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Using my feet while standing...

Guest nicoal

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I did Cecchetti syllabus as a kid, stopped at 13 and started ballet again at ~22. I've always been complimented on my feet and told I had solid training/technique. Last night I was about knocked off my rocker though with a correction from the teacher, but I'm not so sure how to take it.


I have a strong sense of center and good weight placement so maybe this is how I got away with it... but the teacher said that I wasn't using my feet when I'm standing properly. I have a fairly stubborn case of patellar tendinitis that I'm working out (no jumping for me) and the teacher has been sensitive to things in my technique that may have helped contribute to the problem.


Last week she noticed that when I do grand battements, my foot rolls in a tad at the forward motion. It's sort of a looseness in my ankle and foot that's going in. I tried very hard to stabilize my ankle area but found it extremely hard and the outside of my calf area was burning in no time. Based on a comment from my teacher as a youngster, I have always been _extremely_ sensitive to not rolling in on my arch. I have a medium-low arch and hypermobile ankles, mild hyperextension in my knees.


Fast forward to last night and she noticed this wiggling/rolling again in another exercise and made the correction that I need to hold on to the floor with my feet similar to how you hold on to the bar. Now if I pressed down a bit with my forefoot/toes my arch would cramp up in no time, not to mention all that concentration on my foot caused my working leg to lose track of what it was doing.


Now, I'm thinking it's not really gripping the floor that I need to be doing... but maybe I need to be more forward in my weight placement. I know that with hyperextension in the knees, there's a tendency to sit back... but it's so odd that I've gone all this time and have actually been complimented on my weight placement to then find out there's a major flaw. I have to admit, when I was pressing the floor with my forefoot (I know that sometimes I have a tendency to let my toes come up off the floor a tad in some movements) my entire leg felt more stable.


After all this, my question is... should there be any active interaction between your forefoot and the floor? Or is it a question of being forward enough that your weight is what does that work. I'm conflicted since I had such an eye-opening feeling when I held on to the floor - my leg felt solid as a rock and the energy just seemed to flow through -- but on the other hand I'm worried this is a very bad habit to create which is essentially gripping the floor.


I would really appreciate thoughts on this.

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Oh yes, indeed, there IS considerable to do with ensuring that the forefoot maintains contact with the floor in an even, although slightly adjustable manner. Your experimentation clearly demonstrates that. There is a "control zone" for weight placement on the foot that goes roughly from the midline of the ball of the foot to the front of the ball of the heel. Only a few inches, but those can be critical!


Your job now is to control the ankle so that it does not allow the weight to be carried to the inside edge of the turned-out foot just from the momentum of the working leg in the grand battement. You may have to sacrifice height on the working leg, but it will be worth it when you get the supporting foot under control.

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Guest BalletBrat

It is interesting you bring this up, as I have been paying closer attention to my feet on the floor lately as well, especially when exiting and entering fifth position. I noticed that, when standing, my weight was dispersed evenly across the three points of the foot but upon moving, say in tendu, I do the same as you and lose contact with the outer edge of the foot against the floor. Once I became more concious of this and started focusing on keeping my weight balanced across both the inner and outer edges of my feet throughout a movement, I noticed an increase in my turnout! It especially helped my grand battements devant, as I now have a better feeling of scooping under to engage the hamstrings, if that is an acceptable image to use, my hips have become a lot more stable and the height of my extension has increased. Go figure!

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To go along with the foot placement, I have a question. I have a moderate/low arch but no real tendency to roll in (pronate?) or force my turnout. My question is this: should I be actively lifting my arch at all times when I stand flat? or is the real issue, as nicoal asked, weight placement? I feel when I "pull up" my arch that I am sitting back and i have to fight to keep my weight over my metatarsal. should I work that way and then, eventually the strength to hold my feet there will come? Or should I relax my foot to a place where I am neither rolling nor pulling up my arch?

This seems to ba fundamental issue, so I hope I can get this right!


(sorry, I am not an adult student, I hope it is ok I posted here!)

Edited by yvette
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ToOr should I relax my foot to a place where I am neither rolling nor pulling up my arch?


Right! The other way you described is more or less a "clench" of the foot, and to be avoided.

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I have lately been working on this very subject with alot of new students of mine both adults and Intermediate teens. This is the explination that I have come up with and it seems to work for them (as well as myself):


Remember that there is always a circular energy in all movements. Standing in 1st, imagine that energy lengthing down the back of the legs to the outside of your feet, pleacing them very flat on the floor. The energy continues to the front of the feet drawing up the front of the legs and hips. Always in opposition - lengthening down through the back and pulling up through the front.


Now try it in demi plie. Feel the same energy placing the backs of the feet on the floor and pulling up and out through the front of the legs.


IMHO the "rolling" problem doesn't really stem from the ankles per say, it comes from the energy and "true" turn-out of the upper legs. If you continually think of keeping the backs of the feet planted securely on the floor, it will naturally prevent the arches from rolling forward.


Miss S.

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pink tights' question provoked me to add a quick note, when I said my toes were coming off the floor - it's not from rolling in (where the small toe would lift off the floor) but rather all of my toes lifting straight up. Rolling in as I use it is when the arch of your foot which (unless flat-footed) normally does not touch the floor ends up there. Often seen when forcing turnout, my teacher sometimes corrects it generally saying to not step on your bunions.


Mel, this gives me a lot to tinker around with. I have a feeling fixing this will have some pretty good side effects beyond what I could imagine. I think the desire to pull up my arches and not roll in for so many years has caused the loss of true connection of the forefoot and the floor.

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The phenomenon of all the toes lifting off the floor is not a phenomenon I've run into a lot, but it has happened. It's sort of the opposite of clenching, so let's say "splaying" or "pancaking". It's not right to do, so some attention will have to be paid to it consciously until it becomes established habit to have the foot (toes included) in contact with the floor.

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You know that you're doing it, therefore, to fix it, you have consciously to think of NOT doing it. Think of putting the toes down and relaxing them. Isolate them from any other effort you are making (sorta Martha Grahamish, there). Continue until you have established a work habit, and don't have to think about it any more.

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Thank you Major Mel! (about the placement of the foot on the floor) I hope that I was not clenching before- I do not think I was, no cramping! But I will make sure I never do it now!



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  • 1 year later...

Last Sunday, my teacher pointed out that when I am on 5th position, my feet pronate, and suggested that I shift my weight away from the front and a little more to the back in order to remove the pronation. She warned me that if this happens repeatedly, my arch can collapse.


I am wondering now whether I should wear an arch support device, in addition to learning to shifting my weight.


If so, then what is the best arch support device to wear, and should this be worn only when I am doing exercises where my feet pronate or during the entire time I am at the barre?

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That's a good idea. Start by trying Dr. Scholl's, just as they come from the pharmacy, and if that doesn't work, talk to a podiatrist about more sophisticated products.

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Thank you, Major Mel. Since my feet do not pronate when I am walking, I am not sure that I need the shoe inserts. However, there are elastic cotton arch sleeves that I can wear inside my tights. I just don't know how these might affect my demi-pointe. What are your thoughts abt wearing such device during barre exercise?


Check out this one: http://www.footsmart.com/P-FootSmart-Arch-Sleeves-10085.aspx

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