Monday, May 14, 2007

Ballet Exercises For Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes - and Between Class Shoes

You can click on this link to find out how to care for your feet while learning the best ballet exercises for pointe shoes.

What should a ballet dancer wear for daily foot support? Today there are attractive athletic shoes in all shapes widths, and colors. The expensive built-up sole types are not necessarily the best. The kind with the springs in the heel look like they would feel great if you are walking on cement all day, or on the hard stone halls of a high school. But they may not be the best for developing feet and legs. I have seen that even very young dancers think like career builders and will pay attention to professional issues like daily footwear.

Joyce Morgenroth says in her article from Arts & Sciences Newsletter Fall 1997 Vol. 18 No. 2

"In pointe shoes the vulgar, useful foot is gone. In its place is the illusion of an elongated leg and only a most tenuous connection to the ground."

The entire article has a lot of historical detail, is a great read, and is found here.

So how do we take care of our "vulgar, useful foot"? When I was a ballet student at The National Ballet School of Canada, we wore "vulgar and useful" shoes, by uniform mandate - oxfords! Ugh! Although I have to admit, when I tied mine on after a ballet class, my feet, ankles and calves really were supported and relaxed.

A special dancers guide for your best ballet exercises will support the health and development of the dancer's foot.

So back to modern athletic shoes, I read some passages from "Slow Burn" by Stu Mittleman. (I had ordered "Slow Burn" intending to get the book by Frederick Hahn and Eades & Eades. I received the Stu Mittleman book "by mistake" and then ordered the other one too.) They are both fantastic books. No mistakes.

Page 77, the chapter "Always Buy a Shoe Fit, Not a Shoe Size", is a long chapter with interesting stories and great information. Stu is a runner and the frame of his info is for runners. However, a dance student or professional dancer can glean some good advice from him. On page 84 he says :

"The most important considerations to make when it comes to the structure and function of your foot have to do with the following:

arch type
tilt pattern
foot strike"

Stu's details in shoe selection that follow that passage resemble the minutiae that dancers attend to in fitting ballet shoes and pointe shoes ("professional ballet shoes"). I suggest that dance students get the book from their local library and review this section, in consideration of the selection of the shoes they wear daily. Party shoes aside, I think you want to support the feet that are supporting you. All day.

Muscles relaxation is very important. In ballet classes, it is crucial to relax between exercises. In life, it is crucial to relax between classes. You can most likely find the best shoe for your arch type, tilt pattern, and foot strike .

Stu discusses the available athletic shoes for the tilt pattern. In ballet we say 'rolling ankles' 'dropped arches' or 'flat foot'. Simply meaning the inner ankles roll toward the floor, pronation, and the opposite, the outer ankles roll toward the floor, supination. Differently shaped sneakers will give needed support.

(The foot strike is less important for dancers, but very important for runners. )

Stu also discusses muscle testing. Chiropractors, kiniesiologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, some nutritionists, many can muscle test. This includes for proper shoe support. If you have a practitioner that might do this for you, buy your shoes, and take them to your health care person, get the shoes muscle tested. If they are not supportive you can return them.

Be a pro right now and find out how to care for your feet when you execute the most challenging ballet exercises for pointe shoes.

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