Feet: Flexibility & Stregthening

alessandra-ferris-feetNaturally flexible feet are not required to become a great dancer. Persistence and dedication are.

“As much as eight percent of humans may have feet that are “flexible”, according to a study in The American Journal of Anthropology.” – Wired.co.uk. Yikes! Eight percent is not very many of us. Remember “bad feet” will not hold you back from becoming a remarkable dancer. All dancers should work on foot strength and flexibility every day. Jane Rehm, a dancer with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco told Pointe Magazine: “Pretty much every summer program that rejected me said it was because of my bad feet,” says Rehm. “It was something I knew I was going to have to get past.”

Get Started: Basic Exercises

Please help your dancers work through these exercises. Beautiful pointed feet are critical.

Flexibility – To prevent the possibility of  training feet to be sickled, lets start with one stretch that’s hard to get wrong. In later posts I’ll work through additional feet flexibility exercises. Keep watching for those. 

1.  Relevé Plie: Start in second position, rise up into relevé and work into plie while you hold relevé. Pause and stretch to the point of discomfort for 30-45 seconds, see picture. Rise out of plie (straighten legs) and roll down out of relevé to flat. Repeat 2 times in each of the 5 position.



1.  Towel Curls: Start seated with a towel under your feet. Pick up the towel 20 times with each foot. OR Marbles: Place 20 marbles on a towel. Using your toes, place each marble in a cup. For a balance challenge try it standing. Repeat on the other foot.

TOWEL-SCRUNCHES-300x231     marbles

2.  Relevé: In all 5 positions and in parallel. Repeat relevé 30 times. Notice in this picture the difference between a good relevé and an great relevé.


3.  Theraband Isolations: Sit with legs, flat and outstretched. Use the theraband to move from flexion to full point. Work on isolations, stopping to point your ankle and toes separately. Move back to flexion the same way. Think: Flexion-Ankle-Toes hold in full point then back Toes-Ankle-Flexion. Repeat 30 times on each foot.


If you have any questions or comments please post below or grab me in class. I’d really like to put a focal point on our girls’ feet this year. Any feedback from parents and dancers is welcome! I hope everyone has a great week.




Be Better: Self-Improvement Month



It’s self-improvement month. All month long 🙂

As a studio we’re asking the girls to set goals to improve. Each dancer is at a different level and will need different things things to aspire to. Please check in with your dancer to make sure they’re aware of class goals and are setting personal goals. If you read the rest of this post, share what you learn (if any) with your dancers.

FWIW (for what it’s worth), I have to remind myself of these daily. Please add comments and thoughts to this post of things that help you. The end goal of this blog post is for everyone to help each other. It would be great to be a little better everyday. 

58969076341317486_J1UAIH8V_cRule.01: Set yourself up for success. It’s the oldest trick in the book but the most important. Goals are tough. They should be challenging, but they should be attainable. Set small achievable goals.

Rule.02: Be kind. Treat yourself the way you would treat your closest loved one. DO NOT punish yourself for a step in the wrong direction. Punishment is negative and is usually in addition to the natural consequence. You wouldn’t do it to your best friend or your spouse. Be kind to yourself. Learn from a mistake, plan how to avoid it in the future and let it go.

Rule.03: Celebrate success. Playing the humble card isn’t going to get you any points on this one. Be excited when you achieve your smallest goal. One of my personal goals this month is to focus on my nutrition and tighten up my diet. I for one am not a fan of drinking water. It’s a simple thing to drink enough water through out the day; however, it’s always easier said than done. Each day I drink enough water I’m a step closer to the end goal of treating my body better. I celebrate my success, add it to my tally and continue on.

Rule.04: Adjustment. In the past I’ve set a goal got half way into it, realized it wasn’t working like I had planned, and I give up. It’s difficult to admit my plan won’t work; that I wasn’t right. In the moment it seems my only option is to give up. Sometimes I accidentally go to the lengthens of setting myself back to where I started. I should be thinking of it as if I was running a 1/2 marathon. I get to mile 10 and realized my shoe was tied too tight. I stop, turn around and walk right back to the starting line. That would be ridiculous. The thing to do is to stop and fix your shoe lace (adjust) and continue on.

Rule.05: Start right now. Procrastination… Stay away from it. Realize that great things take time to achieve. The only thing that needs to be done today is starting, that’s the first step. Tomorrow, take another step. Procrastination prevents anything good from ever starting.

As you or your dancer(s) achieve goals, let me know! I want to talk about it. Positive conversations are a force that will propel all of us in the right direction.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

Have a great week!

The 5 Ballet Positions: Great Things Start and Finish Here

Every move in ballet begins and ends in the 5 positions. Great placement is precise placement. Because of that, it’s very important to to be aware of each muscles’ contributing function. We’ll get into muscle isolations shortly.


Check out both of these pictures. Pause right now and try working through each position. Place a mirror in front of you or have someone else help you with placement. It will be a challenge to master each position. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t feel natural at first.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” –Samuel Beckett

Parents: Play Simon Says, using the positions, with your younger kiddos. They love it. 

Body Isolations are extremely important in dance.

Try this, to help illustrate what I mean: Sit down in a chair, preferably something similar to a dining table chair. Try moving just the muscles on the top of your right thigh (your quadricep group). Now try you left calf (gastrocnemius). I know… I know, it’s harder than it seems, right? Once you’ve mastered that, try this challenge. Turn on your favorite song. Try keeping the rhythm of the beat by contracting just your right quadricep.

Each muscle group in the body can be isolated. Every dancer should be proficient in all muscle group isolations. This helps with body placement and will help you master the 5 positions. Next time you’re listening to the radio try catching the beat with a muscle group. Gluts are a great place to start too 😉 Let me know how that goes.

Watch for more posts on muscle isolations and body control. Please post comments and questions below. Have a great week!

Basic Vocabulary


  • VERB, in ballet it means slow, enfolding movements, performed with the greatest amount of fluidity and grace as possible


  • VERB, Meaning brisk, lively


  • POSITION, body is supported on one leg with the other leg extended behind the body with both knees straight


  • POSITION, dancer stands on one leg while the other leg is held turned out at a 90-degree angle; can be done in derriere, devant, or á la seconde


  • A beating movement of the working leg, ie kick


  • abbreviated for tours chaînés déboulés, a series of quick turns


  • VERB, changing. A jump in the air with the feet changing positions


  • VERB, to chase


  • VERB, to cut


  • VERB, to disengage


  • ADJECTIVE, half


  • VERB, at or to the back side


  • VERB, front


  • VERB, escaped


  • VERB, rise (a relevé without a plié)


  • VERB, to strike

Grande jete

  • jumping from one leg to another, doing a full split in the air


  • VERB, to pass


  • VERB, pricked


  • VERB, whirl


  • VERB, bent

Porte de bras

  • VERB, carriage of the arms


  • VERB, lifted

Ronde jambe

  • VERB, circle of the leg


  • VERB, to extend or stretch