Simple Soleus Strengthener

The soleus muscle that is underneath the gastrocnemius muscle. The length of the soleus helps to determine the depth of your demi plié. The strength of the soleus aids in jumping. It controls the descent as you lower the heels so you don’t ‘clunk’ your heels down and can land quietly.

Below is a simple and effective way to strengthen the soleus. Do multiple repetitions, focusing on lifting the heel in 1-2 counts, and then slowly lowering it down while maintaining good foot and ankle alignment.

To your success!


FHL Challenges and Rélevé

The flexor hallucis longus muscle attaches from the calf to the big toe. Problems there are often called ‘dancer’s tendonitis’ , as the repeated rélevés and pushing off of the foot. Of course, dancers aren’t the only ones that can have problems here, gymnasts, sprinters and swimmers (who push off from the blocks) can have challenges with this muscle.

It is an important controller of pronation and supination at the midfoot and helps to transfer force from the rear foot to the toes. It is underneath the soleus muscle and I suspect that weakness and/or tightness in one muscle influences the other.

Here is an excellent article on the FHL and athletes with great illustrations.

This area has been compromised on my right foot due to a sesamoid injury about 20 years ago. (those are the 2 tiny bones underneath the base of the big toe) My rélevé on that foot has been compromised. I simply can’t get up as high as I could before. The mobilization that I’m going to show you below has been very helpful.

While I do not expect to get my full rélevé back, I do want to maintain normal gait and the ability to roll through the foot correctly. If you have a ‘stiff’ big toe area give it a try! Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t feel any pain while doing it. There can be other reasons for your big toe not flexing as well anymore that have nothing to do with the FHL. This is just an exercise to explore and see if it is helpful!

To your success!


Compensations are tricky

I received the following question from a teacher…

One of my dancers tore her calf a year ago, but finally diagnosed in the fall last year. The calf has healed but she over compensated on the other side, so now she has tendonitis. The ortho said she has a thin achilles and it was short. Finally they now say the FHL is involved. Because the PT is not a dance specialist, I’m wondering how to get her back on her feet dancing again.

I asked the teacher for some additional information and she told me that her PT gave her rélevés on both legs and single legs as well as demi plié rises. Her problem is on the right side, and her teacher said that she does have a tendency to roll in on the feet and grip her toes.

You can see from the picture that her right foot does roll in more than her left. The 2 calf muscles are shaped differently as well, with the right one looking smaller. I’d want to measure to be sure. It’s not unusual to have an injury that heals but later have other challenges due to compensatory behaviors. Compensations can be so tricky to deal with – but always – the goal is to get the 2 sides moving in an integrated and anatomically efficient manner. This is always the challenge in the rehabilitative process, and frankly, sometimes it doesn’t get addressed. Once the pain of an area or joint diminishes many dancers go back to normal activities without realizing their movement quality is still affected. I have been guilty of this as well.

To that end I would start with focusing on strengthening the intrinsics, checking to see if the flexor hallucis longus (FHL) is tight and then working to integrate how she is balancing on each leg.

It’s always good to wake up the feet before you start doing exercises. Here is a quick, clear and concise clip I found on YouTube that shows how. The only thing I would add is to also separate the toes into a V to wake up the area between them. Instead of a quick massage to the arch you can always roll on a pinkie ball instead.

Next let’s check whether there is any tightness in the FHL. This important muscles travels from the back of the calf thought the medial side of the ankle and attaches on the big toe. Dancer’s tendonitis is often attributed to the FHL because of the strain it endures because of the multiple pliés/relevés one does over the course of a dance class.

If her demi pointe is as high as it was before, and both sides are equal, she probably didn’t lose any length/flexibility to the FHL muscle. (note to teachers: those of us who have lost our demi pointe on one side for whatever reason could probably use some FHL stretching, but I’ll save that for another post)

Strengthening the FHL and the other intrinsic muscles absolutely is a good idea. Below is a past clip on a couple of intrinsic strengtheners that don’t need a towel! The traditional way is putting your foot on a towel and then slowly pulling it towards your heel. It’s easy to clench your toes while doing this so these are the ones I give out instead.

(Warning: this clip is louder than the others, so you may want to turn down sound down slightly.)

Intrinsics can strengthen pretty quickly – as long as they keep good foot alignment and stay out of pronation in class. That would require decreasing their rotation at the feet and working to increase the use of rotation at the hips. I feel comfortable that her teacher will be watching and helping her work her turnout more efficiently.

Now to the important integration of her movement. Let’s start by asking her to do the simplest of movements of just walking in neutral and checking her balance on the 2 sides. Then in the next video I’m upping the challenge by slowly walking up the stairs. You’ll see how I need some work on my right side. I’m working on changing aa decades-old pattern for myself and I hadn’t realized how much it influenced my patterning.

Simple, simple movements, right? And yet – I would bet that this student may have some differences between her right and left legs and how she is supporting her weight on them. Yes – there are possibly more interesting and more intricate movements that she can do. What I’m interested in is whether or not her fundamental movement patterns are sound. She’s had an injury on both lower legs within the past year. She needs get back to neutral, to a balanced usage of her two legs in order to stop the cycle of injury/compensation/injury.

If I get feedback on how she does with these suggestions, I’ll certainly pass it onto the group. If you have questions or comments please post below.

To your success,


New Perspective: Plantar Fasciitis

We’re going to do a deep dive into plantar fasciitis over the next 2 newsletters.  I want to share some new perspectives which might help guide those with who have a chronic problem with their plantar fascia. 


In its simplest definition, plantar fasciitis means inflammation of the thick sheath of fascia that is on the bottom of the foot.  ‘Itis’ means inflammation – and here is my first perspective shift gained from my research.  With the exception of perhaps the initial phase of symptoms, rarely is the plantar fascia inflamed in the normal way that we think of inflammation. 

Instead, the plantar fascia goes through a process of collagen degeneration and disorganization. (1) This is not to say that initially rolling your foot on a frozen water bottle might not help.  It may, especially in the early stages and for pain relief, which is one of the positive benefits of cold treatments.  

This collagen degeneration can be thought of as tissue fatigue in the arch due to excessive strain.  After all, we are on our feet all the time, and dancers, like runners, are constantly asking this fascia to act like a spring, keeping us light on our feet.  

Common causes you always hear about

There are commonly held beliefs about the causes of plantar fasciitis.  Pronation, bone spurs and tight calf muscles.  Let’s look more closely at these common challenges to the dancer.  


Pronation as we know is when the foot rolls inward, collapsing the arch.  Flat-footedness may stretch the plantar fascia, making it hard to have the desired springiness, but pronation is not the same as being flat footed.  (pet bugaboo of mine … dancers who have a low arch, trying to ‘lift’ their arches higher creating a whole host of alignment challenges)  

We know pronation is an aspect of many chronic injuries, knee and ankle pain, poor use of the rotator muscles at the hip, and, yes, plantar fasciitis.  If pronation was a root cause one would think all dancers who pronate would get plantar fasciitis and that certainly is not true.  Supination which is the opposite of pronating also influences the plantar fascia – as well as having a high arch.  Hmm… perhaps plantar fasciitis can have many factors to it… and isn’t quite as straight forward as we thought. 

Bone spurs

What about bone spurs? When my sister was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis (she wasn’t a dancer, but a slightly overweight business woman who was on her feet a lot) the podiatrist took an X-ray and showed her the bone spur and said ‘This is why you have plantar fasciitis!’.  

I found out that about 10-20% of the population has extra bone (spur) in front of the heel bone. (2,3) And many people have painless spurs and don’t even know it until they have an X-ray for something else.  The spur isn’t creating the pain, the pain is coming from the fascia and other soft tissue structures. (4)  Certainly, we should opt to first work with conditioning the fascia over having surgery to correct a bone spur.  Many a bone spur will return if the mechanical stresses that created it in the first place aren’t taken care of.  

Tight muscles

What about calf tightness?  I told my sister that because she wore heels all the time, it was her tight calf muscles that were influencing her plantar fascia and if she just focused on stretching her calf muscles her fasciitis would improve.  Stretching helped her stand flat footed without pain as her gastrocnemius and soleus muscles were so tight that she had to wear a heel insert in the beginning and slowly work herself into tennis shoes and being able to walk barefoot without pain.  Stretching was an important part of her rehabilitation – but was tightness the cause of her plantar fasciitis?  Or was it the heel spur the doctor found?  Or the fact that she had a high arch?  (which I was jealous of since she was the non-dancer and I had average height to my instep) 

We haven’t even talked about alignment influences.. being bowlegged, knock-kneed, uneven leg lengths, etc.  All of which influences how the weight goes through your legs and feet and into the floor.  

My new perspective on plantar fasciitis is less about decreasing inflammation and more about taking a multi-pronged approach to how I work with someone with this condition.  It’s clear to me that there isn’t an easy answer as to why one person is beset by this problem and another one not.  

Next newsletter we’ll talk about strategies to approach this challenging situation.  

To your success, 



1. Lemont H, Ammirati KM, Usen N. Plantar fasciitis: a degenerative process (fasciosis) without inflammation. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2003;93(3):234–7. 

2.  Barrett SL, Day SV, Pignetti TT, Egly BR. Endoscopic heel anatomy: analysis of 200 fresh frozen specimens. J Foot Ankle Surg. 1995 Jan-Feb;34(1):51–6

3.  Moroney PJ, O’Neill BJ, Khan-Bhambro K, O’Flanagan SJ, Keogh P, Kenny PJ. The Conundrum of Calcaneal Spurs: Do They Matter? Foot Ankle Spec. 2014 Apr;7(2):95–101

4.  Tountas AA, Fornasier VL. Operative treatment of subcalcaneal pain. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1996 Nov:170–8

5th Position and a Long Leg

I have a problem standing in fifth position. I cannot straighten both legs and still maintain a closed fifth position, mostly because one leg is longer than the other one! I have to hem one pant leg up so I don’t keep catching my heel in it. My teachers tell me to straighten my legs and I’m working as hard as I can but I just end up gripping my quads and tucking under – and it still doesn’t look right. What else can I do?

It sounds like you have a true leg length difference rather than a functional discrepancy. A true leg length difference is when the length of the bones on one leg are significantly different from the other. A functional discrepancy is when the bones of the two legs are the same length but there is a postural asymmetry that is throwing your alignment off.

Let’s try a simple solution first. Stand in first position facing the mirror. Slowly lower into demi plié. Do you shift to the longer leg side at the bottom of the plié? Now put something small – between .5 to 1 inch in thickness under your short leg. Repeat your demi plié. Does it look more even? How does it feel? It’s not unusual to get an enthusiastic – WOW, that feels better when there is a true leg length.

I also look at how the spine lines up when looking at leg length. I’ve seen plenty of dancers who had a long leg and it was creating a scoliotic response in the spine. When I place the lift under the short leg, the spine straightens out. It’s lovely when you can easily balance how the weight falls through the whole body!

If it feels significantly better it would be worth going to the drug store and purchasing a pair of heel cushions and place one of them in your soft shoe of the shorter leg. It is an inexpensive fix. Take the other lift and put it in your walking shoes and notice if you feel more evenly balanced as you go through the day.

If it isn’t a true leg length, then further evaluation needs to happen. Is there muscle shortness in the lower back or lateral hip? Postural patterns that are affecting the spine? This is when a sports med doctor and/or physical therapist needs to step in and assess. In the dance world, balancing out the small differences can make a huge difference in your technique!

To your success,

Third instead of Fifth Position?

I am an adult ballet student who has come back to the fold after many years away. When I stopped in my late teens, I was discouraged because things like 4th and 5th position never was easy for me. I thought my body just wasn’t right for dance – but I miss it and love moving in that way so have returned to class in my thirties. I still question why I can’t do 5th position – can you shed any light on this issue? I can’t be the only dancer who is challenged by a perfect 5th.

Such a rich question! First, I want to say congratulations for returning to class! Ballet, and other dance classes are not just for the younger body. There are so many benefits to dance – no matter when you start and what your skill level is. Kudos to you

Through the years of testing anatomical turnout I will say with confidence that third is more appropriate than fifth position for probably 50% of dancers. A bold statement – for sure – but one that is backed up by the injuries to the hips, knee and ankle joints that I so often see.

The ability of a dancer to get into a perfect 5th position is dictated by the physics of their body for one thing. The slim hipped, long legged dancer has an easier time creating 5th than the wider hipped more muscular body. Just bringing the leg past the midline of the body to 5th often tilts the pelvis forward slightly, if the dancer doesn’t have adequate rotation and flexibility at the hip.

It’s super common to have a dancer stand more on their back foot and slightly bend the front knee in order to close heel to toe – and with slightly bending the knee they can then twist the lower leg and pronate the foot to make it look good

Yup.. 5th is not an easy position to do well! I would prefer a well-executed third position that doesn’t strain the knee and foot for my students. Does this mean we shouldn’t keep trying for that gorgeous position? Of course not… but we do need to remember that barre is the preparation for center movement and gorgeous choreography.

I would love it if more teachers did barre without the barre so that their students could see if they are ‘holding’ their fifth with an overly firm grip on the barre. I like the turnout exercise (away from the barre) of starting with your left foot in coupé and keeping that gesture leg turned out, slowly turn the whole body towards the right. Keep the left leg turned out, but simply rotate the whole body towards the right (which is turning in on the right leg) then rotate back to your starting position. It’s really easy to feel when you go too far and start to pronate on that right foot – you want equal energy in both hip with working rotation. Do that several times standing on the right leg, then of course, do the other side.

What insights do they have after doing that? Is one side easier than the other? One foot pronate more? Hard to keep the rotation on the coupé leg? An easy way to check out how you are working the rotation of both legs away from the barre!

Bottom line… if standing in 3rd position allows you to move more anatomically correct then that’s the best position for you.

To your success,


Turf Toes and Hip Strain

I’m going to answer 2 questions – one at the top of the leg with a hip injury and another at the foot.  Especially with foot injuries there is such potential for compensation and shifting your weight subtly in order to continue walking and dancing and so I encourage everyone to pay attention to the small tweaks and strains that can occur!

First question….

I have a 12-year old daughter who is very serious about her dance development and who has been concerned about pain in her big toe.  While rehearsing for a show she hit her toe on her leg and has been complaining ever since.  We have been to the doctor and have been given advice (such as Advil) but her pain continues.  I’ve noticed that her toe is moving slightly towards the other toes while her bone remains fixed in its position.  There must be some exercises she can do to strength that area.  

Thank you,  a concerned Mom

It sounds like your daughter has had a ‘turf toe’ injury.  It is common in football players (and dancers) and usually is caused by either stubbing or jamming the toe as your daughter did.  The challenge is in the recovery.  The original injury creates soft tissue inflammation and that is why your doctor suggested doing an anti-inflammatory such as Advil.  The challenge is your daughter has continued to be on her feet, both just walking and dancing, and often the joint doesn’t heal fully enough and is the cause of her continued pain.

You didn’t say how long ago the injury was but if her toe continues to have pain the doctor may choose to put her in a walking boot temporarily in order to give the joint a rest and allow it to heal.  Icing 2 or 3 times a day along with other anti-inflammatory efforts would continue while she is in the boot.

As far as the big toe starting to move towards the other toes – you are right about thinking something needs to be strengthened.  We want to prevent what sounds like the start of a bunion pattern – and you do that by strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the feet.

If you click HERE this will take you to a blog post where I have a short video on how to strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles.  Tell her that if she cramps when she is doing it – it simply means she has found the weak intrinsics and with continued practice they will improve!

The primary concern is that she gets on top of this injury – instead of allowing it to become chronic.  Bottom line – her big toe needs not to hurt!


Three months ago I was doing a heel stretch in one of the classes I assist in and my hip made a big cracking noise.  It started to hurt but not that bad.  But it still hurts today and I don’t know why.  I sit in a straddle stretch and it hurts my hip when I stretch.  Also, when I do a barre stretch or sit in my splits it hurts.  Do you recommend any stretches to help it get back to normal? 

Thanks, Meghan

Meghan, sometimes muscle strains can take a really long time to heal – and I’m not exactly sure what happened when you hear the hip crack or pop three months ago.  It’s possible that you strained either an inner thigh muscle and/or the deep hip flexor (iliopsoas).

I would encourage you to stretch gently and consistently for these two muscle groups.  Instead of sitting in the straddle position which creates discomfort try standing up and placing one leg on a chair and stretch the inner thigh muscles one side at a time.

For the iliopsoas muscle I would have you do one of the stretches outlined in the video clip below.  Remember to breathe and move gentle and easily – listening to your body – stretching should never be painful!

Do your stretching when your muscles are warm – after class is a good time.  Teachers and assistant teachers have to be careful about their demonstrating in class when you aren’t really warmed up!

Hope this helps…. and remember to comment below, especially if you have had similar injuries please share what you did that helped!

Warmest regards,


“Education is the key to injury prevention”


Pointing Hurts! Tale of an Os Trigonum

Today’s post came from an email from a concerned mother who’s daughter was diagnosed with an os trigonum in both ankles.  She writes…

My daughter is 14 and very serious about her dancing.  She has heel pain and has worked with a PT for the past year and rested a  good part of last year.  After x-rays and consulting with a few doctors her conditioned was diagnosed.  As you may know, there is a small bone at the back of the heel that sticks out a bit and hyperflexion of the foot can irritate the tendons and ligaments, as I understand it, around the bone.  In my daugheter’s case the small bone has not fused, but is attached.  She often has pain when she points her feet.
She is on pointe twice a week, but the medical people do not think the pointe work aggravates the condition.  It occurs in 10-15% of dancers and soccer players.
Everyone seems in agreement on the diagnosis and the surgeons want to operate to remove the small bone, but my husband and I are concerned about Grace’s age, the risk of surgery and the extent of the recovery.   One surgeon quoted a journal article describing that 84% of surgery patients had positive outcomes. On the other hand, Grace often feels that she has tried everything and wants to condition resolved and to dance pain free.
Do you have any suggestions or information that might help us in this situation?
Thanks, Susan
Dear Susan, I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s ankle problem.  I am quite familiar with os trigonum’s as dancers are a common group that have challenges with them.  There are many people, I’m sure, who have them and don’t know it because they don’t work in the extreme ranges of motion that dancers do.
I would disagree with your doctors that pointe work is not influencing her ankle pain.  The reason why she has pain when pointing is she’s closing the back of the ankle joint Picture-1when she does that – put her on pointe with the extra weight into the joint and it often makes it worse.   The diagram on the right shows how an os trigonum is like a nut in a nutcracker when the ankle closes.  That is why they feel pain while pointing or being on pointe, and why non dancers may not have pain from this extra bone.
My suggestion wuold be to take her off pointe work at this time, and increase her anti-inflammatory efforts such as placing her feet in a bucket of ice water after dancing. (I know… doesn’t sound very pleasant)  The challenge with letting an os trigonum continue to irritate the tissue is the tissue in the posterior ankle area can become thickened and fibrotic – which isn’t good for anybody’s ankle.
I’m assuming they tried putting her on an anti-inflammatory treatment program which probably only worked to decrease discomfort, but not alleviate it.  That, along with continuing to work in non painful ways is usually the first phase of treatment.  Certainly the work with a physical therapist who will make sure your daughter is working the ankle muscles correctly, to have correct alignment when pointing the foot as well as on pointe is all helpful.  I applaud you for trying all things non surgical before consenting to surgery.
What I can tell you is that the dancers that I know of with os trigonums and chose to have the surgery are very happy dancers.  They fully returned to dancing and were so happy to pointe their feet and/or do pointe work without pain.  The downtime from this surgery is much less than many other invasive surgeries.  There are cases of professional ballet dancers being back to dancing within 3 months.  I have known others that were even faster.  I know she isn’t my daughter,  (I am mom to 3) but this is one surgery where I am more confident about better chances for a positive outcome.  Of course, there are risks to any surgery – but it sounds like your daughter is committed to dancing, and I do know that if it hasn’t gotten better with the more conservative measures you are taking now, that it probably won’t get better on its own. As a parent I would get her to the orthopedic surgeon that works with the athletes – and of course – has done their fair share of this specific surgery.
I hope my email has helped in some small way.  It is so hard to make choices like this as a parent!
I’d like to request from my blog readers that if you have any experience with os trigonums please tell us about your experience by writing in the comments below.  We can learn from each other!
Warm regards,
“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Strengthening the feet

My daughter is nine and this year has started to complain of heel pain and sometimes knee pain. So I researched and have come to the conclusion that she has fallen arches. I did a water foot test and her arches are not flat or low but when you just look at her feet they look flat. When she points she has an o.k. line. I would also say her ankles over pronate . If I ask her to not let her ankles roll her feet don’t look as flat. So I guess I’m asking what I can do for her at home to strengthen her ankles before they move her in the fall to pre-pointe. She is moving quickly up and I want to prevent any injury I can. I have read of other dancers with this same problem and they talked about exercises. Do you have any suggestions? One more thing her teacher said no flip flops and very supportive shoes…

Thanks, Tracy


Great question, Tracy!  First, for those who don’t know what the water foot test is… you put a small amount of water in a shallow pan, enough to cover the bottom fully, then place one foot, then the other,  in the pan getting the bottom of the feet wet and then stand on a flattened brown paper bag or other nonwhite paper.  Once you step off the paper you’ll see an imprint of your foot on the paper.


The foot on the left describes a normal foot, the one in the middle a flat foot, and the one one the right a high arched foot.

Having pronated feet would look like the image on the left from the back.  Looking at the heel cord at the back of the ankle is a better way of seeing the rolling in of the foot.  The image on the right is a normal looking heel cord.  (It is the Achilles heel that you are looking at)


To strengthen her ankles, start slowly and simply by standing on one foot, in good alignment (weight even on the 3 points of the foot – not rolling in). Start standing for 1 minute, and work your way up to 3 minutes.  Toss a ball between your hands or turn your head and do port de bras as your standing on the one leg to challenge your balance.  It is such a simple exercise, practicing balancing – and the rewards are so great!  Balance gets better through practice.

Then have her practice standing on one leg and doing a very small demi plié, again without rolling in.  Can she do 8 repetitions without tiring?  It goes without saying that she’ll want to make sure she’s in good alignment.  Not tucking under her pelvis, or moving forward onto the balls of the feet during the descent, etc.  While she is doing the single leg pliés she should make sure the weight is staying even on the 3 points of the feet (pad of the big toe, little toe, and heel) and the knee is being directed over the foot.  Any strain felt in the knee area is a clue that her alignment is off.

Those 2 simple exercises – will create a strong foundation for her to work off of – so when she begins working her rélevés her balance and alignment will be rock solid.


“Education is the key to injury prevention”

How to keep young dancers from overturning out?

I am teaching at a local ballet school.  I work with the children from the ages of 3 1/2 to 10, primarily.  I also conduct conditioning/pre-pointe classes for slightly older girls.  I am the only teacher for the youngest dancers but do share teaching assignments with other teachers for the girls in both the Ballet 2 and the Ballet 3 classes, and the pre-pointe classes.

Here is my dilemma – I would venture to state that roughly 100% of the students over the age of 8 are forcing their turnout – most with rolling in the ankles, some with exaggerated anterior pelvic tilts, most way over crossing their fifth positions.  I don’t allow any of those things in my classes, and am using several of your books to educate these young dancers so they can have a successful and safe dancing experience.

How do I help these students survive in other teachers’ classes?

If you do post this question (and I hope you will as it is vitally important) could you please make me “Anonymous”?  I don’t want to cause problems at this school as I think the students need me there.



This is an excellent question and a common problem.  It is challenging to fix, though, if the teachers are encouraging the students to stand overly turned out – and it is also challenging because sometimes the students are the ones that are pushing their turnout because they want to ‘look good’.  I am going to focus my answer on what you can do with the students rather than trying to change the other teachers.  It’s really hard to create change in another teacher’s teaching methods especially if you don’t have the support of the studio owner.  You and I know that teaching ballet to young students using anatomical principles while encouraging the joy of dancing is very challenging!

The one exercise to illustrate how much functional turnout a dancer is working with is the clamshell exercise.  I’m going to add a variation on here for the younger dancers.

Have them on the floor, lying on their side with their buttocks touching the wall and their spines lengthened along the wall and their knees bent with their feet in line with their hips.  Being up against the wall will give them feedback whether they are rolling on their hip.  Then have them do the clamshell exercise and keeping the feet together open and turnout the top leg.  How far could they go?  So many dancers are hardly getting above 45 degrees!  It’s strange but true that I will find dancers who have more turnout at their hips than what they are able to functionally use in movement.

So that is the first focus I would offer to your students.  Develop the strength at the hip joint to accurately use their turnout.  After doing the clamshell exercise, make sure to tell them to stretch the turnout muscles!

Next I would encourage the students to practice barre without the barre.  It is much harder to over rotate when you aren’t gripping the barre.  Have them do that barre in stocking feet rather than soft slippers.  They may be able to feel the weight on their feet more easily and hopefully self-correct to bring the weight evenly on the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel.

Last suggestion I would have is to impress upon them to focus on their movement, rather than their positions.  This is a hard concept to get across because so many budding ballerinas are looking at pictures of a gorgeous dancer in a magnificent poses.  To help them focus on their movement I would have them begin to play with qualities.  Ask them to exaggerate what moving with tension and using all of their muscles feels like.  (this is commonly what they are doing☺ )  Then ask them to move gently, slowly, without any sharpness to their movement.  Try giving them different imagery to help.  A rubber band when stretched slowly won’t snap – but if it is stretched too quickly it may break or snap back.   Explore how a feather floating on the wind moves… and bring that into their demi plies or tendues.  Experiment with many images, including contrasting ones as well.

The goal is to have them thinking and feeling in new ways about their dancing, which in turn will give them better feedback encouraging them to more easily create changes in their patterns.  Perhaps a back door approach – but you never know what is going to create an aha moment.

I’d like to open up this conversation to other teachers…. What do you do to help young dancers use their turnout effectively and efficiently, and most importantly – safely?

Post your comments in the boxes below!

Have a great week!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”