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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Where in the foot?


Heartful Mermaid

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I am wondering where I should be putting my weight in my foot, and why.

 My childhood ballet teacher used to say, “Press in your heels.” She often said that before someone did a pirouette. However, since then I have heard and read many teachers saying that you should put your weight in your toes, and that you shouldn’t “sit in your heels” or “rock back onto your heel.”

 I would like to know what people tell their students about this and why. Also, does anyone know why my teacher might have said, “Press in your heels?” and what it means to “sit in your heels?” or “rock back onto your heels.”

Thank you very much.

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The “weight into your heels” your childhood teacher was describing was likely a situational correction.

In general, you want to think of your foot as a triangle, with one point at the heel and the other two points at both edges of the ball of your foot, if that makes any sense.  Equal weight should be placed on each point of the triangle, essentially meaning that 2/3 of the weight is placed towards your toes.

However, when students prepare for pirouettes, especially from fifth, it’s a common thing to see the heel pop just before takeoff, which gives you less traction and a much less strong relevé.  Your teacher was likely trying to give you an image to help with that correction.

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There's a difference between pressing to use your heels, and putting your weight in your heels. As ASCBallerina says, we're encouraged by teachers to think of the weight distributed across our feet, with about a third of it in our heels.

But one of my really experienced and insightful teachers (the wonderful Christina Mittelmaier) also coaches us to feel the floor - to ground ourselves down, in order to go up in a pirouette. She starts this at the barre with the direction to put pressure (and weight) into the heels at the start of a tendu, as it develops the turnout. And it does - try it - put pressure & weight into your heel before you press the foot out into a tendu. It requires you to activate the muscles of the inner thigh (adductors?) and the glutes, and really helps you work your turn out (which is an action, not a position).

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It also depends on where your teacher was trained. Keeping the “weight in the heels” is especially helpful on a raked stage, i.e. one that is not flat but slopes down toward the audience. Not all your weight of course, but this tends to be a preference from teachers who danced on raked stages in their dancing years. Of course raked stages are very uncommon in North America but some teachers like to keep the principle alive. Neither technique is wrong, but it’s best to listen to your current teacher as their class will probably be designed for using the style of technique they enforce.

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Press in your heels means not downwards but clockwise to front on your right and ccw on your left foot. Weight should be on toes. Press in means press it inside horizontally so make a proper turned out position of the feet. I think this is what the teacher meant back in the days.

Edited by Miss Persistent
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