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Best ballet exercise?


Happymum
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To all the knowledgable forumers - if somebody needed to improve their feet ( to be able to use them better/more and develop "classical line") and to straighten their knees (stretch back of knees/pull up knees - so legs look straight and knees are not sticking out) - what ONE classical ballet exercise would you recommend (to somebody who trains ballet)?

 

P.S. don't worry about importance of good teacher etc and assume that the exercise will be done with a very good understanding of correct technique

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I'm learning that it's about stretching the ankle first & foremost, and articulating the metatarsals, and using the floor.

 

Tendus. Slow and steady. And alternated with battement glissé.

 

I think one of the best exercises is simply facing the barre, and working in first (so that helps you really feel the turn out working) doing a series of slow tendu, and closing them each time in a demi-plie. Working not to demi-plie & straighten but to use the demi to push the foot out, so both legs straighten together through the tendui.

 

And then faster glissés, just off the floor. Again from first, facing the barre, 8 each side, thinking of stretching the ankle.

 

The Australian Ballet also finishes the barre each day with simple rises, in parallel facing barre, 10 on each leg, repeated 2 or 3 times, working through the foot & ankle. David MacAllister reports that there are far fewer tendon & ankle injuries with this daily practice.

 

There are also exercises such as using your toes to pick things up - like a towel or a handkerchief.

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Sitting on floor with legs straight ahead - point through demi pointe slowly finally extending keeping toes long, then flex feet keeping knees well pushed against floor and heels lifting off floor a little. i.e. good toes - naughty toes!

 

For more advanced students, Vaganova frappés where the foot starts from wrapped cou de pied and extends sharply.

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Oh wow! That is impressive.

 

I do 10 on each leg, repeated 3 times (so 60 overall I suppose), hanging off a step, so I'm pushing down & then having to rise a lot. It REALLY works all of the back of your leg & ankles. But not every day ... only about 4 times a week.

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The other thing to remember when working the foot off the floor is not to crunch or curl the toes to try to make the arch pop. It's important to lengthen the toes out, not curl them under. You can work on lengthening toes by standing barefoot, and really deliberately splaying your toes out. Ditto working through demi-pointe in barefeet, deliberately stretching the toes out across the floor, length and breadthwise.

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I agree with all of these. Divided tendus/battements tendus relevé are good too but basically anything where you extend the leg and ankle so the foot is in a Demi-pointe position (but while not beating any weight) then point the toes afterwards keeping them lengthened.

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A good starting exercise for knees (as well as all of the above) is lying face down with straight legs parallel, then using one leg, flex foot/ tuck toes under as though you were going to do a press up then stretch the back of the leg, then point the foot keeping the leg straight (it should now be off the floor) then slowly lower the whole leg to the floor keeping knee straight. Then you can make this harder by having the dancer keep their knee straight whilst flexing their foot (the leg will lift).

 

I hope this makes sense - it's not easy to describe!

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