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Magic Feet - Another question about strength etc


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Dd was told on Sunday that she has magic feet (ha try telling me that when I'm trying to get school/party shoes that fit her high instep) & (jokingly I'm sure) that its a crime against ballet not to work magic feet.

 

Am I correct in thinking that she is likely to have less strength etc due to her high instep. She wears full sole leather ballet shoes only but split sole jazz shoes. Should she be doing anything in particular to help strengthen them and to ensure she doesn't injure herself?

 

What about street shoes? When she goes to senior school they have to be flat. The brogue style are too narrow and so called ballet flats she bulges out of. Her current school shoes have a concealed wedge. I have a feeling she may get into bother for them.

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I posted this into another thread.....which may be of some help...

 

There are basically three kinds of feet. One with a tight, strong construction that has almost no arch at all. This is not aesthetically pleasing, and for the ballet that is a consideration. But in addition to that it can inhibit the possibility of the student from fully achieving the ability to attain full weight placement on the platform of the pointe shoe. This will throw the weight back and stress will be added to other parts of the body to compensate. It will be very difficult for the student to work with a straight knee and therefore not only will the knee be stressed but also much of the vocabulary of the ballet will be impossible to accomplish. In order to be fully up on pointe a “bend” has to occur somewhere and if the flexibility of the foot does not allow it – then the bend will occur in the knee or the spine, which is unacceptable.

 

The second type of foot has a more flexible instep that proceeds from the high part of the forefoot – almost from the ankle. This allows the dancer to be fully up on the platform of the shoe, does not stress the knee, allows the body’s weight to be forward over the platform of the pointe shoe, and is aesthetically pleasing. While it is not as strong as the tight construction, it is strong enough to support pointe work.

 

The third type of foot is extremely flexible. Here the instep is much lower down on the forefoot. When this person is on demi-pointe the foot is out over the toes. This type of foot is a weak construct, and literally spills over and even out of the shoe. It is a beautiful foot, but very difficult, sometimes even impossible, to work with. I knew someone with this kind of foot, and she found pointe work impossible, even sewing up the vamps of her pointe shoe, she literally spilled out of the shoe. She found pirouettes extremely difficult even on demi-pointe. The weight was thrown too far forward and there was a lack of strength in the foot for any real control.

Most of us are somewhere in between on the scale of these three types of feet. It is up to the teacher to assess the feet of the student and suggest the appropriate shoe for the student’s level and physical needs.

It may take a while before a suitable shoe is found. This fit should be continuously re-assessed as it often happens that the dancer’s feet will change with time and use.

 

......................

 

There are many ways of strengthening the feet. This certainly helps to keep injury from occurring but nothing is an ensurance.

 

One of the best ways to gain strength beside carefully rising to demi-pointe and then a very controlled descent, is to truly work the foot in tendu. If this is of interest to you, I can post in information which has appeared in a previous thread on this subject.

 

How the foot is used and how the weight is distributed is just as important (if not more so) as how the foot is constructed.

 

Street shoes, school shoes, party shoes, should always be supportive no matter what type of foot the student has. Of course, fashion deems otherwise - but so it has always been. :)

 

I hope I have said something here which helps answer your question.

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My daughter has this beautiful arched foot coupled with sway back legs, Fortunately her feet and ankles are strong. However up until she went away to the Bolshoi she hadnt really been doing much with them as asthetically she was getting away with not doing much. She has very thin ankles and has had to strenghten them. Now she works very hard at strenghtening her feet and sees the importance and improvements in doing so. Her teachers ensure she is doing the correct exercises and insist upon it.

School footwear is incredibley important. If you shop around good shoes can be found. You can also enhance shoes by buying good insoles for them. UGG boots are unfortunately one of the worse things the children could wear. Most youngsters wear them as they are comfortable and the big thing to year, but they do cause the feet to roll.

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Dd doesn't wear Uggs. The proper ones are too expensive and the fake ones don't fit! She has the one pair of clarks boots that actually fitted and Wellies. Interestingly as a toddler the assistant in a wonderful but sadly closed down now local show shop advised she wear ankle boots as she had a tendency to roll.

 

She has always in the past worn start rite shoes as clarks are not deep enough however her current wedge ones are clarks. It's difficult for me as a mum to know which ones are supportive as the sales assistants seem to want to push whatever fad is in at the time.

 

She also has a problem in that at 11 years old she is still in the sizes that come with toys in (I always refused them).

 

Luckily she's not too bothered she wants to look after her feet and she knows she needs to wear what fits and we struggle to get things that fit. She is a size 13.5 - 1 G fitting depending on the brand.

 

Yes I would be interested in that link. Dd doesn't aspire to be a ballerina but she wants to aim for a career in musical theatre and/or teaching.

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I always found Hush Puppies a better fit than start Rite and Clarks on my younger DD with a high instep. Marks and Spencers - if you have a large enough store and can get hold of a shoe fitter also offered a good supportive shoe. My DD is a few years older than yours however so of course as fashion trends change these brands might no longer offer a shoe deemed acceptable by an 11 year old. Clarks also got better when she grew out of the kids shoes and into their teenagers range. Good luck finding some.

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I think my dd might have similar feet, with a high instep and arch right from the ankle, but not 'bendy' lower down.

 

At a ballet workshop a year or so ago, the teacher said to my dd:

 

"How DARE you have incredible feet, and not USE them properly!!"

 

Turns out that her previous teacher wasn't encouraging her to work her feet in the right way. Because they looked nice, she wasn't working them or using the floor properly (it's all a mystery to me). She also had a habit of clenching her toes, which has been a hard habit to break...

 

We've always had problems trying to get school shoes to fit, and the only thing I've ever done is get her to try on loads, and pick the ones that fit her best. If they don't fit in with school rules, I have given dd a letter to put in her school bag explaining that she has to have that type of shoe because of her foot construction. I also make sure that her school trousers are quite long, which means that the shoes are covered up and the teachers can't see them!

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I'm interested in this topic too. Until very recently I'd never thought anything much about my DD's feet, mainly because they are virtually carbon copies of my own, and mine are the only pair of feet I've ever taken much notice of so i assumed they were normal. But a few months ago a festival adjudicator commented that DD had a tendency to go a fraction too far over en pointe particularly on her right foot and said it was to do with her "fabulous high arches." I didn't really understand that, but reading Anjuli's post above it's a bit clearer now, though many people have also commented on DD having extremely strong feet in the past so I'm still a bit confused.

Anyway, it did make me look at her feet a bit more closely, and I noticed that, like myself, if she ever wears higher heeled shoes her foot doesn't sit on the curve of the shoe, there is always daylight between the shoe and her foot, apart from the heels and balls of her feet. Mine are the same - I very rarely wear court shoes because I always felt that I was balanced on them rather than having my feet in them if you know what i mean, and the curve of my foot is above the side of the shoe unless they have very high sides. I tend to wear trainers when I'm at home, and kids shoes, like Skechers "Mary Jane" type shoes for work, as these do seem to be a good fit. I also over pronate badly, though DD is much better (presumably thanks to ballet). DD wears similar shoes for school, though she's just got a pair of brogues this term, and to be honest she rarely wears shoes at home as she's usually either at dancing or in bed! Do the foot experts on the forum think these are suitable shoes for this foot type or should I be looking at something different?

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Dd doesn't wear Uggs. The proper ones are too expensive and the fake ones don't fit! She has the one pair of clarks boots that actually fitted and Wellies. Interestingly as a toddler the assistant in a wonderful but sadly closed down now local show shop advised she wear ankle boots as she had a tendency to roll.

 

She has always in the past worn start rite shoes as clarks are not deep enough however her current wedge ones are clarks. It's difficult for me as a mum to know which ones are supportive as the sales assistants seem to want to push whatever fad is in at the time.

 

She also has a problem in that at 11 years old she is still in the sizes that come with toys in (I always refused them).

 

Luckily she's not too bothered she wants to look after her feet and she knows she needs to wear what fits and we struggle to get things that fit. She is a size 13.5 - 1 G fitting depending on the brand.

 

Yes I would be interested in that link. Dd doesn't aspire to be a ballerina but she wants to aim for a career in musical theatre and/or teaching.

 

I misspoke - it is not a link it is a post:

 

TENDU

 

Tendu is an extremely important part of the ballet technique.  Balanchine considered it the most important exercise at the barre - and I agree with that. Most everything extends from it. You can use it for turnout, strength, line, and extension.  It should never be underestimated.  The student must be – pulling up (not sitting in the hips), maintaining the turnout, and feeling the movement clearly down the entire length of the leg into the foot and the toes.

 

Before beginning the student must be correctly aligned all through the body; lengthened through the spine, arms correctly held, hips square, knees over toes (turnout never forced) and weight on the three major parts of the feet, weight never back on the heel.

 

Tendu begins as you press out and feel your heel begin to lift, then feel your foot articulate through all its parts: first the heel, then the ball of the foot and finally to a fully pointed toe.  This will teach you to divide your foot into parts, it will increase the use of the flexibility of the foot at the same time strengthening that flexibility.  Without putting any weight on the foot press through the floor like an isometric exercise – never just plop it out there. 

 

As you extend to the front “present” your heel to the audience.  As you extend to the side – tuck your heel up under the foot – and as you extend to the back, tuck the heel down behind the foot.  If you are standing sideways from the mirror, you should not see the heel in the mirror in any of these positions.  And, of course, remember that the turnout that is visible in the foot – begins in the hips.  At no time does the toe leave the floor.  Popping the toe at the extent of the tendu is a common error.  Likewise, flexing the toe upwards as you go either out or in is another common error.

 

Then as you come back to your original position, reverse the process, each part of the foot coming back into contact with the floor once again.  When you have fully returned to your beginning position – whether it be first, second, or fifth position, be sure the toe comes fully back, and once in the position the weight is now fully on both feet.  Don’t make the mistake of ending up with more weight on one foot than another.  Each time the foot returns to its “home” position, the weight must be placed upon it.

 

Not to be forgotten is the standing leg, which does as much of the work at the reaching leg.  As the weight shifts from two feet to one, great care must be taken that the student does not sink into the standing hip.  This is something that the student has to constantly learn to check – I am not sure this is never inherent.  And one side is usually more at risk than another since, each of us usually favors one side more than the other.   It can be seen when we stand for any great length of time, in an informal setting, the weight will shift to favor one side.  Be aware of this. 

 

The four most common faults that I see in tendu are:

 

1. toe popping

 

2. flexing the toes either going out or coming in

 

3. not fully bringing the toes back into the original position

 

4. the foot is not turned out to its full extent from the very beginning of the tendu

 

The first tells me that the student is allowing energy to "escape."  It is keeping contact with the floor that is difficult, letting the toe pop is easy. The flow of energy has to be controlled.

 

The second tells me that the student has not correctly articulated the foot. The foot cannot have articulated at the ball - if the toes are flexed.

 

The third tells me that the student has not maintained whatever turnout the tendu started with - the hip has been allowed to loosen and rotate inward.

 

The fourth tells me that the student has not used what turnout is available.

 

And those four things, controlling the flow of energy, correct articulation, and control and maintenance of turnout - are intrinsic (basic) to just about every aspect of the rest of the ballet technique that I can think of. So if the tendu is done correctly - if the student understands the concepts, it is more likely to be used and worked on for the rest of the ballet class.

 

The same idea of fully articulating your foot, pressing into the floor for strength, that you do for tendu is also what you do for degagé (battement glissé), frappé, and grand battement - in fact every time the foot is used.

 

And then in the center it is used for just about all the petit allegro pas such as glissades, petit jetés, assemblés, etc.

 

 

I hope this is helpful.

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Fabulous Anjuli, as always :)

I have high arches and can "bend" my toes and the lower part of my feet round quite far, and am fine on pointe. So in the foot categories above between 2-3.

What I struggle with is pointing my toes :D

So when for example I'm extending in arabesque or developpe etc I feel like I'm pointing my toes, look down and yes my arch is there and ive extended the top of my foot - but my toes are hanging - looking relaxed!! I have to stop and really concentrate on extending the toes into a pointe - not great!!! I assume the weakness is in the toes, but after 20+ years of ballet how is this possible?!

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The time to work on your toes is not in the air - when you are extending the leg (arabesque, etc.) but as your foot leaves it's home position (5th, 1st, etc.) and then leaves the floor.  From that moment the toes are pointing/extending.  In the air is too late.  Practice it from tendu (see above post). 

 

Feel a stream of energy going from your core (abdomen/back) down your thigh and then streaming out into space through your toes.  Not only will that help lighten both the work of the leg but also make it look lighter to the observer.  If that energy is going out into space down your leg and through your toes - your toes cannot help but pointe.

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My dd's teacher has introduced a regular session with the threaband into her vocational class. My dd has noticed a real difference with feet strength and also her ability to spread her toes rather than curl them. Just a few minutes in class, but she repeats the same exercises at home.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I also have highly-arched flexible feet. They are quite weak... and combined with hyper-extended knees I have to really work on pulling 'up-and-out' of my legs. Besides working through my tendus, (that post was very helpful) is there anything else I can be doing? I'm currently using a thera-band to point and flex my feet as resistance training, but any other exercises and advice would be helpful! 

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Well, of course you can't change the construction of your knees - but you can try to strengthen the muscle groups in the back of the leg and those that connect to the knee.

 

Stand in first position, sideways to the barre.  Now tendue to the front, put your heel down - put some weight on the extended foot, and now drag it back to first position being careful not to push back through the knee - but using the muscles all through the back of the leg.  You can do this to the front, side and back.  You want to strengthen the back of the leg to help support that knee so you can pull up rather than pushing back.

 

Hope it helps!

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