The Creative Process

Inside Dancers' Love-Hate Relationships with their Feet

Quinn Wharton

In all of their swollen and blistered glory, feet are dancers' prized possessions. It doesn't matter whether you treasure your arches, wince at your bunions or wish you could trade the whole kit in for a new pair—you can't help but take pride in the instrument that literally supports you from the ground up. Each foot contains the intricate muscles needed to finish a line, travel the length of a stage, soar through the air with abandon and carry you home after a long day of dancing.


Lloyd Knight, principal at Martha Graham Dance Company

Quinn Wharton

"My feet have been through a lot, and their scars show the work I've done so far as a dancer. We work so much with bare feet in Graham that I have a lot of marley burns, cuts and splits. It's like a badge of honor."

Kathryn Boren, corps de ballet dancer at American Ballet Theatre

Quinn Wharton

"My feet have become my business card. Really, I'm defined by them. I can pick myself out of blurry rehearsal footage because I can recognize my arches. My right arch is better than my left, which is a complex I've had to deal with my whole life."

Soledad Barrio, star of Noche Flamenca

Quinn Wharton

"I give messages with my feet to the guitarists and singers to advise them on when to start and when to stop. There is a very clear vocabulary."

Demi Remick, tap dancer for Postmodern Jukebox and Caleb Teicher & Company

Quinn Wharton

"My feet get injured a lot, so I don't always trust them. As a tap dancer, I need relaxed ankles, and sprains affect that. I have to release them even though I'm scared. But my feet are smarter than I think. I dance on a four-by-four board on tour and my feet memorize the space and what's possible within it."

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Dorfman in his Come, and Back Again. Ian Douglas, Courtesy Dorfman

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Tarkan Seregül Photography, Courtesy Smyth

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