by Jan Dunn, MS
(Readers! Please know that in the Foam Roller Leg Lift Series, the correct photos, showing Sarah’s hands OFF THE FLOOR, did not make the transition from my computer to the 4dancers.org computer–and I am now away from my home computer for two weeks, so can’t correct that error !
My apologies to all–and please know that after the first try at a leg lift, with hands ON the floor, all others are done with hands OFF ! -i.,e, the simple leg lift, then with extension (Step Two), and then with battement / leg lowering and raising (Step Three).)
Now we are ready to actually do some “core” exercises! This one actively involves the TA (transverse abdominal) that we discussed in Part 1 – but remember that “core” really means back stabilization, and these kinds of exercises utilize all of the muscles we discussed in Part 1, even if we’re consciously focusing on only one of them, as in this next exercise.
Lying on your back, in NP, place your hands on your lower belly, as in the photo here:
As you inhale (remembering all your cues above for a nice full breath), feel your belly rise slightly. Now, as you exhale, let your belly fall inwards, away from your hands. Don’t lose your NP as you do this–the whole point of the exercise is to use the TA in a NP position, where it is working to best help stabilize your back. Many dancers (and non-dancers) want to flatten their back / lose NP when they first try this – so watch out for that!
It’s also important not to “suck your belly to your spine”. The TA doesn’t need to work on 100% contraction (which that cue tends to do) to be effective (in a healthy back, it’s working at only about 30% of it’s full capacity).
This simple exercise is just initial awareness / training for how to activate the TA in a neutral position. If it’s easy for you, great. If not, and you find yourself wanting to “tuck” / flatten your back, then this would be a good one to practice daily, until that habit of “tucking” is no longer there.
Now we’re going to do some back stabilization exercises that may be more challenging (or maybe not!):
But before we do, a few words on the breathing pattern that will best help you with these:
Generally speaking, we stabilize our back best when we exhale with exertion –in other words, the hard part of the exercise. So for example, on the first exercise below, you exhale as you lift your leg.
Another thing to realize about breath use is that a forced exhale actually overuses the oblique abdominals, and does not allow the TA to fully engage. I’ve actually seen this on diagnostic ultrasound, and it was fascinating–when the dancer forcibly exhaled, you could actually see, on the screen, how the TA was not working, but the oblique abdominals were working way too hard (“hypertrophying” in scientific language). So just taking a normal inhale / exhale will serve you best.
Leg Lift Core Exercise
by Jan Dunn, MS
A couple weeks ago we posted Dancers: Let’s Talk “Core Control” – Part 1, and I promised you a second part with some specific suggestions on exercises, to help you work on this important aspect of your dancing and everyday lives. Most of what I want to share in this (and the next) segment are exercises you would do outside of class (although if you’re a teacher, you can work them into the class you teach, as I’ve always done), along with the alignment tips and cues I’ve already given you – plus a few more here!
FYI, much of what I’m sharing in this segment I learned over the years working in physical therapy clinics, as well as in the Pilates world – plus a few that I came up with myself!
Special thanks to my “two Sarahs” – Sarah Carrasco, my Pilates colleague and former Broadway gypsy, who did the modeling, and Sarah Graham, PT, from Denver Dance Medicine Associates, who provided input on the medical / research pieces.
Neutral pelvis (NP) / Neutral spine (NS) – Sitting / Standing
I gave you the image / cue of the pelvis / rib cage / head balanced one on top of another, and the “sternum (breastbone) to pubic bone” cue. An easy way to make sure these ideas make sense before you stand up is to sit on a firm seat (not a cushy couch), feet flat on the floor. Sit firmly on your two “sit-bones” (ischial tuberosities in anatomical language). If you are firmly grounded on those two bony points, you are in a neutral pelvis.
Another way to find sitting NP, is to sit tall and slowly rock in between arching your back (lumbar spine hyperextension) and slouching forward (flexion in the lumbar spine) — and stop somewhere in the middle, where there is a moderate natural curve in the low back.
Suggested images to think of here could be:
- Your pelvis is a full bowl of water that doesn’t tilt / splash either forward (meaning you would be arching your back – “swayback”) or backward (meaning you would be slouching).
- Put a finger on your two hip bones in front (your ASIS – anterior superior iliac spine) and your pubic bone. Those 3 bony points should form a triangle that is perpendicular to the floor, with the public bone pointing straight down.
Once you feel firmly anchored on those sit-bones, use some images that lengthen your spine upwards. Some of my favorites are:
A spiral of energy going upward
A water fountain from the base of the pelvis, going up and out the top of the head.
The Eric Franklin drawing of the “bobble boy”, that I used in Part 1
A magnet on the top of the head reaching up to a magnet on the ceiling (that particular one seems to appeal more to men – more mechanical, I guess!).
And last but not least, that image we used in Part 1, of the sternum directly vertical with the pubic bone. That applies to sitting as well as standing!
Once you have gone through those various cues sitting, you can apply the same images / thoughts to standing. All of those are going to help kick in the back stabilization muscles that we’ve been discussing
One last important thing to remember when sitting – most couches / chairs / car seats almost force you to “slouch”, to rock the pelvis under. Can you see where that compresses the discs and vertebrae in your lumbar spine (low back)? Always try to sit so that you can really be upright, in a NS.
Neutral pelvis (NP) / Neutral spine (NS) – Supine (on your back)
OK, so we’ve got NP / NS sitting and standing. Let’s now talk about lying down (supine – meaning on your back, in medical /anatomical terms)….because most of the exercises I’m discussing here are done in a lying down position. That’s because when you’re upright, gravity is pulling on you and you are more likely to go into your old / maybe-not-so-healthy-alignment patterns. When we lie down to do this kind of “neuromuscular repatterning” (because that’s what it is), to introduce new concepts into our body, it takes us out of our normal relationship with gravity and makes it easier for these new patterns to get started. Make sense?
Many times people say, when they are lying down, “how do I know for sure if I’m in NP or not?”. You would be surprised at how even dancers don’t quite get this when first lying down / trying to find a NP! They are almost always flattening their back unconsciously.
I use a physical therapy trick that I was taught long ago, working in Pilates rehab programs in PT environments. It’ called “the Plop”. Seriously! That’s what the PT’s I worked with called it, and I still use the term. It works like this:
Lying down, with your legs bent / feet on the floor, lift your hips just slightly off the floor – like this:
Drop your hips down. Don’t carefully place them down, literally let them “plop” (but never do that if it causes pain in the lumbar spine).
The plop gets you into your own neutral pelvis–it allows muscular holding patterns (like unconsciously wanting to flatten your back) to release for just a few seconds, before those patterns might want to take over again. Think of the plop as your “set point” or “home base” – i.e, “Am I in neutral? I’ll plop and see”.
Another way to get into NP lying down is to slowly rock your pelvis back and forth, from an arched back to a flat back, and then find the place in the middle where you have a natural lumbar curve.
As soon as you do find a neutral pelvis, whether you use the Plop or the rocking method–notice immediately how much pressure is on your sacrum (the broad flat part of your lower back). If you stay in NP, that pressure should stay the same – i.e., if you either arch or flatten your back, it will change.
Your “pelvic triangle” that we talked about earlier, in sitting / standing, is now parallel with the floor / ceiling, with the pubic bone neither pointed up or down.
You can use the water bowl image as well, only this time the water bowl is resting on your belly, and completely level / not spilling either way.
An image I learned recently that I had never heard, and I love, is to imagine a plate on your belly with a marble in the center–and the marble can’t move. That image really refines working in neutral, at least for me. That comes courtesy of my Pilates / dancer colleague here on Kauai, Sarah Carrasco, the model for our photos!
We haven’t really talked about breath, and as with many of these topics, it’s one that could have an article all to itself–but for now, let’s just go over a few important points:
When we take a breath, we want a full expansion of our rib cage, not only to the front, but also to the sides and back. Many of us are “frontal breathers”, not really expanding the rib cage in all directions. That’s not healthy, because:
- Where each rib meets the spinal vertebrae, in back, is a joint, and joints are designed to move – to remain healthy and avoid arthritis as we get older. A breathing pattern that only expands to the front, not to the sides and back as well, does not involve much movement at that joint – so we want to fully expand our rib cage each time we take a breath.
- In-between each rib are small muscles called the intercostals, and like all muscles, they are designed to move – but with a rib cage that is more “held”, not moving much except to the front, they don’t move a lot. Again, not a good thing.
- And last but not least, if the rib cage is expanding in all directions, as it is designed to, we can more easily access that important abdominal muscle, the TA (transverse abdominus).
So for all those reasons, learning to fully expand the ribs is really good for you. I’ve met many dancers who do great with that, but others who don’t. Here are a couple imagery cues to think of:
imagine that your ribs on the sides and back are beautiful sails on a sailboat, and with each breath they are billowing outward.
- Imagine that your lungs are balloons that are expanding in all directions with each breath. (Make the balloons colored or with beautiful patterns if that works better for you.)
- Use a theraband to help get the idea of a full ribcage breath. Tie it around your chest, and with every breath, feel the ribs expanding side and back.
I often use a toy to demonstrate full use of the breath / rib cage – it starts out compact and small, and then it expands wide in all directions (just as your rib cage should).
OK! In the interest of keeping things to a reasonable length, we’re going to stop here for today and pick things up tomorrow with specific core exercises. Don’t miss our Part III then!
Editor Jan Dunn is a dance medicine specialist currently based on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where she is owner of Pilates Plus Kauai Wellness Center and co-founder of Kauai Dance Medicine. She is also a Pilates rehabilitation specialist and Franklin Educator. A lifelong dancer / choreographer, she spent many years as university dance faculty, most recently as Adjunct Faculty, University of Colorado Dept. of Theatre and Dance. Her 28 year background in dance medicine includes 23 years with the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) – as Board member / President / Executive Director – founding Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and establishing two university Dance Wellness Programs
Jan served as organizer and Co-Chair, International Dance Medicine Conference, Taiwan 2004, and was founding chair of the National Dance Association’s (USA) Committee on Dance Science and Medicine, 1989-1993. She originated The Dance Medicine/Science Resource Guide; and was co-founder of the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. She has taught dance medicine, Pilates, and Franklin workshops for medical / dance and academic institutions in the USA / Europe / Middle East / and Asia, authored numerous articles in the field, and presented at many national and international conferences.
Ms. Dunn writes about dance wellness for 4dancers and also brings in voices from the dance wellness/dance medicine field to share their expertise with readers.
by Jan Dunn, MS
Aloha! — Happy August! The posting below is one I’ve wanted to bring you for a long time–discussing “core control” (alias “center” in dance). It’s something that’s very important, yet not that many people – dancers included – really understand what it’s all about. (And thanks to Denver Dance Medicine
Associate Sarah Graham, PT, provider for Colorado Ballet and many Broadway touring companies, for her help in clarifying the information from a medical perspective).
I hope that after reading it (along with Part Two, coming in a few weeks!), you’ll have a better idea of what all this “core” talk is, and how to best incorporate it into your dance life. My best to all –
For some time I’ve been wanting to bring you an article on “core control”. I put it in quotation marks because it’s a term that conveys different things to different people, and not everyone really understands what it means. In the dance world, we often refer to “center”, as in “find your center”–but many dancers do not really understand what that means, either.
The term “core control” is everywhere in the media / fitness world, and many people think it means “abs”. And abdominal muscles (one in particular) are very much involved in “core”– but there’s much more to it than that. From reading this post, I hope you come away with a better understanding of exactly what it means, and hopefully get some hints and cues on how better to incorporate it into your life–both in dance and in everyday movement, because it is important in everything our body does!
So much has been written / so much could be said–it could be the topic of several different posts. But over the years, teaching dance / Pilates / Franklin, I’ve evolved a specific way of teaching it to people, using a fairly short version that makes sense to everyone.
In the medical field, it is the same as back stabilization–in other words, when your back and torso are strong and able to provide support for your entire spine and limbs—because your arms and legs are going to be more fully able to move and be supported by your torso, to do all of those gorgeous extensions and powerful movements we love to do and see in dance, when your “core” musculature is strong.
So with that said, from here on out, I’m going to use the term “back stabilization”, which you now know means “core”.
This post is going to be in two-parts: In this first segment, I’ll do a lot of explaining. For the second one, I want to show to you some specific exercises and things you can do at home or in the studio to help increase the strength of all the muscles we’re talking about here–i.e, ways to help improve your back stabilization / “Core Control” / “center”.
The Four-Legged Stool
There are a good number of muscles / muscle groups involved in back stabilization, but we’re going to simplify it and talk about the 4 primary ones. When teaching, I like to use the analogy of a 4-legged stool.
Think of it this way:
You have a 4-legged stool made up of 4 main parts, all of which are necessary to keep the stool (your torso) upright and strong, and in balance.
1–One leg of the stool is the Transverse Abdominal muscle, or TA for short.
This is the deepest of the 4 abdominal muscles–on top of it is the Rectus Abdominus (RA), or the “6-pack” muscle (whose main function is to flex – bend forward – the torso, not to provide back stabilization). Under the RA are the obliques, running in two different directions. They help stabilize the torso, but they are often over-used, and then the really important one, the TA, is not working in the most beneficial way.
2 – the 2nd leg of the stool is the Pelvic Floor.16
by Jan Dunn, MS
We recently posted an article showing you the first part of a terrific foot warm-up, from the Franklin Method, using small balls—and if you’ve been trying it, you may have learned that it warms up more than just the feet!
I promised you the 2nd half, for both feet, and here it is. I suggest you read this full article first, as opposed to following along as I describe it. This is very much a balance / core stability challenge, and I want to give you some cues along the way. So read first / do afterwards, incorporating the cues…
First do right foot / left foot individually, as shown in Part 1. Then –
Up And Over
Put both balls together, a couple inches apart. Brace your heels on the ground, and put your forefoot on the balls, with knees straight. You’ll notice a nice Achilles stretch as you take that position.
Roll up and over the balls, so that your toes are now braced on the floor, with your heels on the balls. Keep your knees straight as you do this.
Practice rolling back and forth, with knees still straight, from toes to heels, keeping your body centered and aligned. Your feet are basically going from plantar flexion (pointing) to dorsi-flexion (ankle flexion), in anatomical terms.
Tips and cues:0
Aloha to all!
This is a very special post regarding the Dance Wellness segment of 4dancers.org:
In the fall of 2011, Catherine Tully (whom I had never met) contacted me and asked me if I would like to write an article about Dance Medicine and Science – aka Dance Wellness – for her online site, just to introduce readers to that aspect of information in the dance world. I was pleased to do so, and so in January of 2012, we posted that first article. Your response, as readers, was so overwhelmingly positive that Catherine asked me to start a new on-going segment of 4dancers, entitled “Dance Wellness”. I did, and the rest is history. Over the last 3+ years we have posted, 36 articles, written not only by myself but by guest contributors whom I have brought in.
Your eagerness to learn more about this important field has prompted us to take the next step, to continue “spreading the word” online about the many aspects of Dance Wellness, and how all of this information can help dancers to “dance longer, dance stronger”. We are so pleased to announce the 4dancers.org Dance Wellness Panel–a distinguished group of people from the Dance Medicine and Science field, who have agreed to join us in this new endeavor.
Below you will find each of our panel members, along with information about their backgrounds, associations and areas of specialty. We are thrilled to have them on board, and we look forward to sharing more dance wellness information with you in the coming months!
My best to everyone-
Jan Dunn, MS
Dance Wellness Editor – 4dancers.org
James Garrick, MD., is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder and Medical Director of the Center for Sports Medicine, at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, California. When founded 35 years ago, the Center had the first Dance Medicine department on the West Coast, and had one of only two West Coast Pilates facilities. For forty years he has been one of the leading figures in the dance medicine field, with particular research interests in the epidemiology of dance and sports injuries. His research includes a cost analysis of dancers’ workman’s comp injuries, insurance coverage of independent dance companies in San Francisco Bay area, and injury patterns in young dancers.
Dr. Garrick was physician for San Francisco Ballet Company, founded the clinic for dancers at San Francisco School for the Arts, and is currently on the physician panel for the San Francisco Ballet School. He also founded the Sports Medicine Division at the University of Washington, and is a founding and former board member of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. He is a clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and serves on the editorial board of several journals. He has authored / co-authored five books, including Ski Conditioning (1978), Peak Condition (1986), and Sports Injuries – Diagnosis and Management (1990), as well as numerous articles for medical journals and book chapters.
Dr. Garrick is a member of American College of Sport Medicine, American Orthopedic Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), and International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS).
Gigi Berardi, PhD has an academic background and performing experience that allow her to combine her interests in the natural and social sciences with her passion for dance, as both critic and writer. Over 300 articles and reviews by Dr. Berardi have appeared in broadcast and print media, including Dance Magazine, Dance International, the Los Angeles Times, the Anchorage Daily News, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald, LA Style, IDEA Today, LA Reader, LA Weekly, and scientific journals such as Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, Kinesiology and Medicine for Dance, Dance Research Journal, Your Patient and Fitness, and Impulse: The International Journal of Dance Science, Education, and Medicine. She has written as a national advocacy columnist for the Dance Critics Association Newsletter and has served on performing arts panels for the Alaska State Council on the Arts. She currently serves as a contributing editor and writer for and a correspondent for Dance Magazine. She is a founding co-editor of Kinesiology and Medicine for Dance and currently serves as Book Review Editor for Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. Her public radio features (for KSKA, Anchorage) have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Dance Critics Association, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
A professor at Western Washington University, she received the university’s Diversity Achievement Award in 2004. Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance is her fifth book. The completely revised edition appeared in 2005, a seminar on the earlier edition was noted in The New Yorker; both editions had second printings. Her technical training, residencies, and seminars are listed in her resume. In winter, 2000, she was a Fairhaven College Distinguished Teaching Colleague for dance.
Robin Kish, MS, MFA, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Dance at Chapman University. Robin blends her background in dance and science to creative innovative educational programs supporting the development of safe and effective dance training programs.
She has presented research and developed education lectures for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). In 2013 she developed the first online dance kinesiology class for the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). As a product of the private studio / competition environment she is passionate about bringing dancer wellness and safe teaching practices to the industry.
Moira McCormack, MS, is Head of Physiotherapy at The Royal Ballet Company in London, UK.
After a professional dance career in classical ballet she trained as a dance teacher and then as a Physical Therapist and has worked with dancers for the last 20 years. She teaches anatomy, dance technique and injury prevention internationally, with a main interest in the management of the hypermobile dancer.
Janice G. Plastino, PhD is Emerita Professor from the University of California Irvine (USA) in the Department of Dance. Her book with James Penrod, The Dancer Prepares: Modern Dance for Beginners has been in continual print with revisions since 1970. She has published extensively with papers, journal articles, and several book chapters. She has danced professionally on television, stage, and in dance companies for national and international venues.
Dr. Plastino’s choreography of over 50 works includes 15 years as co-director of Penrod Plastino Movement Theatre, directing opera at Lincoln Center, New York, and creating works at NBC and the BBC television. She is regarded as the founder of the field of Dance Science, and established the first dancer screening / wellness program in an educational setting at UCI in 1982. She introduced the Pilates Method in the UCI Dept. Of Dance in 1983, the first such program in higher education.
She was instrumental in the formation of the National Dance Education Association (NDEO), and a leader during the organization’s early years. She has been a member of Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) since 1989, served on the BOD for four years, and in 2013 was awarded the Dawson Service Award. In 2015, she became the first recipient of the International Association for Dance Medicine’s (IADMS) Dance Educator Award.
Dr. Plastino has reported her findings in dance science to scientific societies and medical associations throughout the United States and abroad. She was an invited guest of the USSR government in 1988 (before détente), observing the Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies while consulting and lecturing about dance injuries. The Olympic Committee invited her to lecture on dance injuries at the 1984 Olympic Scientific Congress held in Eugene, Oregon and in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. Her pioneering and continuing work in the pre-participation screening of dancers has been lauded by the medical, research and dance communities. Many of her students have established wellness programs at their colleges, universities, private studios, and private practices.
Dr. Plastino is currently adapting her movement theories for use in for the private dance studio. She is most passionate about the private studios having easy access to new research in training methods of the young dancer. Currently she consults on dancer wellness, evaluation of public and private dance programs, gives dancer wellness workshops, and continues to present papers at conferences.
Emma Redding, PhD is Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Emma originally trained as a dancer and performed with the company Tranz Danz, Hungary and for Rosalind Newman, Hong Kong. She teaches contemporary dance technique at Trinity Laban and lectures in physiology alongside her management and research work. She has been Principal Investigator for several large-scale research projects including a 3-year government funded study into dance talent identification and development as well as studies into the physical and mental demands of music playing and the role of mental imagery within creative practice.
She has published her work in academic journals and is a member of the Board of Directors and a Past President of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). She is also founding Partner of the UK National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS).
Erin Sanchez, MS is the Healthier Dancer Programme Manager (job share) at Dance UK in London, administrates the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation’s Medical Website for healthcare professionals and dancers and manages the Dance Psychology Network.
Erin pursued vocational dance training with American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet School and the Alvin Ailey School. She also holds a BA (Hons) in Dance and Sociology from the University of New Mexico and an MSc in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.
Erin is a registered provider for Safe in Dance International, a member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and holds the qualification in Safe and Effective Dance Practice. She has lectured in dance science and taught dance technique in the United States, UK, Egypt and Malta.
Selina Shah, MD, FACP is a board certified sports medicine and internal medicine physician and the Director of Dance Medicine at the Center for Sports Medicine in San Francisco, CA and Walnut Creek, CA. She has lectured nationally and internationally on various dance medicine topics and has published papers in medical journals and books including her original research on dance injuries in contemporary professional dancers. She is the dance company physician for the San Francisco Ballet School, Liss Fain Dance Company and Diablo Ballet. She is a physician for Berkeley Repertory Theater, Mill’s College, St. Mary’s College, and Northgate High School. She takes care of the performers for Cirque du Soleil and various Broadway productions when they come to the San Francisco Bay Area. She has taken care of several Broadway performers (i.e. American Idiot, South Pacific, Lion King, Book of Mormon, MoTown, and Billy Elliot). She is a team physician for USA Synchronized Swimming, USA Weightlifting, USA Figure Skating and travels with the athletes internationally and nationally. She is also a member of the USA Gymnastics Referral Network. As a former professional Bollywood and salsa dancer, Dr. Shah is passionate about caring for dancers. She continues taking ballet classes weekly and also enjoys running, yoga, Pilates, weightlifting, and plyometric exercise.
Nancy Wozny is editor in chief of Arts + Culture Texas, reviews editor at Dance Source Houston and a contributor to Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine, where she is also a contributing editor. She has taught and written about Feldenkrais and somatics in dance for two decades.
At Wolverhampton he is the course leader for the MSc in Dance Science and Director of Studies for a number of dance science and medicine doctoral candidates. He is a founding partner of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, UK.
Prof. Wyon is Vice President of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science and a past chair of the Research Committee. He has worked with numerous dancers and companies within the UK and Europe as an applied physiologist and strength and conditioning coach.0
by Jan Dunn, MS
Aloha to All!
In this article, the first of a two-parter, I’d like to share a foot warm-up that comes from the Franklin Method. I learned this many years ago, from Eric Franklin, and it has been a part of my daily warm-up ever since. I have taught it to dancers (and non-dancers!) in many workshops / classes, such as for the national touring company of “A Chorus Line” – and the response has always been….”wow, I love this – thank you for teaching it to us!” I thought that since 4dancers has been highlighting feet this month, I would do an article for you describing this sequence.
This is most beneficial done before you do a class / rehearsal / performance, or even first thing in the morning when you get up. It does a lot more than just warm-up the feet, as I hope you will see as you do it along with me…
Before starting, take a quiet moment to “tune in” to how your body feels, especially your feet. Just stand comfortably, weight on both feet, and notice. There is no right / wrong, good / bad — it’s just a moment to see how your body is feeling overall, and your feet as well. (Think of it as a “pre-test”!)
1 – Massage: take just one Franklin Ball (I will discuss the balls at the end of this article), and put one foot on it. Gently roll your foot back and forth on the ball, giving the sole of your foot a nice massage. How much pressure you put on the ball is up to you, and how long you do it is also individual — your body will tell you “OK, that’s enough”. It should feel good — no pain or discomfort, please!
2 – Forefoot Rotation – Put your forefoot on the ball, heel braced on the ground (heel stays on the ground throughout) – inwardly then outwardly rotate your foot, reaching first the little toe / then the big toe down towards the ground. Your knee / hip will move with the foot — only go as far as comfortable in each direction. I usually do about 5-6 on each side. With this movement, you are getting lots of movement going in the various joints in the foot (all 33 of them!), as well as the ankle / knee / hip.
3 – Vary the inward / outward foot rolling so that now the toes are coming up and away from the floor – I like to imagine that the floor is hot, and I have to reach my big toe / little toe up to the ceiling to get away from it. So it’s still an inward / outward rotation, but is different from the toes down version.2
Alabama Ballet company member Nadine Barton on pointe shoes and foot care.
1. What brand and model of pointe shoe do you wear?
2. How long have you worn this model?
For about five years.
3. Why does this model work best for your feet?
I like the way the model shapes to my feet as well as provides support in the right ways. I never liked having space from the floor when I am up on pointe, and, with these, I can always feel the floor.
4. Does anything about the structure of your feet create challenges for pointe work?1