02 Oct Ballet Foot Articulation 101
In general terms, the word “articulate” means to do something fluently or smoothly. When it comes to dancing, this term can be defined as an ability to move your body, or it’s certain parts smoothly without any jerks or irregularities. For a dancer, who is preparing for dance en pointe, he/she must learn how to move your feet rhythmically in clean lines. Well, to make things easier for you, here is a three-step guide to make your feet movement flawless. Dancers often struggle with the complexities of basic ballet movements. This is a poorly kept secret. Students who start dancing ballet at an early age master the basics as early as age five as much as they can. Children are taught the most foundational ballet steps like the Tendu and Plié in a way that they can easily understand. As children continue training over the years, they constantly relearn the basic steps; becoming more masterful. Students who do not relearn these foundational steps over and over in the course of their dancing career will have a harder time progressing as they become more complicated. In fact, many dancers do not adequately understand the techniques of these basic ballet movements.
If you add an elegant port-de-bra to these three, your perfect Tendu is complete. Perhaps the most efficient way for a dancer to prevent foot injuries is to become adept at the correct foot and ankle articulation. We have put together a set of exercises for dancers to acquire these critical skills. Executing this vital step with the correct technique drastically improves every aspect of your dancing technique. Many dancers develop injuries because they have some key muscles which are underdeveloped while others are overdeveloped. The calf muscles have the most power to point the foot correctly. Smaller, more extrinsic foot muscles, on the other hand, regulate the alignment of the ankle while the small intrinsic foot muscles regulate the pointing of the toes and forefoot.
Create awareness about your feet
The first thing a dancer should do is to get familiar with your feet and how they move. For that, you need to master the basics of ballet dance in flat shoes. About shoes, you need to make sure that the shoes you are using are fitted professionally. An ideally fitted shoe will be a little tight around the sides without cramming the toes. You should then get acquainted with the dance floor and how it feels while walking around the studio. What does the floor beneath you feel like? Do you feel constriction? Do your feet lie flat while practicing plie? Ideally, when you distribute your weight evenly, your feet will get a feel of miniature tripods. It will be like an imaginary line starting from the heal, moving along the arch, past your feet balls, reaching your big toe and then the little toe, and lastly, moving all the way back to your heel. Your feet muscles and joint work like a machine to produce specific movements. The greater the awareness about your feet, the better will be the feet articulation.
Strengthen your ankles
To articulate your feet smoothly, you must have strong ankles because too much stiffness and weaker ankles won’t work. There can be different factors that can cause instability to your ankles, such as an injury, tight calves, or pronation issues. You can improve your ankles’ flexibility and break adhesions by massaging the arches and calves of your feet. However, apart from muscular stiffness, there can be other causes of limited functionality. Our muscles are connected to the bones through tendons, while bones are connected to each other through ligaments. Impairment in any of these will distort the overall movement, thus making it difficult for you to flex or point your feet. In normal conditions, these ankle joints will provide assistance to the feet in wrapping around the legs while doing coupe or help you in keeping the balance in releve. Therefore warming up your tendon Achilles and calves before taking a class will help in improved performance.
Practice accurate pointing
According to the popular belief, foot pointing simply means pointing your toes, but technically, this is not correct. For a proper pointing of feet, you have to use arches and heel muscles to shift the pointing motion to your toe tips. Ideally, your feet should move like a row of dominoes (one after the other). Your feet movement starts in a curved position, and then it slowly goes into an arched position while your toes must be pointing at the finish. So, the articulation of feet can be explained as a quick and smooth movement of the feet through pointed and flexed positions. Let’s take the example of performing the frappe. Can you strike your feet balls in a flexed position while pointing your toes right after that and then immediately returning back to that flexed position? If you are thinking about pointe, then you must be honest while assessing your technique, whether you can coordinate these required movements or not?
Unlike flat shoes, pointe shoes are not that soft, so there is a greater risk while performing with pointe shoes. If, while using flat shoes, you are yet to master the basic ballet technique, then articulating your feet using hard pointe shoes can be very difficult and dangerous. Proper feet articulation with its specific movements is just like cursive handwriting. Feet arches make curved lines, and the feet movement is just like writing an invisible and beautiful script, and the pointed toes are like that ink, which puts a dot on i. When you do cursive writing, you don’t draw random loops on paper; rather, you start writing with a specific letter and let the ink flow in a continuous movement until the word is completed. Similarly, feet articulation requires a dancer to master the feet movement to achieve a destined goal.
Focus on developing this articulation as a crucial part of your development as a dancer. Repeatedly work on this and improve it as you grow as a dancer if you want to achieve effortless and fluid articulation as you dance.