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Ballet Talk for Dancers

doggy knees and unflexible feet (and something more)

Holly Golightly

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Asking on the behalf of a girl at the studio who's very depressed about her knees and feet. She seems unable to perfectly straighten her knee, or point her feet well (at the moax. extension, she'll have a 150° angle between her instep and her ankle). She is very strong and light and has good technique and is very serious in her studying. Would these two features of her body make pointework impossible, or is there something she might do to about it?


Also (on the behalf on someone else!) - is it possible that being overweight might make it impossible to roll over the box, without either jumping or bending her knees? does this mean she is not strong enough to support her weight, is it just technique or does she need to soften the vamp? Her feet do not have any peculiar issue, the seem quite "fine" :lol: ...

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Holly, I moved your topic here because it is about technique, not shoes. :)


You know, I'm really not comfortable answering questions about other people. Why can't these dancers register and ask their own questions? In the meantime, have them read the Sticky Topic entitled "Facts of Life About Pointe Shoes". It is on the YD forums and the Pointe Shoe forum.

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...She seems unable to perfectly straighten her knee, or point her feet well ...She is very strong and light and has good technique and is very serious in her studying. Would these two features of her body make pointework impossible ...

**emphasis added**

Obviously I know nothing about pointe. But I hear the dreaded "perfectionism" in these words.


One natural comment is that strength and flexibility seem to be opposite ends of a scale. Possibly different scales, but highly correlated. Hardly anyone has both. You can choose to celebrate the one you have, or regret the one you don't, but it won't improve either one. You still have to work, and still have things to be glad about. Might as well choose to be happy!!!!


We all have things that come easily, and things that require hard work for tiny improvements. And NOTHING is impossible :thumbsup: OK, I exaggerate - if you are confined to a wheelchair, you won't be dancing on pointe. But if you love to dance, you'll dance, wheelchair or no. And if you have a talent for it, you will be lovely to watch - wheelchair or no. Dance is communication; technique is just a tool.


Just my opinion :shrug:

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Ok, I think I have to make myself understood here (I actually had written this in the first post, but then pressed backspace because I thought it sounded tedious!)...


I had doubts too as where to post this, as it is a teen thing, but I am not a teen and so on. Maybe I should have posted it in the teacher's since I was asking for teachers' opinions. Anyway - thanks for moving it, I knew it would be :) !


The facts of life thread is the first I read when joining these boards, and always call it to mind, especially regarding myself, and it was part of my musing in this case. I knew it'd make me sound like a busybody, even if that's not the case, but this is how things are: the girls wouldn't be able to ask themselves (nor their parents would for them, and for the same reason) simply because they do not speak English well enough to post&read the replies. I know it might sound corny, but I am being a lot of an interpreter here too. On my side of interest was simply that I wanted to know how (and how differently) experienced teachers had dealt with similar issues, just because I think that confrontation among different ways of looking at a situation is a good way to widen one's understaning of technique (or anything else), which I think is always beneficial even to a recerational student like me. But that's just my opinion.


Olddude - as a "ballet-student-with-handicap" I know very well that being "less than perfect" is not a good reason not to study ballet, and to be honest I think not one dancer can be considered "perfect" - so my sentence was not intended to be literally taken, even though it might sound as it were.


I was really just considering the "nature VS nurture" ratio when pointework is concerned. I have been taught and trained into an *al(m)o(s)t* everything is possible, provided you endure serious and continuous studying and training. "Possible" meaning here technically and "dramatically" acceptable, or decent, not excellent. I say "almost" or less, "a lot", because some obstacles I know CANNOT be overcome, even if you can obtain some degree of approximation. I dunno if this makes sense.


The end of it all is: what would a teacher do if she/he were to face this kind of situation? Do you think that a good 12 year-old student with unflexible ankles and doggy knees can do something to improve these two "items" (both where pointework is concerned and where it isn't, because it is not just a matter of pointe, not at all), or do beleive that they can't be "fixed"? And - this is more about pointe: can these conditions be "dangerous" so that pointework should be avoided at all?


Just asking for opinions - hope this clarifies my intentions a bit! thanks!

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Well as you're asking for opinions I'll give mine although there are a lot of other teachers that are more knowledgeable than me and would quite possibly disagree! Ankle flexibility can be improved to a degree by doing things like ankle circles, pointing and flexing etc. People that are generally quite stiff though will probably find that they can't improve it a great deal.


It is probably possible to go en pointe without having a fully 'stretched-looking' ankle if you have a high instep as this would help you to get over the box I should imagine. However, if you have a stiff ankle you probably won't have a high instep. You can do instep stretches to help there though.


If the person can do a good strong, reasonably high releve onto the demi-pointe then I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to tackle basic pointework if they are so keen, even if they never move off the barre, particulary when the bones are fully ossified - late teens.


The same applies to knees really, if it doesn't stop her going up on her releve then it should be OK. The knees are easier to stretch though in my opinion, anything that stretches behind the knee will help, like sitting with legs extended forward, flexing feet and trying to get the heels off the floor. Even bending forward from the waist with a flat back pulls there a bit so that's what I sometimes do when I'm brushing my teeth!


The weight thing is difficult. I know discussing weight is frowned upon on this board so I'll try to be general. It depends how heavy the person is, the heavier they are the more strength they need to support themselves. Either way a very heavy person would perhaps struggle to cope with such a small platform and pointe shoes would probably go soft very quickly, softening the vamp shouldn't be necessary if the person is strong enough and has the right shoes. The actual rolling over the box shouldn't be a problem I don't think although someone with larger legs wouldn't be able to releve to a tight 5th position, more a small 4th.

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I knew someone who was definitely overweight, kind of butterball shape. She had great feet and did great pointework. The weight interfered with her ability to get hired as a ballet dancer, but with her skill at pointe work.


As with any other body part, it is possible to stretch insteps.


There are many possible reasons for bent knees en pointe. The more rotation you have developed in your hips, the easier it is to straighten the knee (without twisting something inside). I can straighten one knee easily but have trouble with the other. In any case, straight legs are essential for pointework, and for ballet in general. She needs to figure out why her legs aren't straightening and make it a high priority to improve.

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WM- you're so funny!!


Any chance we can see a photo of this girl's legs (only) in dancewear??? It would be nice to be able to see what the problem is- otherwise, we're just speculating.

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I know that would help a lot, but I am not sure I wanna ask because she's 12...I sould need her parents' authorization - even tho I would only be posting "body parts"! I'll see what I can do. What stretches can she do for those knees (I know none, because mine do not need them)? I thought maybe she should be checked by a doctor - so that we can figure out whether it's a physical inability, or something that can be fixed with stretches, dunno if this makes sense...Would teachers on board advise this or am I being overconcerned?

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I would definitely recommend that she be evaluated. That's going to be the only way to know for sure what's going on.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have the same problem with one of my students right now. She is a bit overweight and has very stiff ankles. I don't think she will ever be able to do pointe work, but she's been a good, hard-working student for years, so I am letting her do a little "pointe work." Basically, at the end of class we put on the pointe shoes, and do lots of exercises that involve pushing over the box and stretching the ankles. She doesn't even do anything on pointe yet. Who knows--maybe her ankle flexibility will improve. If not, I'll be having to give her the facts of life about pointe work speech. I just thought I'd give her a chance first, because her heart would be broken if I didn't. These situations are really tough.

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Not a teacher here but maybe this will help. There is a great article in this month's Pointe magazine about knowing your legs. I can't remember the title as my ballet teacher is borrowing the issue for that article. It describes 3 different types of legs and what is good and unfortunate about each of them. It also tells you some exercises to do to strengthen the legs, knees and ankles.

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