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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Guest beckster

good toes, naughty toes

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Guest beckster

I'm beginning to get slightly depressed and worried about my feet. I looked in Gretchen Ward Warren and they are like the photo of feet that can just about cope if you work hard. The thing is, I don't seem to be able to point them well, particularly when I can't see them or my foot is in the air (bizarre I know). I have had lessons where I've been doing sautes and had my teacher staring at my feet and shouting at me to point them, and I just don't seem to be able to. Glissades are also terrible for the same reason. My left foot is worse than my right. I am pointing from the ankle, and I work my feet as much as I can, like I point and flex while I'm watching TV and do one-footed eleves all the time. Its as though the message just doesn't get through when my foot is off the ground. I also tend to sickle my foot at the best of times. What on earth can I do to try and make my feet better for ballet, short of transplantation? I kind of hoped that starting pointework was just going to be a matter of building up strength and technique ... now I'm wondering if I'm just not made that way.

 

Cheers

Becky

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Guest Sonja

Hi Becky, welcome to the club... Although I am feeling really sorry for what you are going through - when reading your message I felt like crying out: YES, that is MY problem as well...! I have started ballet quite late, like you, but have been trying for 6 years now, but still haven't a clue of how to improve.

Note: This is NOT to discourage you - I just hope you get some good advice earlier than me (as I am still waiting for it...). Up to a certain point it's nature, I am sure - I have found myself staring at people who are not dancing, thinking: Why on earth don't they do ballet - with those feet!!

Thanks for putting this up!

Sonja

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Victoria Leigh

Becky, I don't want to discourage you either, but there really are some feet that are extremely stiff and inflexible. They can be improved somewhat, with a great deal of work - have you tried a theraband? - however, unless the stretching begins as a child, the degree of improvement is not terrific. The sickle problem can definitely be corrected with correct usage of your rotation and placement of the foot, along with stretching that works the foot away from the sickle. (Stand facing the barre, do a tendu back, rotate your leg as much as possible and press the heel downward while only the edge of the big toe is on the floor.) Working on pointe will help only if one has enough rotation and control to not sickle the feet, and enough flexibility and strength to get on full pointe in the center of the box. If the foot does not allow one to get to the top of the shoe, then that foot should not be in a pointe shoe. frown.gif

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Guest Sonja

... a theraband is exactly what I bought two days ago!! And the guy in the shop did not look very understanding when I told him I wanted it for my feet... Well, at least he sold it to me!

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tigger

Ms. Leigh, what do you mean by getting on to the centre of the box? In a lot of pictures I've seen, the foot on pointe does not form a straight line--the foot arches so much that the toes are under the heel. Is that what you mean?

 

Michelle

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, syncopation, that is essentially what I mean. Even if the foot does not have the type of arch that makes the look you describe, it must be flexible enough to allow the dancer to be on the top of the shoe, as opposed to standing on the back edge, which happens with people whose feet are not good enough to be in pointe shoes.

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tigger

I guess my feet will never be in pointe shoes either. They can only form a straight line with the leg, no further. There's no changing bone structure. frown.gif

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Guest beckster

I read that if you are sitting down with your legs out straight in front of you, when you point your feet, your toes should be at least in line with your ankle and preferably below it, in order to go en pointe. Would you have said that was accurate, Miss Leigh?

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, Becky, that would be rather accurate I would say smile.gif

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Guest beckster

If I am concentrating hard on my feet and nothing else, they will point okay - they'll never look marvellous, because I've not got a very high instep. I'm not sure if they'd ever be good enough for pointe but thats hardly the main reason I'm doing ballet so I'll worry about that another time. The problem arises when I'm trying to do other things as well. Even though I think "I must point my feet" it doesn't just happen. I have to actually think about every muscle in turn and what they should all be doing. Actually now I think about it, thats actually true of a lot of my ballet. Do you think that for adult beginners, maybe it takes time for your body to learn how to do what you tell it? And how long does it take for these things to become instinctive?!

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Guest Danni

Hi Beckster - Ms Leigh and Major Mel can tell you more but I can assure you that when you start as an adult, with certain movement patterns well established, it naturally takes time to coordinate all your bits to look the way you want them to.

 

The upside is that you're aware of it - ever caught sight of yourself in the mirror and suddenly realised that you were doing something totally different to the way it felt? Well, at least you KNOW what you have to focus on. Apart form that, maybe you could think of stretching/lengthening your feet - not pointing, but completing the line of your leg. This helps me anyway. Also - I find that the more I streess about what I can't do (oh dear - 'can't' is a word we are not allowed to use in my classes!), the worse it is - and the more it holds up my progress.

 

Hope that helps on some way....

Danni smile.gif

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Mel Johnson

Imagery is a valid aid! Another downside of starting as an adult is that you are painfully aware of all the technical defects you see in yourself, which as a child you might just have breezed through on the way to technical proficiency. Not losing morale is an important matter for the adult student!

 

During the making of the motion picture Waterloo, the director, Sergei Bondarchuk, wanted Christopher Plummer, playing the Duke of Wellington, to speak his lines with the Iron Duke's "famous speech impediment". When asked what he meant, Bondarchuk explained that he had just read a biography that described Wellington as facing the battle with his customary "stiff upper lip." smile.gif

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Guest beckster

I think actually that Danni and Major Mel have hit the nail right on the head ... if I was a child I would not be so aware of all my errors, but because I am an adult, because it is hard to get started as an adult and because I desperately want to get better, its as though the little mistakes are amplified about 10000-fold in my head. Also I know that when I was 15, I would have been able to do this stuff no probs, and its kind of wierd to find your body won't respond the way you think it should. I really do have a tendancy to get stressed about the little things. Maybe I should read that book about not sweating the small stuff!

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LEX

I have a question about Victoria Leigh's answer about feet in pointe shoes...while I have never had particularly spectacular feet, working them over the years have made them somewhat okay. However, I sometimes find myself back on my arches, especially when iam tired during a long combination or variation. Does this mean my feet are not strong enough, or does it mean I need a new kind of pointe shoes?

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Victoria Leigh

Lex, I'm sorry, but what do you mean by "back on my arches"? Do you mean not up all the way on pointe? If so, I'm not sure why this is, if you are able to get there sometimes, you must be able to get there all the time. So, it might be that you have not learned how to use your energy properly to be able to get through an entire variation or ballet and still be in the right place on pointe. This would be a strength and stamina issue.

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