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.
It's not about what you have, but how you use. Photo by Brooke Cagle/Unsplash
From the angles of your feet to the size of your head, it can sometimes seem like there is no part of a dancer's body that is not under scrutiny. It's easy to get obsessed when you are constantly in front of a mirror, trying to fit a mold.
Yet the traditional ideals seem to be exploding every day. "The days of carbon-copy dancers are over," says BalletX dancer Caili Quan. "Only when you're confident in your own body can you start truly working with what you have."
While the striving may never end, there can be unexpected benefits to what you may think of as your "imperfections."
As the temperatures drop and sweater weather begins, most of us groan at the thought of chilly muscles and achy bones. Dancers know that a cold winter can make our bodies feel "off." Dance Magazine tapped Dr. Thomas Sanders, a board-certified foot and ankle specialist at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, to find out how to deal with the most common health issues dancers face in frigid temps.
Go into almost any dance studio, and you'll find students anxiously trying to stretch their feet. They'll force their body's weight over their toes, or ask a friend to sit on their arches. But stretching your feet might not actually be the most effective strategy to improve your line.
"Stretching is a strategy to go after a tight muscle," explains Mandy Blackmon, a physical therapist for Atlanta Ballet. "But a better-looking foot is not just a range-of-motion issue. What most dancers are after when they want 'better feet' is more about strength and support of the bony structure."
My doctor wants me to get a sonogram-guided injection of cortisone to reduce the inflammation surrounding my os trigonum, a pea-sized extra bone in the back of my ankle. I'm relieved that surgery may not be necessary, but I'm afraid of the steroid. My friend ruptured his tendon after getting an injection. Am I doing something risky?
To normal people, dancers may seem to have a strange fixation on feet. But we have good reason for our obsession: We depend on a pair of strong, supple feet to finish our lines, hold up our bodies and help us move with grace. And, if we don't treat them right, those same tootsies can cause us an enormous amount of pain.
How can you strengthen and show off your pair at their best? We recently dug in the Dance Magazine archives to find some of our best tips. Click each link to get all the info!
Strengthen: No matter what kind of feet your parents passed down to you, there are ways to make yours stronger and more articulate. Strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles can give you a greater range of motion, while stabilizing your ankle muscles will improve your line (and balance) on demi and full pointe.
Avoid Bunions: They may seem inevitable, but a smart prevention routine can keep bunions from appearing. It’s all about gaining enough strength to avoid rolling in.