Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pointe Shoes With Your Feet In Charge

Which is in control of your dancing- your pointe shoes or your foot muscles?


Of course you want to get exactly the right fit. So say your ballet store only sold Freeds, for example. Lengths and widths are commonly available. Freeds are hard shoes. They are wonderful for the higher arch, giving lots of support. They come in low and high vamps, good for short or long toes, so really they could be okay for everyone.

If you have a low arch and less flexible ankle joints, you need to break in your Freeds more. Same with Capezio's. Gambas are lighter shoes, go easy on them. Probably the first couple of classes will break them in fine.

If your core muscles are weak, if you are still hyperextending your knees, if you haven't strengthened the sole of the foot muscles, then your pointe shoes will be in control.

If they don't fit perfectly (no shoe does, unless it's made for you), if you are wide at the metatarsal area, or forefront of the foot, and narrow at the heel, or vice versa, you will always have a little situation.

Fitting Pointe Shoes


Fit the pointe shoes for the larger foot. (You may do the opposite with leather soft shoes, because they will stretch to fit.) You can pad the shoe for the smaller foot a little more, rather than crunch the bigger foot and get bad blisters or an injury.

If you need wide pointe shoes for the metatarsal area, leaving the choice of pointe shoes too wide at the heels, then use a drug store brand heel grip or get a big bag of makeup wedgies and cut them to the exact size you need and glue into your shoes.

I'm not going to go through every nuance of a shoe fit. The Perfect Pointe Book tells you all those details.

Your foot muscles have to be strong enough to control the shoe.

Your posture has to be correct so that you can be on balance.

If you get a pair of shoes with a slight deviation or a spot on the top of the box that presses into your foot, work on it with your hands, or use extra padding. Whether you stick a little foam, corn pad, or adhesive tape on your foot or on the shoe, it doesn't matter. Whatever works.

After two to three pairs of the pointe shoes that you can get still don't work out, you may have to try ordering a different brand on line. You are not going to waste a pair of shoes.

You will learn how to work on the feel of your pointe shoes to suit yourself.

You have to get your muscles in charge.

That's exercising every day, not doing bunches of releves or retires releves, but doing the basic sole of the foot exercises.

In other words, if you have a problem, look at your foot strength first, and your shoes second. Pick a pair a little too large rather than a little too short if you are in between. Too short, and too narrow, can lead to pain and injury.

The Perfect Pointe Book provides you with all the details for developing foot strength (and correct posture too!).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ballet Foot Positions-Use of the Theraband

There are many uses for the therabands, or stretchy bands, so I'll discuss a few here, focusing on the feet, toes and ankles. If you are already doing pointe work, these exercises will enhance your precision of technique, save your calf muscles from over-work, and increase your strength in ballet foot positions.

source.


(These exercises are illustrated further in The Perfect Pointe Book, with many others to prepare you for pointe shoes.)


If you are in a pre-pointe class, or organizing your own pre-pointe practice, you can learn four basic exercises to strengthen the sole of the foot muscles, and then do them with a stretchy band. Feet and ankles must be strong enough before starting pointe work, for slow releves through the metatarsal area, and slow controlled lowering, without any sickle in or out of the ankle joint.

"Toe swapping"
is done starting with the feet flat on the floor. Simply lift the big toes up, leaving the foot and the other toes flat. Do not lean the foot toward the big toes, the sole of the foot should rest on the floor with no twisting. Place the big toes down, and lift the other four toes.

You may cramp, in which case stop and roll your foot over a tennis ball or pinkie ball, to relax the muscles.

Do this 10 times, a total of twenty lifts. Initially, you may find that your brain can't even find the muscles to do this precisely - but your brain-to-foot communication will improve.

When your movements are precise, you can add the stretchy band. Sitting down with your legs straight in front of you, flex the feet and place the stretchy band behind the toes.

"Playing the piano"
with the toes is just like it sounds - lift all toes to start, and place the big toe, the next toe, the next and so forth. Do the reverse, lifting the little toe, the next, and so forth.

Relieve cramping if necessary, and do both movements 10 times each.

Once your movement is well-defined, add the stretchy band, sitting, feet and toes flexed, with the band behind the toes. Your toes will keep contact with the band, with more resistance when pressing against it. If you use the band before your movement is exact, it will not do much good. Try it and you'll see why, nothing really happens.

For ankles, if you are wobbly going up and down in slow releves, in soft shoes, you are not strong enough to be in pointe shoes. You must check your overall posture, use of the core muscles, turnout and how your feet rest on the floor when flat. Wobbling can be for many reasons. But, back to the ankles,

If you get corrections for sickling in where your weight goes towards the little toe: sitting, legs straight, loop the band around your right foot, at the metatarsal area.

Hold the band ends with your left hand. Pull the foot outward, and you will feel the muscles on the outside of the foot/ankle area working. Pull and hold for 10 seconds 10 times. Repeat other side.

If you go up onto demi pointe or pointe and your weight leans onto your big toe, you would loop the band and pull your foot inward, working the muscles on the inside of the foot/ankle area.

Another strengthening exercise
is (sitting, legs straight out in front) to slowly stretch the feet, splaying the toes apart and stretching them long.(Meaning, DO NOT CURL YOUR TOES).

Here is an excellent video by Lisa Howell demonstrating lengthening of the toes, and with an extra tip for strengthening at the same time:



You can use the theraband around the metatarsal area for resistance, except for one instance.

If you have highly mobile ankle joints, repetitive pointing and compressing a pointed position can irritate the back of your ankles. You do not need that particular movement at all. You DO need to increase strength in the soles of the feet and to control slow rises with no loss of ankle control.

If you are a late starter or adult beginner in ballet, start these exercises now.


The Perfect Pointe Book shows you all the details.

Doing these exercises 5-6 days a week will diminish the gap between your understanding of ballet technique, and the strength needed to do it.

In your slow releves onto pointe, and back down, your ankle should not lean or change angle in any way.

If your big toe is much longer, you can use toe levelers in your pointe shoes.

If your second toe is longer, you need to fit the shoes so that it can straighten, using padding for your other toes.

Even with exactly the right fit in ballet pointe shoes, the shoes lend SUPPORT, your feet provide the CONTROL.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You Can't Stand Green Vegetables Yet You Want Strong Ballet Muscles

I know there are many talented ballet dance students and young people training to win in the different sports arenas who do not take nutrition seriously. Until they get injured, or until their recovery periods no longer suffice to recover in. Green vegetables are number one on their "can't stand" list.

A simplistic explanation of how green vegetables, especially cruciferous (broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, being the most common) support exercise might be this.

The body works like a machine. The workings are motivated by thought, be it conscious, subconscious, deliberate, careless, positive, negative, precise or sloppy.

Once a motivating thought has occurred, several bio-electric mechanisms ensue.

Nerve endings do not actually engage with muscle fiber. However, they communicate by an electrical current and certain chemicals. Compare it to putting a plug in the wall. You have a plug, and you have a socket. When the connection is made, energy flows. Your action would be the electricity/chemical process.

In your muscles, one element has to be released for the connection to be made, and for a muscle contraction to occur. That element is calcium.

Due to excellent marketing, we think that our prime source of calcium is milk. That is not true. And if you are allergic to milk, lactose intolerant, or eat vegan, you get left behind right here, with milk as a source of calcium.

Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium. So are leafy green vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables. Steamed, baked, stir-fried, shredded, raw, fermented (as in sauerkraut), or eaten cold in salads, the "can't stand" part can be disguised with a little butter and lemon juice (if hot), or a delicious salad dressing if cold. Add some slivered almonds or crumbled walnuts to a hot or cold dish, and it's pretty yummy.

Some people get bloated and gassy after eating certain vegetables. This is not because of the vegetables. It is a lack of intestinal flora, or healthy bacteria, which are on your digestion team. You are simply under-staffed.

These little beings are part of the factory that produces certain chemicals from these vegetables and then transforms toxins created in the process to prompt a de-toxifying process and carry gunk out of your body. If you get a high content Acidophilus/Bifidus product, you will get more comfortable results from eating vegetables. Maybe not overnight, it is a gradual improvement process. It is slowed down by eating sugar.

Cleaning your intestines in any way is a detox. You may experience mild headaches, mild aches and pains (which your ballet and training aches and pains will probably override), or fatigue. The good news is, cruciferous vegetables also have a lot of fiber and help move out the debris in your intestines.

If you just cannot try to eat these wonderful green superfoods, make sure you get them in a whole food supplement along with some calcium too. You want to eat what is nature born. This will help you develop strong ballet and athlete's muscles.