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Thes

Can I start ballet lessons for the first time with falling arches

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Thes

I have looked through your archives about falling arches (i have been diagnosed by two different orthopedic surgeons as having such). All of them were about people who had either started having their arch collapse after a dancing incident or someone who thought their arches were falling from a dancing incident. I am not a ballet dancer, but I have wanted to be from a young age. I want to know before i put myself into a place where i am likely to be turned down if I can start Ballet lessons even though I have severe falling arches. I currently wear custom inserts, and my feet have not been as strong as they needed to be sense a running injury in 7th grade. (i was 12) I ripped a tendon and was forced to run on said ripped tendon, causing my tendons to lose strength and start to collapse my arch on my right side. As i got older the constant strain of just walking with no inserts caused my left to fall in turn. I am currently 21 years old and would really like to look into starting dance (even if my grace is not up to my own standards). Anyone have any advice for me?

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Redbookish

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Thes, and to the Adult Students forum.

If you find a studio with a good provision for adults, there's no way you'll be tuned away! I've gone to many studios, and many adult ballet classes, and no-one's ever been turned away unless they are doing something unsafe for themselves or others, or are disrespectful to classmates or the teacher (although I've never seen that at all!) But you should tell your teacher about your injuries - a good teacher will ask students to let her/him know about injuries at the start of a class.

You need to find a studio where there is a slow Beginner's class - preferably a course where you sign up for a sequence of lessons, so you can learn progressively. If you look in the Pre-pro section of this message-board, you can find a school or studio near you, then contact them, or check their website, to find out about an "Absolute Beginners" class. There are more and more of these as ballet for adults has become quite a popular pursuit.

With your injuries, take advice from a physiotherapist about what is safe for you to do. Take it sloooooowly. You will find some of the way your body needs to be for ballet is not 'natural' so it can take about 6 lessons or so before you start to feel like you know vaguely what you're doing.

You'll need that time to build strength, locate the muscles that create the turn out of your legs and feet, and also engage abdominal muscles to keep your torso strong and stable and calm while your legs and ams are moving all over the place. 

Ballet is less about the feet, than it is about your alignment, your spine, your abdominal muscles and your back. And 'fallen arches' won't matter - you'll start to develop strength there that could actually improve your condition. Have a look in this section at Ms Clara's pinned note about alignment - it's about your spine, and the relationship of your spine to your pelvic girdle and your shoulder girdle. There are also some exercises you can do for the small muscles in your feet: try picking up a tea towel with your toes. Or look for examples of  "Doming" the foot on YouTube - you'll see how these very simple exercises can prepare you for the way your feet need to work in a ballet class. And when you get to class, pay attention to tendus! They are the one simple basic exercise that help you do everything with & for your feet. 

Good luck and welcome to the wonderful world of adult ballet! And do keep us in touch with your ballet journey.

 

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Miss Persistent

I agree with Redbookish! Find a good school with an absolute beginner class. In my experience there are too many schools where the class on the timetable says "Beginner" but is full of all sorts of people who have danced for all different lengths of time. To me, an absolute beginner class, or even a short course will give you the real basics you will need to get the most from ballet.  If the class is just a "Monkey-see, monkey do" where you copy the teacher or other students - get out.  Ballet can't be osmosed or just "picked up" you need a good teacher who teaches technique, not just expects you to 'get-it'.  You need to learn ballet properly and sequentially from the start.

As far as foot strengthening, there are lots of great videos about that online.  Some of my favourites are from a dance physiotherapist called Lisa Howell who gives basic exercises about training the muscles in your feet.  You could try some and see if they help.  Here are some to start with and goodluck! I hope you end up loving ballet class as much as we all do :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTZMQZ0UP1Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhyVeafIkYg

 

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AncientDancer

Adult requirements for a ballet class are quite different from those who are on a professional track children’s. All are usually accepted. As stated above, if you have never had ballet, look for one that is absolute beginner. Some teachers will re-start a beginner class when a new person joins, as well, or will differentiate - bringing the new one up to level while requiring those who had already begun to do more advanced material (altering the exercises, in other words). 

In my experience, (wide-ranging and very long in years) no adult has ever been turned away from an adult class due to any infirmity. 

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Johnny Simpatico

Started taking adult ballet classes after about a 39-year interregnum. Late during my sixth class I noticed a sharp pain in my right foot which was directly related to going in relevé. 

I returned to class the next week and the teacher thoughtfully told me I should do everything everyone else does, but with both feet planted on the floor. (Had to sit out the last 15 minutes or so when class was doing various combinations across the floor, which would have required elevation of the right foot.)

Subsequently I visited a physical therapist, who gave me some exercises and suggested I get new orthotics to replace my ancient pair. So, I then made an appointment with a podiatrist, who diagonosed me with posterior tibial tendonitis,, which was brought on/exacerbated by a prontating foot and weakening arches. 

I told him my problem arose at the end of  ballet class. He advised me to give up ballet, saying it's the worst thing for my pronating foot. 

The guy is 86 years old and has plenty of experience with feet (not sure about experience with old feet in ballet slippers), but I'm not ready to give up ... and I'm not going to give up. Ballet is fun!

If anyone has any ideas about how to dance (injury-free) with these conditions -- exercises, taping, magical cures -- I'd love to read them. Thanks.

Edited by Johnny Simpatico

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Redbookish

Ballet works on clear and stable alignment of the skeleton, held by the soft tissues, so if you work your feet correctly and carefully within the limits of your body, then ballet technique shouldn't hurt, and should ideally strengthen the intrinsic muscles in your feet to help you correct the pronation &c.

Maybe you need to do some of the foot strengthening exercises pinned in Stickies on the Pointe shoe forum - doming, picking up fabric with your toes, and so on? Also focusing in class on keeping the alignment in your leg, ankle and feet. Often when adults start ballet, they do too much too soon! If you get pain while doing a relevé, then don't do them.

Maybe you could work on ankle & foot strength in simple exercises outside of class. I like the rises in parallel  between barre & centre that we see the Royal Ballet and the Australian Ballet doing in the live-streamed classes on World Ballet Day. They don't over-stretch (as that weakens muscles), they do rises in parallel, one 2 feet and on one foot. Done properly, slowly and carefully, with absolute attention to alignment, I find these quite challenging, although they're so simple!

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Miss Persistent

I absolutely agree with Redbookish's advice.  Performed correct, ballet is no more dangerous for your feet that running on a treadmill!

I had a period where I stopped dancing for a number of years and developed foot pain.  A podiatrist told me I needed orthotics because my feet were "weak".  Personally, I didn't believe him, went back to my physio, worked on my foot strength and a few weeks later, low-and-behold - foot pain gone!  Went back to ballet and have never had a problem since.  If I had quite ballet because of my so called 'weak feet' they would have only gotten worse as ballet was one of the things that had kept them strong and supple in the past (and I also would have been very unhappy! )

Now everyone's situation is different and with a pre-existing injury you may need some kind of compromise solution but definitely get onto some foot strengthening under the supervision of a qualified professional with hopefully, some kind of dance experience.  I also agree you should avoid anything to causes pain or discomfort for now.  It is quite possible your sharp pain directly correlated to that particular movement, but 3 seconds in time which caused an injury should not be dance career ending.  Your teacher sounds wise advising you to keep your feet planted on the floor.

As a side not from my soap box - I see far too many medical professionals with no knowledge of actual ballet training giving out suspect advice because of what they presume is done in class. I don't give medical advice to my students if they have a rash or a stomach pain so I find it frustrating sometimes when medical professionals give out ballet advice without knowing anything about it.  Ok, putting my soap box away now!

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Johnny Simpatico

Many thanks, Redbookish and Miss Persistent.

I looked for the stickies on the pointe shoe forum. Didn't see the foot-strengthening exercises, but maybe I was investigating the wrong part of the entire website. (Teen-age problems?) I also started digging into World Ballet Day videos, but there are oodles of them from multiple years. (Can you offer me a link or two?)

I did find this nice item on Dance Teacher magazine's site. It has several exercises to help combat pronation.

https://www.dance-teacher.com/3-strengthening-exercises-to-correct-and-prevent-pronation-2497242381.html

So, Miss Persistent, I'm doing these exercises, along with the couple of exercises my physical therapist gave me. I visited him today and told him the podiatrist explicitly warned me, "NO MORE BALLET." The PT fortunately disagreed with that assessment. He's on the same page as you (I think): strenghten the foot, pay attention to foot alignment (and alignment of everything else, of course), and keep going.

(The podiatrist on multiple occasions recommended ballroom, rather than ballet. I've never danced ballroom, but frankly I can't see it being altogether different from ballet, in terms of requiring foot strength.)

 

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Redbookish

The Royal Ballet class is on YouTube here (it's a fairly simple search)

Royal Ballet full class 2018

If you go to the [pint in class between grand battement and the entre, you see the rises - at around 26 mins in.

If you use the Search facility on this message board and search for "doming" you'll find lots of posts explaining the technique. Also search YouTube using the terms  "doming ballet" and you'll find some useful videos. It's a simple exercise and can't hurt, I think!

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Johnny Simpatico

Yes, I saw the toe rises and also visited several doming videos. Thanks so much.

All these exercises are helping enormously. I'm i infintitely better shape and feel ready to (tenderly) put those feet back in service!

 

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