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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"Wrapped" cou-de-pied position


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Thanks for explaining. Okay, now I think I understand what a winged foot is. So, although the ankle is moving in a similar direction (as winging) when getting into the wrapped cou-de-pied position, it's not the same as winging because the foot is pointed? Or am I misunderstanding?

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Lau, if you place your foot in a correct cou de pied--that is, with the foot fully pointed, heel in front of the ankles and toes behind--that is the correct shape of the pointed foot for everything in ballet. Does that answer your question?

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I agree, although I've seen students who did not sickle on dem-releve who DID sickle when starting pointe (new use of ankle muscles). One little one only had a few weeks off, did NOT sickle on pointe before being off, and this week showed up with a major sickling on one foot. Muscles need to re-learn...


I suppose that is theoretically possible, but it has not been my experience when teaching pre-pointe to pointe students. They do require a lot of attention, but a student who is really ready for pointe will not sickle.

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Okay, so now my question is: how much rotation/turnout should come from the foot itself (e.g. in tendu devant), if any?


Here's a video I found on youtube:

(the exercise I am referring to below starts at about 1 minute)

Now the problem is, that when that dancer is in tendu devant, her foot looks...wrong...to me :shrug: Am I just confused about what a pointed foot should look like? Her foot looks better to me in the tendu to the side and tendu derrière. Would this be a good exercise for me to try?


I don't have very good rotation. But I'm working on improving it as much as I can.


But now I'm really starting to feel bad because my heel is never that forward in tendu devant. I am often corrected, e.g. in retiré, that I need to bring the heel forward (still fighting sickling en l'air/in retiré). Is this partly because my feet sickle a bit naturally (more en l'air/when sitting relaxed/lying down) and I can sickle "oh so beautifully" :D ? So essentially I have to work harder than others (who don't have sickled feet) to correct this?

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Victoria Leigh

She is very correct in that exercise, Lau.


I cannot tell you why your foot is sickled, but I'm sure that it has something to with rotation, as well as making a habit of the right shape of the foot and not the wrong shape. Remember, your foot is not in charge here. It does not HAVE to do what IT wants to do. You have a choice. :D Be sure that you are using the rotation from the hip and the energy through the whole leg to point the foot. If you think just foot, it is easy to "over point", which is sickle too.

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Yep, the foot is definitely not in charge, but habits take a while to break, unfortunately.


Thank you. So I was confused about this. Would that exercise be one that I could work on, then?


What I'm beginning to realise, from this thread and others, is that my feet need a lot of work. Curling toes, sickling, lack of rotation (legs and feet obviously, as they're connected :D).


These are exercises I'm already doing (usually daily or at least a few times a week) to try and help improve my feet:

- rises in parallel with tennis ball (20)

- rises in 1st and 2nd position (ensuring good form and rotation) - usually 10 in each position

- single leg rises in parallel and turned-out (usually 3 sets of 10 or 15 on each side)

- toe swapping (working intrinsic foot muscles)

- the theraband rises I mentioned on page 1 (to strengthen ankles to avoid sickling) - 20 on each side

- sitting on floor, legs parallel in front of me, point through demi-pointe, both with and without a theraband (20-40), concentrating on NOT curling toes

- big toe exercise - lift big toe off the floor and then use fingers to provide resistance as you use the big toe to push your fingers down (also for intrinsic foot muscles)


(now, the one my teacher makes me do for wrapped cou-de-pied position - tendu to side, draw leg in so foot is pointed to the floor, knee bent, then allow ankle to "fall" forward as well as the one Serendipity mentioned)


Any others?

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(and yes, I think that's where the sickling habit came from - "over-pointing")

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Lau, I have the exact same problem with this. My teacher has me do many of these same exercises, but I wanted to mention that stretching could help, too. For me at least, the connective tissue on the insides of my ankles is tight enough that my foot sickles automatically when I point it, and in order to keep it from sickling, I have to back off the pointe a bit. (This may be the same as the "over-pointing" problem that Ms. Leigh describes above; I'm not sure.) I've found the following stretch helpful: stand in parallel, cross the right leg over the left with the foot pointed and tucked under so that the tops of the metatarsals are against the floor. Bend the left leg and push it gently into the back of the right leg, and you'll feel a stretch across the right ankle. Now, for me, my foot sickles when I do this, so I turn the right leg out slightly until I feel the stretch across the inside of the ankle as well as the front. I do this for a few seconds each side between exercises in class, and find that by the end of barre I'm having a much easier time getting into the right position.

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"Wash, rinse, repeat" is what I say simply when I want them to do something again. My students asked what I meant the first time I said it. Apparently they had never read the back of a shampoo bottle. :wink:


I usually have them repeat the exercise I described eight times each foot.

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Groovibug - thank you SO much for that stretch. I used to do a slightly different variant of that but your version works so much better! I've been struggling all day with trying to find a stretch that will help my ankle, cos it feels like it needs to be stretched, and your suggestion worked! :) And oh dear, an "automatic" sickle - I feel for you. Fortunately I don't have that situation, but I think, like you, the connect tissue is stiff.


Oh, and some good news: one of my teachers, who hasn't seen me in two weeks, told me today that my "wrapped" cou-de-pied is looking better - and I didn't even tell her I'd been really working on it! :rolleyes: So hopefully it's more a "tissue issue" :P than a structural (joint mobility) one.

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry to bring up this old thread again, but I have a question about the wrapped cou-de-pied position.


I have had this dilemma for quite some time. My feet sort of have a "sickled look". When I try to "wing" my foot while keeping it pointed, it looks straight. It just doesn't go any further in the "winging" direction. This and my bad rotation (maybe 100 degrees in first, more if the hip is flexed) don't allow me to achieve a wrapped cou-de-pied.


This is my question: Until I can achieve the correct position, when working in wrapped cou-de-pied is it more acceptable to have the foot fully pointed but neither the heel nor the toes in the correct position (sort of "beside" the ankle) or is it better to have the heel in the correct position but the foot not fully stretched, so that the toes are "beside" the ankle?


I also have limited ankle flexibility. On good days there is almost a straight line from my knee to my ankle to my toes, but mostly it is less. I am working on that, too. My feet are very wide and I have short toes.


(Background: Adult beginner, 2-3 classes a week for two years)


Thanks in advance you for your help!

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Victoria Leigh

Tari, it should be pointed. You do not want to practice holding any position that is not a correctly pointed foot, even if it does not quite wrap.

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