In dance, and in ballet in particular, our feet play an enormous role. They need to be strong, flexible, articulate and aligned in order to function to their highest potential. Here, we have selected a few easy but valuable exercises to practice at home, using our very own Artistic Director Yana Lewis as our foot model.
Sit on the floor with the right leg extended straight in front of you. Place the theraband (or other elasticated band) so it covers the ball of the foot and the toes. Hold each end of the theraband separately using both hands. Place your foot in full flexion, with the knee straight and lifted, and both sides of the foot even. Make sure one side of the foot is not pulling back more than the other. Extend the arch of the foot into demi-pointe position. Keep the toes in full flexion and spreading. Then extend the toes as well, keeping the foot in alignment with the shin. Reverse the process by flexing and spreading the toes while maintaining the extension of the arch of the foot, and then flex the foot fully. Take your time at each stage of the exercise to keep the alignment of the feet correct. Do 15 repetitions, and then repeat on the left leg. Work to build the number of extensions and flexions up with time and practice.
This exercise can be performed either sitting or standing. Keep the foot flat on the floor. Spread the toes and metatarsals (bones through the arch of the foot) as wide as you can, and then lift the arch of your foot up as high as you can. Pull the toes underneath, but keep them long – don’t scrunch. Release, and repeat. Do 10 repetitions on either side, and work to build up to more repetitions.
Stand with your feet parallel and place a tennis ball between your ankles. Spread the toes, lift the knees, and slowly rise up to demi-pointe holding the ball between the ankles. Lift the heels as high as possible maintaining the spread between the toes. Lower the heels, and repeat. Do 20 slow, careful repetitions, and work to increase the number.
Foot Alignment for Dancers En Pointe
When dancing en pointe, foot alignment is extremely important both for correct technique and safety. The first image shows the foot in correct weight placement over the pointed toes, with the toes extended, not curled under. The shinbone is directly over the toes, not pulling back over the heel.
The second image shows the correct weight placement of the foot en demi-pointe, with the heel lifted and the arch of the foot lifting straight up with the shin.
The third image demonstrates incorrect weight placement, where the toes are scrunched under and the arch is dropping over down towards the floor.