Friday, January 4, 2008

Pointe Shoe Strength - The Multifunctional Degage

A lot of focus on footwork goes to pointe shoe strength daily routines. Here is an addendum to the multi-functional degage ballet exercise. In working the toes to give a sharp, strong quality to jumps, as well as to pointe work, you help build strength in the foot muscles, relieving the calf muscles of over-training and residual tension.

Here is an exercise you can add to daily routines in order to build foot strength.

I will assume that you've already done some playing piano with the toes, and toe swapping - picking up the big toes separately, and then the other four, separately. These exercises build strength and also fine tune your communication with all those tiny little foot muscles.

This exercise is to build strength in the toes. It is the movement that completes a battement degage, the final push off that the toes do. It is a little different here.

Do a battement tendu a la seconde, stopping when the arch is fully stretched but the toes are on the floor. Now relax your leg, feeling its weight. Then, using only the toe muscles, pop the foot off the floor. Let the leg fall back to the tendu position, toe joints relaxed, arch held. Relax the leg, feeling its weight, and again, using only the toes, pop the foot off the floor.

Then repeat 8-10 more times, rapid little degage from the 3/4 pointe position to the fully pointed degage position. Close, demi plie to relax.

Repeat with the other leg. This repetition of the final tiny sharp movement of the toes builds strength, builds muscle memory, and adds an extra quality to your releves and sautes.

An advanced version of this is doing a succession of sautes in first position, with no demi plie. Facing the barre, in first position, do a saute just by pointing both feet. You may not make it off the floor. It is just to get a feeling of the strength and power in the feet, independent of the calves and legs. This is NOT a daily routine, but something to do once a week or so and feel the build up of strength from doing other pre-pointe type exercises. You can actually develop the strength to do a few sautes, with no plie. Controlling coming down through the foot is important.

Always keep length in the toes, no curling them!

Use a rubber or golf ball to roll under the foot muscles and relax them, and include the under part of the toes. Relaxing those little muscles, and stretching them gently, will enhance the muscles tone.

Soaking your feet in warm water with epsom salts, or apple cider vinegar, or sea salt, or sliced ginger, and then icing them for a few minutes, is the icing on the cake for your foot muscles.

Muscle memory for relaxing is important too!

Get your own copy of the dancer's guide for pointe shoe strength in ballet exercises.

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