoughts on “A Dancer’s Feet

  1. I am glad you liked the post Emily…keep reading there is lots here for you. There are warm ups on various different pages for you to do to…. have a nice vacation and see you in a week : )

  2. Hi I have a question, I don’t know if it’s exactly relevant to the post above but it has to do with feet. Yesterday I had a really long rehearsal and I was standing pointe for a very long time my Achilles heel began to hurt a bit. I think it means that my Achilles heel is not stretched all the way, or something along those lines. And when I woke up this morning it still hurt a bit. Do you have any warm-ups or stretches specifically for the Achilles heel???

    • Please know that I am not an orthopedic doctor and am not giving medical advice. I have not expierenced this problem when in my performance years, however by following the below you may be able to prevent achilles tendon issues:
      Pay close attention to your technique. Be diligent in pressing your heels down when landing from jumpsor returning from grand plié. Don’t force your turnout.
      Also be sure that your shoes fit you correctly and aren’t pinching the back of your heel. Many dance problems begin with pointe shoes that don’t fit the dancer correctly.
      Some say by sewing elastic to pointe shoe ribbons at the point where they cross the back of the leg and tie relieves some achilles stress but I am not a fan of this method, since the shoes need to fit correctly in the first place. But this may work for you.
      Be sure to warm-upcorrectly. Warm muscles and tendons are less likely to become inflammed and injured under repeated stress
      Increase your flexibility by doing a stretch for your calf and prevent shortening of the tendon by always rising to your highest relèvé.

      I hope this little bit of advie helps you….keep in touch

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