According to Enrico Cecchetti, whose method of classical ballet we follow at our studio, there are five positions of the foot (not to be confused with the five basic positions of the feet) and they are included in the ten movements of the foot, as listed below.
1. Pied a terre -literally foot on the floor, the foot flat on the floor
2. Pied a quart – literally foot on the quarter, the heel slightly raised from the floor
3. Pied a demi – literally foot on the half, or also termed sur la demi pointe, the heel raised from the floor so that the foot is supported on the ball of the foot
4. Pied a trois quarts – literally on the three quarters, the heel is raised considerably from the floor
5. Pied a pointe – literally foot on the point, also termed sur la pointe, the foot supported on the extremity of the toes
6. The foot raised in the air and extended as much as possible, with the instep forced well outwards and the pointe forced well downwards
7. The foot raised in the air and extended as much as possible, with the instep forced well outwards and the pointe forced well downwards and backwards, that the heel is brought well forwards, (my interpretation of a winged foot)
8. Is an incorrect execution of #6 where the dancer instead of forcing the pointe downwards and the instep well outwards, the dancer clenches the toes under the sole of the foot
9. Is an incorrect execution of #7 where the dancer forces the foot inward instead of outwards so the pointe is forwards and the heel is backwards, also known as sickeling.
10. A completely flexed foot, a position of the foot that occurs in Russian national dances, and other folk dances, but seldom has a place in classical ballet choreography, unless in a character position.
In ballet, the pointed or flexed foot is an important artistic thought. Once the foot leaves the floor, it must be pointed. How the dancer pointes the foot is important for the dancer’s technique.
Your foot begins pointing from the ankle and is extending the lower leg. Your pointed foot forms a line from the knee right down through to your toes. When correctly pointing your foot, the front of the foot should be long and away from your leg, at the same time, you should be lifting the arch and heel upward towards the front of your lower leg. As your foot points, your toes stretch, so that when your foot releases from the floor, either by brushing, as in a degage, rising, as in releve, or jumping, as in a changement, the entire bottom of your foot activates to execute that step or exercise.
When your fully pointed foot rests on the floor in posed positions or directions, it called a pointe tendu. Essential in any pose, a fully stretched foot in a pointe tendu proves the line more smoothly and un-distracted by an abrupt broken line of an un-pointed foot. Learning how to point the foot without tension gives it more flexibility and ability to handle quick weight changes on and of the floor.
There are two basic types of foot actions in ballet;
-brushing from a full foot position to a pointe and returning again
-the other is releasing your foot from a full foot to a three quarter foot (pied a trios quarts) releve to a fully pointed foot on or off the floor (as in a jump) and returning again.
In both of these foot actions the sequence begins with:
-a release though your heel,
-a release though your foot, the metatarsals (the bones between the toes and the ankles),
-and then tips of the toes
-with an ending in touching the floor or pointing barely off of the floor.
On your return:
-first the tips of the toes touch the floor, if they have been off the floor,
-then the toes flex continuing though the metatarsals
-and on through the foot until the heel returns to the floor.
These two actions are the primary components of all exercises and steps you as a dancer will work with in ballet.
After a dramatic explanation above, of how your foot pointes, we need to make your foot more expressive as it releases or brushes to a pointe. You as a dancer need to work on a series of foot exercises. Your foot must be flexible and quick to respond in all movements and pieces of choreography. We will discuss a few.
Pointing and flexing;
Standing in 1st position, the working foot brushes through a battement tendu either devante, derriere, or a la seconde. From this fully stretched pointe, flex the foot, pointe again. All the while, keeping the working leg fully extended. Repeat the pointe – flex process several times then close to 1st position again.
Standing in 1st position, release the heel and follow through the metatarsals until only the toes remain on the floor. The object of this exercise is so that the heel is lifted to a perpendicular to the floor with the toes remaining on the floor. This is considered a three quarter releve position. Return the heel to the floor pressing slowly downward.
These are extensions of the foot press. In the foot pedal, the entire foot releases from a full foot to a pointed foot. The tipsof the toes either rest on the floor or just above the floor. In performing the foot pedal, it is important that the foot initiates the action not the leg. The foot resists the release causing the knee to bend and the leg to rise slightly. On the return, the ankle flexes quickly complete the final action of the foot stretching down toward the floor.
Beautiful feet are essential for beautiful ballet work. Keep in mind to work them as you do your legs and arms……