Tag Archives: arching feet

I Guess It Does Fly When You’re Having Fun…

Time, that is.

A couple days ago, I received this in my notifications,

Where did the time go?!

Where did the time go?!

congratulating me on my blog-anniversary.  And my first thought was ‘What?! A year?! Where did the time go?!’. Ok, I guess that was three thoughts, but I’ll consider it a 3-in-1.  My second thought was ‘How appropriate, given that lately I’ve been going over my video footage of my early ballet history!’ (Of course, my earliest videos predate this blog by over a year, since I didn’t begin ballet-blogging until I was almost a year and a half into balleting.)

I like to watch my videos periodically, mostly to remind myself how far I’ve come and not get too down when it feels like I’m not going anywhere.  It’s a good feeling – sometimes you really have to be your own #1 fan! My whole life there’s never been anything that I was good at – not that I’m saying I’m good at ballet – and I usually gave up and quit completely, given my obvious lack of aptitude.  Being an adult helps, I think. Not only because of the (presumed) maturity level, learning the importance of hard work and dedication, and knowing how steps are supposed to look, but also because it’s completely up to me.  I can stop if I want, I can continue if I want.  No one else is going to harass me about “Why are we spending money on dance lessons if you’re not improving?!” or “So-and-so’s daughter is already this far along, why aren’t you?” or any other similar nonsense. While I didn’t have the opportunity to try ballet in childhood, these kinds of things happened with other activites I was enrolled in, so I have to assume if I’d gotten to try ballet it would have turned out (accidental pun?) the same way.

Anyway – before I go down the trail of negativity about my childhood – starting ballet as an adult has been a great experience.  Blogging about ballet has been awesome as well – I love having class notes all together in an easily accessible place to review at my leisure.  And videotaping myself during those early days was a very useful idea.  The only thing I regret is not having done it even more…

Here is a screenshot from one of my videos from first semester. The first thing I thought when I watched it a couple days ago was ‘Hellooo, arched back!’.  It’s pretty horrible, huh? To be fair, this was during the era when I couldn’t even tendu away from the barre in any direction without falling over.

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c. 04/2013

As you can see, my first semester I was too shy to rock the pink tights. I was mostly trying to blend into my surroundings. It kinda worked…

And then, for comparison’s sake, here’s a screenshot from a video a year later.  This one’s only about a month pre-blog:

c. 05/2014

c. 05/2014

Now, I know I’m not wearing regulation ballet attire (and we all know that a leotard and tights is the best way to identify alignment flaws), but it does appear there’s some improvement, at least as far as tucking in that pelvis. My shoulders appear horribly out of whack though, as this is way before I learned to engage my lats. And I’m sure that’s not the only alignment issue going on, either. It’d totally be easier to tell what’s going on with a leotard and tights, but it was like 95 degrees in the apartment that day! (The same reason I’m not taking some fresh pictures to share with all of you today, actually.)

I’m really wishing I could upload whole video clips, as it shows what’s going on more that still pics or screenshots. Ballet is not a still art, after all, and without movement it’s just pretty (or not so pretty when done by me…) poses, though I do realize while dancing the dancer’s body has to go through certain poses. Or something. Anyway, I’m still trying to think of a way to upload videos without comprimising ye old anonymity…

What I will say, though, is that watching the video clips does provide me with a pretty accurate idea of what my ballet level was at any given time.  In the video the first screenshot is from, for example, I couldn’t even coordinate my arm and working leg to move at the same time. My tendus, especially derriere, are slow and hesitant.  Let’s not even get started about my arm movements at all…

By the next video, my tendus are quicker, almost resembling ballet.  My passes are turned out, my plies are deeper.  My shoulders are still much too forward, but at least my hand no longer flops there like a lifeless fish at the end of my a la seconde arm.

I’ve also been working on my feet. Besides the theraband exercises (pointing and flexing ankles and toes), I’ve also just been trying to use the muscles that stretch the toes out. It’s pretty hard, but I’m getting stronger. At first all I could go was stretch out my toes in weird directions, but slowly I’m getting them to go straight out.

This is as good as it gets for now...

This is as good as it gets for now…

You have no idea how much mental effort it took to do this at first. Like, I had to stare at my feet while doing it and feel almost like I was forcing them to do it. It felt so strange, but my foot muscles are starting to get used to it. Muscle memory rules!

From there I’ve gone on to working on pointing my feet while keeping the toes outstreched, instead of them curling. I can’t really see a difference in how it looks, but I’m assuming curling toes is bad regardless.

Pointing - not the best photo angle, huh?

Pointing – not the best photo angle, huh?

And then, just for comparison, how my feet are usually. A candid pose, if I was to look at my feet at any given point, not while doing the foot exercises.  I think before I started doing these exercises my toes were even more curled, so I do believe it’s working.

I figured I should get over my fear of posting my bare feet on the internet...

I figured I should get over my fear of posting my bare feet on the internet…

And then, I managed to get a rare picture: Boyfriend pointing his foot! At random he’ll be sitting there pointing his feet, and I swear, I’m so jealous because his feet seem so much more suited for ballet than mine.  He has a higher instep and he can point further than me. I’m always trying to get him to let me take a picture and he won’t,lol – though at least he will point them whenever I ask him. I told him if we have kids I hope they get his feet and he said he got his feet because when he was little he used to wish he was a ninja and would walk around on tippy-toes (releve) lol!

His foot's in the white sock. And this is not even the best he can point. But I always have to correct him because he's sickle-ing, lol

His foot’s in the white sock. And this is not even the best he can point (but I’m a crappy photographer and pressed the button too late). But I always have to correct him because he’s sickle-ing, lol

Anyway, this post is getting kinda rambley… it was fun having random-picture-sharing-time though 🙂

As soon as I clear some space on this tablet (and the weather cools down – as doing ballet in a leotard in this heat in this apartment is just not going to happen) I will film some current ones to see what other changes in my technique or alignment have occured! As well as continue to work on feet…

Wednesday: Compliments, Ballet Class, And A ‘Lil TMI

Fun day today, first Pilates, then ballet…

In Pilates class this morning, I was sitting on my mat with my in legs front of me, open about, let’s see, I wanna say about 120° or so, and one of my classmates was like “we can’t even get our legs to do that!”

So, I was like “Oh, I’ve been doing ballet for, like, two years (!) so I’ve gotten a lot more flexible; my flexibility has increased so much!”

And a different girl, her friend, asks, “Is that why your feet are so archy and stuff?”

I’m thinking, ‘Me? My feet, archy?!’ and I was so happy, seriously, but instead I taught her the theraband feet exercises that I do (after pointing my feet for the group a couple times to their ooooh’s and ahhhh’s, lol), and encouraged them to try out ballet.  But yeah, someone noticed something ballet-like about me outside of ballet class; perhaps that means I’m a (real) dancer.

Anyway.

Evening class was fun, though not really challenging today. We had a bunch of brand new students, both new to ballet and new to me.  We did pretty slow and basic combinations at barre (though I totally destroyed the timing of the slow ronde de jambs – impatient me!), and in center we did the same combination as last week but without the pirouettes.  E Teacher had me be in the front row (eeek!) so I was worried that I would mess up – thus embarassing us both (me for my clumsiness, and her for her error in judgment in thinking I could be in front row) – but I didn’t.

Sautes. I think the last time I did an actual saute-echappe-changement combination – (attempted) pointed feet in midair, ballet arms – was last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been jumping plenty to keep conditioned for the real sautes, but since I don’t have anywhere outside of class to practice jumping in ballet shoes and last week we ran out of time in class, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do sautes.  At least now I can remember to land in plie and it no longer sounds like a crashing elephant.  I think once I saw a ballet teacher wince (though she attempted to hide it) when watching – and hearing – some of my horrible heavy-landed sautes.

I really want to practice this foot pointing thing more, as I hope to get it into muscle memory.  By this point I don’t think it’s lack of muscle strength that causes my difficulties but bad muscle memory patterns that need to be overridden. Which brings me to…

Balancing.  Ever since I’ve been putting my shoulders back, my balances have improved so much.  You know how ballet teachers always say to lean forward, not back? Before I felt like I was already leaning forward, but I think it was just my shoulder positioning that was making me feel that way.  But yeah, my two-footed balances are getting super long and stable now that I have my shoulders back and I can actually lean forward. During my one-footed balances I’m afraid I’m too focused on what the working leg is doing to devote my full attention to shoulders. Hopefully once the “shoulders back” thing becomes  muscle memory it’ll be easier…

And now, the TMI part.  Ok, so I have a few pair of “dancing” underwear – basically, the leg openings are high enough (higher than the leotard’s) that they won’t be visible through my tights – but today I forgot that I had ballet and was wearing regular underwear.  Then I remembered that I read somewhere, possibly a dance forum, that the tights are the underwear (or so the dancers say). Ok, why not, I’ll give it a shot…

It was awesome! As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes have this fear of looking in the mirror because I won’t be happy with what I see. My “lines” are different, to say the least, but besides the lines I worry about the bulges, the kind that happen between the waistband of the underwear and the waistband of the tights or the waistband of the tights and the bra strap.  With one of those taken out of the equation I looked so smooth, which helped me focus more on my placement and less on my body image anxiety. It was a nice change 🙂

But yeah, class was fun.

The Height vs. Stability Trade-off

As I alluded to at the end of my last post, this is about my short conversation with wednesday evening ballet teacher.  There was a question that had been bugging me for a bit – in fact, I as I was having trouble sleeping on tuesday night because of the heat it kept circling my mind – so I told myself that I was going to work up the nerve to ask one of my teachers.

Some background info first: As I have mentioned many, many times thoughout this blog, my balancing (while in releve) is not that great at times.  Many other aspects of ballet – my overall coordination, flexibility, timing, –  have been steadily improving throughout my 20ish months of ballet. But my balance, in my opinion, is worse than the average beginner’s.  There is nothing that sucks more for me in class – well, I can think of a few things, but not any that have actually happened – than to be one of the first people to lose their balance on releve.  Then I looked around (using the mirror, I wasn’t obvious), and noticed that many of the other students’ heels were actually not very far off the ground at all.  And I though, “If I don’t go up all the way, I guess I do feel a bit more stable.” But when at the barre – and all those times that I actually do find my center of balance – I can go all the way up. “It’s a trade-off,” I thought, “of height vs. stability.”

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I happen to enjoy looking at – and making – graphs and charts for whatever reason…

But the questions lingered in my mind : is it correct technique? Which is a bigger priority, the height (full releve) or being able to maintain stability for a sustained period of time?

This wednesday, I walked into class with my mind made up – I was going to seek an answer to my questions!

According to the teacher, if it’s not all the way  up it’s not a real releve.  Fair enough.  I’ve seen so many ballet recitals on youtube and while a high releve looks great – sometimes I almost forget they’re not en pointe – a not-so-high releve looks somewhat sloppy.

After explaining my issue ( the height vs. stability trade off), I asked if it was an ankle strength – or lack thereoff – issue.  She agreed that doing more ankle strengthening excercises would help, and  of course, more practicing. Which makes sense, because when I do my theraband excercises immediately before attempting to balance I have noticed that I’m more stable.

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A half-ass releve, heels only 4 in. off the ground. 

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A “real”  releve, or as real as it gets for me. This one was in first position.

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Releve sous-sus. My feet are too far apart, but I thought it was cool how I literally can’t see my right foot’s heel from this angle.

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And just for fun, a picture I took yesterday. Both my heel and toes are touching the floor and I was pushing up the rest of my foot off the ground far enough to fit my hand between my foot and the floor.  Just though it was a crazy thing to see my feet do, though I’m not claiming this is impressive or anything. This was taken immediately after finishing up theraband exercises.

Wednesday Ballet Overload (In a Good Way!)

The day I made it to two classes. Hopefully not the only day…
Wednesday morning class

Before class, I ran into a girl that had taken ballet with me last semester. I asked her if she wasn’t taking it this semester, since I hadn’t seen her in class. She replied that she was actually taking intermediate but she would be taking this class too. It was pretty cool because I had the opportunity to ask her about intermediate. What’s it like? How is it different? She said it’s faster and the teacher calls out the moves, which you are expected to know (in French, of course). Less demonstration and explanation, more calling out the names of moves and doing them! Sounds like fun, hopefully someday for me. Or will I be in “beginner” level class forever?

Once again we did the slow tendues in which it takes two counts to point our foot. I’m starting to get the hang of staying in timing for the slow ones instead of rushing ahead. This time the teacher had us leg go of the barre during the slow tendues instead of the degages. Quite a bit easier!

We did plenty of releves, in first and in second position, and then balancing. While balancing we put took our arms from middle fifth to high fifth and then brought them down to second as we lowered from our releve. To be honest, I’m still finding balancing while moving the arms to be difficult. If I keep my arms still, whether in middle or high fifth, sometimes I feel like I could literally hold the balance for minutes. When there’s arm movement though, it all falls apart. Perhaps it’s an engaging-the-core issue? I hope so, I hope it’s not just the screwy center of gravity issue coming back to haunt me. I thought we had gotten past that.

We also did one-legged balances on flat, with our working leg (foot?) in coupe and then in passe. Since we weren’t moving our arms during that it went ok.

At barre, the main correction I received was regarding my arches. I was letting them fall again. Oops. I’ve been wondering if doing ankle strengthening exercises would help me strengthen whatever muscle it is that needs to be stronger so I can consistently keep them lifted. I can lift them, but them I forget.

For center, after learning my lesson last week, I made sure to stand somewhere where I could see everything the teacher did. This weeks combination was different but still involved port de bras, tendu a la second (right foot), plie, tendu to first (left foot), releve while bringing the arms up. Easy-to-remember combination, but the balancing while releve with the arms was killing me! My lack of balance can sometimes make me feel so ungraceful!

We went across the floor doing our 3-step-fondue-releve-releve-walk (seriously don’t know what to call this!), this time incorporating the arms. It looked so pretty! Well, the people who were doing it right, at least. I was having some coordination issues with the arms and the walking-releveing-fondueing so I won’t say it looked pretty while I did it, but it could have been so much worse!

Next we incorporated a turn into our 3-step-fondue-releve-walk. Something like this: 3 steps to turn (while fondue, releve, releve) and then 3 steps in a straight line (while fondue, releve, releve), the 3 steps to turn (fondue, releve, releve), etc. until we reached the other side of the (HUGE) studio. It sounds way more complicated than it was, I swear. We started with our right side and then did the left.

You know what’s the weird thing? I’m not a lefty – I write with my right hand – but for some reason it’s always easier for me to turn to the left than to the right, whether it be chaines, pirouettes, pique turns, and I can 1-legged balance way better on my left foot (even though it’s the ankle I hurt 6 weeks ago). I can throw better with my left arm than right as well. Boyfriend has a theory that I’m really a lefty but my mom “forced” me to use my right hand, lol. Could be possible, I guess – my little sis is a lefty and my mom did totally try to force her to use her right hand.

We also did a lot of sautes – great way to work up a sweat! I hadn’t done this many sautes since before spraining my ankle. No pain at all, awesome! I don’t remember if I mentioned this before in a post about a different class, but at some point (when I wasn’t thinking about it too much) I figured out the concept of letting yourself land into a plie. It’s something that every teacher has said, but hearing the words and actually doing it are two very different things. I was corrected in my sautes though, because even though I leave the floor with my feet in first position I land with them slightly apart – though not enough to be full-on in second position. But I am getting the hang of pointing my feet while in the air, so I’m still feeling pretty content with my jumping progress.

So I left class happy but with my legs feeling like wet noodles – probably due to all the sautes. Tangent: where does the phrase “wet noodles” to describe tired legs even come from? Wouldn’t it be worse if they felt like dry noodles, you know, stiff and easily broken? I’m picturing horrible bone cracking over here.

Oh, and I picked up my theraband, so I can get my home foot stretching and exercising on!

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This cool oversized rubber band thing is cool.

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You can do stuff like this with it.

Evening class
After triple checking my purse for my wallet – and the $10 specifically – as well as my shoes and snack, I headed out for my evening ballet class. I hadn’t been to this studio for a couple weeks, due to a rainstorm and forgetting my wallet, respectively.

Today’s class had seven students (including two who had never done ballet before) and it was the first time with no guys. There was a pregnant lady, though, who was 7 months pregnant. That got every one talking about that youtube Royal Ballet class video in which a visibly pregnant dancer takes class, as well as other instances of pregnant ballerinas they have seen or known. I thought it was a cool topic because it’s something I would like to do sometime in the next several years ( have a baby or two), so it’s good to hear I may not have to completely give up ballet during some of that time.


This video! If you haven’t seen the video before, the pregnant dancer first makes an appearance at around 15-17ish second into it, near the left side of the frame.

We did this class’ usual plie, tendu, and degage exercises. During the rond de jambe with port de bras part, for the first time I felt like I kind of knew what I was doing when it came to the port de bras, though I still have a ways to go. But last time we did this combination I literally had my arm out when it was supposed up be up, or in front when it was supposed to be out, so at least today I felt like I was following along. I’ll take whatever small accomplishments I can get!

Today in both of my classes we did this exercise I’ve never done before that involves tendu derriere, then swinging the leg forward in to attitude, then back through first and swing back to attitide derriere, then back through first, etc, for 16 counts or so. I find it hard to keep in timing while doing this exercise, but I wasn’t self aware at the time enough to figure out if the problem is that I’m going too fast or too slow. My legs are longer proportionally than my torso, so I have wondered before if my long legs make it so it takes longer to do things like kick or walk. Physics and trigonometry would say yes – rotational inertia, and r, and the longer r is the longer time it takes for a point to travel the same distance, r stands for my leg length, etc.

My sautes sucked – it was my second class of the day, after all, so I can give my self a break. Yes, my legs were landing in plie, but my feet were refusing to point. I was also not getting very far off the ground. However, I was in timing and when we went to a la second and then did changements I didn’t completely mess up. So that’s cool.
Overall, a great, but tiring, ballet day. I think my calf is started to feel the slightest twinge of wanting to cramp.

Much Better Ballet Day

I had a much better ballet day today 🙂
Made sure to spend A LOT of time on warming up. Ever since I remembered the falling arches correction I’ve been working extra hard on applying it. Today I did my plie warm up exercises in just socks so I could notice my arches in the mirror.It just seems much easier to tell if I’m letting my arches fall when I don’t have my ballet slippers on.
I can see that this is something I am going to have to keep being on top of (literally) until I finally commit doing it the right way to muscle memory. I think this bad habit is one that has been with me since the earliest of my ballet days. At the time I didn’t have anywhere near enough muscle in my legs to be able to keep my balance even in first position and rolling my foot just a little seemed to help just a bit. At least enough so that I wouldn’t tip over and draw even more attention to myself. Of course I didn’t realize that this shortcut was a big reason why I was having trouble balancing once I had to shift my weight. In other words, I could balance given that I was standing still. Any kind of movement would throw me off.
Now that I’ve been doing ballet for a year and a half I think my legs are strong enough that I don’t have to cheat by not holding my arches up. I’ve also been really conscious of my arches as I walked around the house, and even when I went for a walk. I read on Wikipedia that if someone overpronates their feet they will not be pushing off their feet properly when they walk. Definitely something I need to keep an eye on.
I think the extra time spent on warming up totally helped because I was feeling nice and flexible by the time I got to my developpes. I love doing developpes on a good ballet day, slowly unfolding my leg into attitude and finally pointing it straight out in front of me. It feels like I’m doing ballet for reals! I also find fondus and rond de jambes to be specially fun in a “this feels ballet-ish” way.

My turns still need plenty of work though. It feels like I’m actually getting worse at those. I’m hoping the lifting the arches issue is a factor in why
i’m so terrible at turning because then that means I can do something about it. As opposed to if the issue is bad balance because my heavy chest.
But overall today was a great ballet day!

Arches+lifting them= better balance

A couple months ago, it was brought to my attention that I was not lifting up my arches while doing barre exercises.  Gotta love ballet, there’s always something else to work on! Well, besides the obvious, like not falling on my face or behind.  I mean there’s always things that seem so little, tiny adjustments that end up making a BIG difference.

And when I was given this correction, at first I was a bit confused. Like, “what do you mean lift my arches, how do I do that?”  kind of confused.  And me being shy and my teacher at the time being just a bit unnaproachable, I didn’t really ask.  And then, to be honest, I forgot about that correction (since there were other glaring errors in my technique that needed to be addressed anyway).

As a kid my mom told me that I was flat footed.  But since I’ve been doing all the ballet stretches that I could find on youtube since I started doing ballet, I figured my feet were doing way better.  I may never have a “banana foot” but I am able to point finally without feeling like it’s stretching or cramping.  And when I rise up on demi-point I can go up all the way and my feet look kinda archy.  But I guess the problem is when I stand with both feet flat.  I tend to overpronate my feet and as a result my weight is not balanced correctly.  When I have both feet together on the ground (like in first position) then I don’t really notice a problem, though I guess it is obvious to others.  However, when my weight is shifted onto only one leg, that’s where the problem becomes obvious.

I had noticed that when I shift my weight, for example like to step into arabesque, I had trouble balancing.  At first I thought it had to do with the uneven weight distribution that I have going on.  Odd thing is, rather than losing my balance to the front, as I used to in releve, I was losing my balance to the side (the side towards the working leg).  I figured the problem had to do with not tightening my core enough but even with all the tightness I could muster it was still sort of happening.  But last night while having my ballet session, the correction about lifting my arches came to mind.  So I applied the correction and was it a big difference or what!

My balance was so much better!  I was actually able to hold balances way longer than before.  I’m gonna have to get used to the way it feels though, I had to keep checking to make sure that I was actually not just on the outside of my foot.  It’s weird because I guess I have the physical strength to lift up my arches but my body got into the habit a long time ago of just resting on the whole foot.  Probably around the time that it also in the habit of overextending my knees backwards while standing or my spine curving into a relaxed position.  Good thing is, now that it’s finally been brought to my attention I can do something about it.  Yay!