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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Achieving a better pointe


buglady

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Does anyone have any good exercises for the metatarsal area of the foot? I have struggled for a while with pointing my foot properly-- for a long time I could only bend at the ankle and the toes. I tended to curl my toes under and believed with all my heart I was pointing my foot. This went on until it was pointed out to me at an adult intensive in Michigan (thank you Heidi!). She took my foot and molded it with her hand to show that there was another whole set of joints in there! She explained that my toes should reach, not curl, and I should be able to see the metatarsals "pop out" when I flexed that joint. My problem is that I have been completely unsuccessful at building strength enough to point well. I would like to be able to have the strength to make a pointe shoe look pointed when my foot is in the air. I know this is a matter of strength and not lack of flexibility in the foot, because when standing en pointe my feet look great. But it seems to take the weight of my whole body to force that foot to pointe properly.

I have tried therabands and sitting with pointe shoes on and pointing against the shoe to try to make it really curve. By not putting any weight on it I had hoped that the muscles in the metatarsal arch area would do all the work. However, with both exercises my foot "cheats" and goes right back to the toe scrunching. I have been blessed/cursed with a wide foot, short even toes, and a really high arch. Therefore, my feet look lovely en pointe, but I know that the high arch gives the look of a pointed foot, when very little pointing is being done! I think that is why I never caught on that there was a problem till Heidi had me pointe my bare feet while she watched. Please help.... I want my feet to look lovely in pointe shoes even when they're not against the floor!

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Victoria Leigh

Perhaps if you work a bit every day on your own, and work barefoot, you will be able to really see the foot work correctly. Just work on tendu and dégagé, pas de cheval, frappé, etc., as these are the exercises where you train the foot to work properly! :wink:

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I also had a problem with toes curling, although it is almost gone now. Now only my weaker foot does it very occasionally when I'm really, really tired.

 

I'm convinced that at least in my case the toes curling were primarily caused by the weakness of my feet. As my feet got stronger, my toes stopped curling. In the beginning I got a lot of cramps in my feet from pointing them fully until the muscles got more used to it. :wink: Remember that you need strength thorough the whole range of articulation of the foot, not just a part of it.

 

What helped me to gain strength in my feet were: concentrating on articulating the foot in class, theraband work and a balance board. I also spent few minutes each day pointing and flexing my feet and toes barefoot, often helping the foot muscles with my hands so the shape would be correct. I felt this was pshycologically an important thing for me, since I could not conciously control the curling at first. Using my hands convinced me that I'm physically able to point my toes without curling. :sweating:

 

I also have a high arch, so my feet never looked poor, but they definitely have improved a lot.

 

Päivi

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Guest nicoal

I think this exercise might be applicable...

Our teacher has us exercise that metatarsel area by tendu (in any direction) but before fully pointing your foot, keep it at the three quarter demi-pointe position then with a slight springing action, pointing your foot fully. This seems to isolate the metatarsels while keeping your ankle and instep quiet.

Another similar exercise is doing tiny rond's with only this action of the three quarter pointe to fully pointed foot en tendu - the brushing action is done in three quarter and after executing the rond, extend the metatarsel -- all while again keeping the ankle and instep quiet and fully stretched. These are mainly done en dehors devant, en dedans derriere and both en dehors and en dedans a la seconde.

 

It's simple to demonstrate but a bit confusing to explain, hopefully this makes sense! :wink:

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Victoria Leigh

It does make sense, nicoal, and it is good. There should be a lot of that kind of work incorporated into the class, with the use of the demi pointe in a tendu, and then pointe, demi pointe, pointe, etc.

 

Another good exercise that I put into classes frequently is to face the barre, demi plié in first, straighten as one foot presses to the demi pointe and then just barely off the floor, sort of like a little jump but without the jump. It teaches the action of the foot in a sauté. From the lift off the floor, take it back down toes first, to demi pointe, and into the plié.

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I found that working on pointing my feet at intervals during the day really helped. When I'm sitting on the bus or working at my desk I can work on articulating my feet and increasing the time that I can hold the pointe for.

 

At first I was curling my toes, and then I learnt to point but couldn't hold it without cramping, and now I'm working on building up the strength so I can hold the pointe longer. Your stories are so familiar!

 

When I was doing Cecchetti method there seemed to be more of an emphasis on articulating the feet in the set exercises, which was very good for me.

 

Thanks for bringing up this topic, as I am certainly interested in any advice!

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I'm confused. Is the metatarsal the toe joint closest to the ankle or is it the joint higher up on the foot? I have this little "speed bump" developing higher up on my foot - the next joint you come to after all your toe joints. Is that the metatarsal or the instep?

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Here is the definition and a website that has a picture of them.

 

 

Metatarsals: Five cylindrical bones extending from the heel (the tarsus) to the toes. The metatarsals are numbered from the inside out, so the first metatarsal extends to the big toe.

 

http://www.physioroom.com/images/anatomy/metatarsals

 

Sounds to me like you are developing a bunion. Time to get a diagnosis from a podiatrist and probably toe spacers. :shrug:

 

Clara :)

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I don't think I have a bunion. The "speed bump" is on top of my foot closer to my ankle - not on my toe joint. I think I just have a pathetically developed instep.

Edit: Just looked at the picture. So the metatarsal is the long bone between your toe joints and the "lisfranc" joint (according to the picture). When "working your foot" are you trying to increase mobility in that "lisfranc" joint? What toe joints do you try to keep straight and which ones do you work to develop your arch?

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Well that's a new one for me!

 

I would see a podiatrist especially since you say it's "developing".

 

Try to find one who has treated dancers by asking around your studio or calling professional companies in your area to see who they recommend.

 

The fact that it's up by your ankle is curious and I don't think it's related to your instep developed or not, but that would be up to a Dr. to tell. :shrug:

 

Good Luck!

Clara :)

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hart,

If you count back from the tip of the toes, the joint you want to bend is the third one back. It is analagous to the knuckle bones of your hand. If you hold your hand straight, then bend the wrist and the fingers while keeping the knuckles flat, that is what I do with my foot. Now bend the wrist (ankle) and the knuckles (metatarsal joint) but keep the fingers straight (toes)-- That is what I should be doing with my foot.

 

Thanks all who responded. I will work harder with the pointe/demipointe exercises. I will try to tactfully request some of that be incorporated into our barre. It is a bit touchy because it is a very small adult class and a bit too laid back for me. No one else is interested in pointe and the majority rules there! However, I should think that these are exercises that could easily be done at home without danger of injury or bad habits don't you think?

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Sanna Koulu

Thanks for the interesting topic, buglady :)

 

It sounds like the main concern in pointing the foot is to extend the toes instead of curling them. Like hart, I'm wondering if we are also supposed to do something with the metatarsals... I never thought there could be articulation in the joints between the metatarsals and the ankle. They feel so very inflexible. Is it just an image to use, to articulate the foot fully, or should one be able to bend the instep? :shrug:

 

Hart -- I think I may have the same kind of bump, smack in the middle of the bones leading to the big toe? First tarso-metatarsal joint, I guess. It seems it's gotten more prominent after starting ballet, or maybe I just notice it more.

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Buglady, do you mean the third joint back from your big toe or your other toes? The other four toes seem to have an extra joint than the big toe. (The big toe has two, the others three)

 

Saana, yep - little speed bump is the third joint back from my big toe and there is a definite noticeable difference sense starting ballet (while I had an arch, my instep used to be, and for the most part still is, flat as a pancake). There does seem to be some mobility there, especially along my big toe metatarsal. I can move that joint back and forth with my hands.

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I can also bend my instep a bit between the toe joints and ankle with my hands, resulting in a more pronounced arch. The bend is more noticeable when doing the "push over foot stretch" in pointe shoes. However, the amount of mobility is fairly small, and I do not have anything I'd describe as a bump there.

 

This is also the place where I feel most of the arch stretches whenever I can be bothered to do them. (My pointe problem is going over too much so I prefer to spend my "foot exercise time" on gaining strength, not stretching.)

 

I don't actually know if we're supposed to point "at the arch" too. I just always assumed we should, since my teachers are always exhorting us to articulate thorough the whole foot. :D

 

Päivi

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Guest kristinene

This is an excercise we used in some modern dance classes to warm up the feet, and it may be useful in this context as well.

 

Standing in parallel push into the floor with one foot to bring it up to demi-pointe. Then, again pushing into the floor, spring your foot to full pointe (there should be no weight on the toes now). Press into demi-pointe, then press down to flat. Then do the other foot. This can also be done so that the foot is off the floor instead of at full pointe. Really feel a strong push into the floor, resist, and you will notice how the muscles work. It is basically similar to barre excercises, but very much simplified. It can also be done turned out in first position.

 

I love doing this before class starts to warm my chilly feet up and get working properly. If I'm running late and don't have time then I sometimes will cramp up on the first few tendues.

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