Monday, January 31, 2011

If You Have Hammer Claw and Mallet Toes Can You Do Pointe?

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Getting into pointe shoes may not be a dream you feel you can fulfill if you have hammer, claw, or mallet toes.

Misshapen toes may or may not hurt. They may be related to arthritis, or not.

These kinds of toes indicate that the toe muscles have somehow become unbalanced. A common reason is from you wearing shoes that are too tight.

However, home care and stretching and exercises can be performed, gradually alleviating these conditions, to some degree if not altogether.

If you are ready to dance on pointe, improving your toes' shapes and functions can be done while you take pointe classes.

In both your toe shoes and your everyday shoes, proper sizing is crucial. There absolutely must be room for your toes.

If your second toe is longer, it is the toe that you choose shoe length for.

Especially for pointe shoes, which must fit snuggly, and yet accommodate a long second toe.

You are going to become very particular with toe spacers, toe caps and any other padding that will help your toes stay long in the shoes, and be protected from developing blisters and corns due to their bent joints.

A podiatrist may recommend orthotic insoles - made to fit your feet - and can also teach you ways to splint or strap toes to help straighten out the joints.

Learning ballet foot stretches and ways to relax all the foot and toe muscles will help you work with misshapen toes.

Specific exercises for articulation and strength in the toes will help you straighten these toes to whatever degree possible, and develop the strength you need to dance in toe shoes, at the same time.

All dancers should pamper their feet with warm soaks and massage, and this will help you too, with your special project.

Good Nutrition

Don't forget nutrition. Eating fresh foods, good lean proteins, and getting enough of the right vitamins that convert proteins to muscle in your body is important.

The Vitamins B12, B6, and Folic Acid are needed for this. Add Vitamin D3, and plenty of dark green vegetables and salads count too.

If you are a serious dancer, young or an adult beginner, I know you will gradually learn all that you need to keep you going in ballet training.

This article is meant to get you started if you have been wondering about whether you will be able to dance in pointe shoes.

Here is a video demonstrating some pointe accessories:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dancing Professional Ballet - Is It Too Late?

I get this question from time to time, sometimes from dancers whose experience with ballet I know, and sometimes from those I have not seen dance, or even walk for that matter. So here are my thoughts as of today.


Dancers competing for a professional job will have done 10 years of training already. They will have had the advantage of training over physical limitations, while young enough to overcome them, to some degree, or altogether.

I don't like to be discouraging but must be honest.

But here's something else to think about - what soulful or artistic quality in you loves ballet? Could that aspect of yourself be expressed through another media that does not require:

a) an extraordinary physique by birth
b) the circumstances under which to be trained by an exceptional professional school starting at age 9-10
c) the political savvy to survive all that? (seldom mentioned, but not to be discounted)

That wonderful artistic energy in you could come out some other way without challenging your age, your body, the reality of the profession, et al.

I hope I am not disappointing anyone with this perspective.

But I believe there is something in you, even though you love ballet, that can come alive without ballet.

And you are better off figuring that out, even if you experience a disappointment right now.

Believe in your life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ballet Classes And Foot Arch Pain

In a ballet classes, there are many types and shapes of feet and some may experience foot arch pain more easily than others. If you have arch pain during or after ballet or your contemporary dance classes, I will help you understand some of the causes of foot pain in dance training.

There is a complete manual about how to learn properly in ballet classes on how to use the foot and arch muscles properly, that will make it easier for you to enjoy years of dance, no matter the style you study. For example, the following topics are covered:

the tripod foot - proper weight placement

pronation - not holding ballet turnout

relaxation techniques

stretching exercises

over use of lower leg and weak foot muscles

ballet injuries

Pronation - called "rolling ankles" in dance. Your inner feet collapse toward the floor. This puts strain on the knee joints, as well as all the tiny joints in your feet. Often this can be corrected by simply learning how to hold your turnout better in the rotator muscles at the back of the pelvis area. As the legs turn out, the inner foot lifts a little, without evoking excess tension in the ankle muscles.

Also, the amount of tension it takes to activate your arch muscles is small, and yet can help support the feet. This does not mean pulling the arches way up from the floor, resulting in tension at the front of the ankles. If you do this, you will see the tendon at the ankle joint stick out.

The tripod foot is a term meant to describe the placement of your body weight on the ball of the foot, the little toe joint area, and the heel. Getting the weight just right will help you feel that the foot muscles are activated, but not tense.

Relaxing and stretching your feet can be achieved with rolling a golf ball or a Pinkie Ball, pressing into the foot muscles, used under the foot and on top. You'll feel a release of tension, and do not push too hard. It's better to do this more often, rather than harder.

The softer Pinkie Ball is used to stretch the ankle joint like this: sitting on your feet, place the ball under your tibia or shin muscle, below your knee. You may feel tension or tenderness as you work the ball down the leg to the ankle, pushing into it to release tension.

This prepares you for a gentle and safe ankle joint and muscle stretch, to give your more flexibility and a better point of the foot.

Now you can place the ball under the metatarsal area, just above the foot joints (closer to the ankle), and gently press into the ball. You will feel a delicious stretch over your arch and ankle area. Repeat on the other side.

Weak sole of the foot muscles will cause over-use of the lower leg muscles. This will result in tension and a decrease in the depth of your demi plie.

I hope the above tips about ballet dancing have helped you. Get all the details about how to improve your ballet technique and avoid foot arch pain.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adult Ballet Class Exercises - All Prepare You For Pointe Shoes

If you are in an adult ballet class as a beginner or a returning dancer, every exercise you do will prepare you for getting into pointe shoes, if that is your goal.


 Every ballet barre exercise, whether focused on the feet or not, will get you ready for pointe shoes.

The men in ballet can benefit from this viewpoint, as special foot exercises for pointe strengthen, and refine control. This will increase technical accuracy in allegro (jumps) and help prevent dance injuries.

Starting with your demi and grand plies, your use of:
  • Correct ballet turnout
  • Core muscles
  • Ease of the upper back use
  • Elegance of head and arm movements

These factors all mean a great deal about everything else you will do in dance class.

If you can do this simple (but not easy!) warm up exercise correctly, to YOUR best ability, you will probably be able to do the entire ballet class with the same control.

Someday, if not today.

The battements tendus and battements degages, or foot warm up exercises, begin to develop your control and strength in the sole of the foot.

While these exercises also make the lower legs stronger, if your calves or shins get stiff and sore, you need to use the feet more, and the lower leg muscles less.

Stretch the calves in between exercises with a demi plie or a lunge stretch.

It is good to turn in and allow the rotator muscles to relax in between barre exercises as well.

You actually start preparing for pointe work right from Day One. Everything you do in class will possibly be done later in toe shoes.

Any misalignment of posture or weakness in ballet positions, will be magnified when you are on full pointe.

If your ballet studio offers pre-pointe classes, ask if you can view one. You will see special foot exercises being taught, not ballet moves, but just isolated routines to refine and strengthen the use of the feet.

If you do not see anything like this, it may not be the best kind of pre-pointe class to take.

Aside from your dance classes, if you would like to gain on the normal time needed to develop a fine classical technique, you can learn the special exercises that target the muscles in the soles of the feet.

A few minutes a day is all that is needed. I recommend that you take a look at The Perfect Pointe Book,  fine dancer's guide for preparing you to dance in pointe shoes.