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Feet and dance physio


dancingmuppet
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We have just been told that my 11 (nearly 12) year old dd may not have flexible enough feet for a purely classical career although if she continues to stretch and exercise her feet in a safe way they may give more? I don't think it's her ankles that are the problem but her toes. She has been doing feet exercises given on her associate program for about the last 2 years and her feet have improved a lot, she can get onto a nice high demi pointe and when she stretches her toes on one foot they are completely straight and they seem to be getting there on the other foot although she still has to concentrate not to scrunch them slightly. She has also gone onto pointe fairly recently and doesn't seem to be having problems, but surely if her feet aren't flexible enough she shouldn't be up there?

 

I'm wondering whether to take her to a specialist dance physio for a complete screening, as we have one near us that offers this. At least then we would hopefully know exactly what facility she has or hasn't got. Has anyone done this and found it helpful?

 

Thanks

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Dd had a screening at school & she has the opposite problem!!!!

 

To much range of movement in her feet so she needs them to be even stronger than those with a more limited range as there us the danger than when she goes en pointe she'll go right over. Hence special excercises and delaying pointe for the moment

 

But yes we found it very helpful in other ways too & dd is going for regular physio sessions.

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Who told you your dd's feet aren't flexible enough, dancingmuppet? Was it a teacher, or a physio? I would wholeheartedly recommend an assessment by an experienced dance physio and ask them to be entirely honest about suitability for a career in classical ballet. Assuming the problem can be rectified, the physio will be able to prescribe safe exercises.

 

It's good news that your dd can get onto pointe; is she getting right over onto the platform?

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I think the key issue here is whether your DD's feet  can cope with the demand placed on purely classical professional dancers, not whether it is safe for her to go on pointe or dance pointe. 

 

I just happen to know a few ex-dancers  who had to retire early on in their career because of foot injury. They both went to elite vocational schools.

 

Both of them told me that their feet were not the ideal classical ballet feet (still beautiful, though), that they worked very hard to make them more flexible, but in the end their feet didn't cope with the demand of professional classical ballet - their feet were overworked to compensate thier natural ability.

 

I am not an expert, but thought this may be of help.  I think it is a good idea to get assessed by physio in any case.

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Thanks everyone. It was her associate teacher that told us. She seems to be getting over the platform completely although she doesn't do a hugh amount of pointe, she does do it at associates as well as her normal class. I've just left a message on the dance physios answer machine, hopefully they'll get back to me soon! It is a physio that specialises in dance and has worked for quite a few of the big vocational schools so I expect they'll be completely honest with us.

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I can't really advise but some good thoughts from others here, and I just wanted to say that a boy I know was told by the RBS for years that his feet weren't good enough to be a classical ballet dancer - he is now a professional ballet dancer......

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Yes, as everyone has said, a dance physio is a good idea to be sure that she isn't damaging herself. I also agree wholeheartedly with JulieW, many people are very hung up on the perfect aesthetic of the 'ballet foot'...which of course is very pleasing to look at and generally easier to work with (getting up en pointe properly etc..of course there are cases, as with Pictures DD that it can go too far the other way and is also jolly hard to work with) But as long as she has enough flexibility to ensure she is achieving correct placement I for one would encourage her not to get paranoid about it (many do). Work to the best of her ability with her feet,do flexibility exercises and really concentrate on the articulation of the foot through tendu etc..There are many dancers who do not have mega insteps or high arches (some pro dancers used to 'cheat it' with lambswool and tape although nowadays I believe some use silicone instep enhancers) Unfortunately injury for someone who has had a long career in ballet is not at all unusual even for the most physically facilitated....hip op's, knee op's and a couple of cases of neck op's (to insert metal screws...ouch) to name a few I've heard about over the last few days ! x

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This thread has got me thinking .....I also read somewhere on one of these threads that "someone had been told " that RBS want highly arched feet. Now I'm wondering if this applies to boys as well as girls - who obviously would look better on pointe with good arches .

I believe I'm right in saying that the highly arched feet are less strong and more prone to injury as a result . I console my DS with this as he was told that his feet are " Ok and not bad "by his JA teacher if he remembers to stretch them fully !

It's amazing how much can be achieved with the right exercise as they have improved lots in one term of vocational school .

Incidentally he was born with one foot shaped like a letter c from his big toe to his heel along the inner edge of the "C" . We were told when he was starting to walk (in Africa ) not to worry as it would straighten with time ! It did not for many years , and had I known he would take dance so seriously I might have done something earlier !

Thank goodness I made sure he had the best fitting sandals I could afford , though he was barefoot most of the time !

He has inherited Daddy's rather big and flat feet with an almost prehensile toe , useful for pitching things up off the floor , but with all the dancing the feet are almost equally straight and if you didn't know how it used to be , you probably would not be able to guess which foot it was !

I think that his dancing is what has helped to correct it and his feet are certainally very strong and springy , though I fear that he is unlikely ever to develop much of an arch unlike his little brother who has splendid ones probably because he has always walked on his toes !

It must be so rare to find a person who is gifted in dance , passionate about dance and has the perfect shape , proportions , feet , joints ,etc as well as the opportunity and finance to get to the top !

Thank goodness that those imperfect folk that love to dance can often beat the odds and not only find joy , but give much Joy be their performances !

Edited by Billyelliott
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Getting up fully onto the platform of the pointe shoe is only half the picture - the other half is that it must be done with straight knees and correct alignment through the rest of the body..

 

At only eleven yrs of age, unless the foot is unable to do this because of a truly tight arch - working the foot correctly through articulation in every exercise (especially tendu) will add much to the foot's flexibility.  There are feet which are just too tight for ballet just as there are those much too flexible.  However, barring those extremes, at her young age there is much that can change with correct work.  I have seen this happen in adults.  

 

If she can get fully over the pointe shoe platform with straight knees - there is every hope, generally speaking, that the arch will gain in flexibiblity.  The caution is that this must happen through careful work - not any kind of artifical stretching device.

 

What a professional dance company will look for in the future is a consideration if she wishes to pursue ballet as a profession.  But if she can meet the criteria laid out above - fully over shoe platform with straight knees - I would not write her off.

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Looking at her on pointe she looks to me like she is fully on the platform with straight legs, she has sway backs but tries to use them correctly. I got her to do some tendus tonight and I don't think she always works though each foot, but when she did them slowly she could although one foot was better than the other, it was the same with rises, on her stronger foot the toes were completely flat but had a tendency to scrunch on her weaker one, but again with concentration she could keep them flat.

Think the towel exercise might help.

 

I'll post an update when we've seen the physio!

Edited by dancingmuppet
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Firstly I am so ignorant re ballet. I honestly know absolutely nothing! Have heard quite a few mention about dance physios and was wondering could consulting one to help my ds achieve splits. He works on them every day (when not dancing as they obviously practice them at dance) and in the last month has improved a lot on one side (right leg in front) but with left leg still 2/3 inches off. When trying to get into them he is often in tears and I was wondering if a physio could advise a better method and also some general flexibility exercises? Should add that he cannot do what I think is called box splits

 

Any thoughts on this would be welcome

 

Thank you

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Is he in tears when he works on splits in class?

 

In any case, he should not be in tears - pain is a stop sign.

 

When he works on splits or any other stretch or dance related activity, he should be fully warmed up and working under the supervision of a teacher or other professional.

 

As with anything else - both strength and stretch take time and patience - more for some of us - less for  others.  But there is no hurry.  Stretching and strengthening go hand in hand and should progress together.  

 

One side is always better than another so it is no surprise that he finds one side easier.

 

Did you mention his age?  Or did I miss it....my senior moments are getting longer....:)

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Just want to reassure you really - he's very young yet and although you do see lots of flexible boys there are plenty who aren't. My son never made it down into flat splits in his whole time as a student (he's now dancing professionally and is nearly there!) and has never had great box splits. Now, he was assessed out of WL due to his lack of flexibility but they took him in year 7 knowing he wasn't naturally flexible and Elmhurst took him afterwards! And as I said, he's now a ballet dancer,.so try not to be too worried about it.

 

As Anjuli said, do not practise without being fully warmed up - regular, effective stretching will get him there in the end hopefully.

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Is that the same for girls Julie do you know (dd is very worried about her lack of flexibility though unlike mvobe ds's he only started stretching after acceptance & it was flagged up to her as stretch was not part of her previous classes.

 

She is very dedicated now & does it everyday.

 

Perversely she's hyper flexible in her shoulders and ankles.

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It seems to me that the girls don't need to be able to do the splits for year 7 entry but generally as they get older they can all do them, but I didn't always get to see the girls in class so I may be wrong in thinking they were all in flat splits!

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It seems to me that the girls don't need to be able to do the splits for year 7 entry but generally as they get older they can all do them, but I didn't always get to see the girls in class so I may be wrong in thinking they were all in flat splits!

 

My daughter could quite quickly improve her splits with some dedicated stretching whereas my son just isn't made for them!

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Sorry if I didn't mention his age, ds is just 11 and has only been working on them since Christmas holiday when he realised that he was not progressing enough in class. I have become a little worried re tears when trying to get into them as he is not in tears in class. He does warm up before but possibly not enough. He showed the exercises to his dance teacher (RBS trained) and he said they were fine. He cannot do box splits.

 

Strangely as pictures said, he is also extremely flexible in his shoulders and gets his arms into some very odd positions. Do you think he should stop practicing his splits?

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Sorry if I didn't mention his age, ds is just 11 and has only been working on them since Christmas holiday when he realised that he was not progressing enough in class. I have become a little worried re tears when trying to get into them as he is not in tears in class. He does warm up before but possibly not enough. He showed the exercises to his dance teacher (RBS trained) and he said they were fine. He cannot do box splits.

 

Strangely as pictures said, he is also extremely flexible in his shoulders and gets his arms into some very odd positions. Do you think he should stop practicing his splits?

 

Yes, I do think he should not be practicing splits on his own.  Obviously, something is different when he does them on his own since he is not in tears in class. .  He's still very young - there's no rush.  

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He might be in tears because he is frustrated he can't do splits or is not progressing! My DD did that couple of times. Ask your DS and tell him that he shouldnt feel pain as he stretches, just tension, pulling, mild discomfort. If stretches are done correctly and after warm up then can be done at home in my opinion.

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It might be an idea to speak to your DS's dance teacher, MVOBE and let him know that your DD is in tears when stretching at home. He is likely to be horrified and might be able to impress on your DS exactly how he should warm up before stretching and that he should stop if he is in pain. I know DD quite rightly listens to her teachers rather than to mum ;-)

 

If on the other hand the tears are due to frustration, there's not much you can do about that other than impress upon him - and ask his teacher to impress upon him - that ballet and stretching is a slow, steady process and that he won't be able to do everything, or to do it perfectly, first time. Our perfectionist children!

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