Weak Rélevé

I got your name from a dancer/friend when I asked her a question regarding a current ‘disability’ I have that affects my dance.

First, I am a sixty year old male with a history of osteoarthritis and two joint replacements (one hip, one knee).  I also social dance 5-6 nights a week……and I am actually a good dancer (mostly because of musicality and I am precise/gentle at leading)……I sometimes tease that I recently won an award for being ‘The Best Male Dancer in the Greater Seattle Metro Area over-60 and with TWO OR MORE Artificial Joints”  (small competitive class!).

My most recent issue:  foot/ankle surgery in late December09 to tie ruptured post-tibial tendon into adjacent tendon…..they also did a couple of calcaneus bone cuts and one inserted bone graft to facilitate better foot alignment… sounds pretty mucked up but I have been dancing consistently with ONE noticeable (to me) impediment:

I have trouble taking weight on the ball-of-foot of a pointed foot…..I can hold my weight well enough to get in a chaine turn (heel just kisses ground…..but does not collapse halfway thru)……but I can only hold the weight so far with heel is near the ground……I want to be able to absorb weight at point of max extension and execute a cushioned articulation (sorry I do not know the tech words better) down to my heel…….if I could do a MOON-WALK…..I think I would be fine.

Currently working wth a heavy rubber band at that max-extension to see if that will help……also raising to max extension two-legged and then trying to shift weight to injured foot for the down (eccentric?) movement.

Related, I tend to ‘claw’ my toes related to being up on ball of foot…..I think because my ‘long’ tendons are trying to compensate for ‘short’ tendon weakness……anyway dancing around on clawed toes for a few hours IS pretty

Overall, I am in great health, not overweight…..but if you have any ideas for rehab, I would REALLY appreciate it!      John

I’m curious, John, if you had your hip and knee surgery on the same side.  (and what side does the ankle surgery line up with?)  When there are too many injuries on one side I start to suspect a leg length difference:)

You’re doing the right stuff with the theraband to start to strengthen the calf muscles again, and I like the slow descent lowering from releve on the side that had the surgery.  If you are doing toe risers with clawed toes, though, (called rélevés in dance language) then you aren’t getting as much out of that exercise as you could.

This is what I would suggest.  Start working the bottom of the foot with a pinkie ball.  Stand and roll your foot on the ball to release as much tension on the bottom of the foot as you can.  It will feel tight – but good:)

Then I want you to stand on one foot and place the other one behind you as in the picture below.  You won’t have as wide of a position as the dancer demonstrates.  You are stretching the underside of the toes and know that you won’t really need to bend your knee much to get a good stretch. To get more stretch you bend your back knee.

An even simpler way to stretch the underside of your toes would be to stand with both feet in parallel and then slowly bend one knee, lifting the heel up slightly as you keep the toes straight and long.  Then switch feet.  You are in slow motion practicing a ‘moon walk’ variation but without traveling:)

When you practice your toe risers – only go as far as you can keep the toes straight.  The minute they start to claw – stop – stretch them out and lower back down.

Time will tell how much change you can give to this area.  After all… you are going to need to continue to train in order to keep your title of The Best Male Dancer in the Greater Seattle Metro Area over-60!

Best regards,

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

4 replies
  1. Joan Facciobene
    Joan Facciobene says:

    Hi Deborah,
    First of all, tell Nick that being a “precise and gentle” partner with good musicality is a god-sent for any professional ballet dancer (which I was in another incarnation … ), and applies to ballroom dancing as well. Secondly, he sounds like a very diligent and devoted dance student. I applaud him. (and I am an effete ballet sob!). Aside from teaching ballet (in this incarnation), I also teach Pilates, and I have a client who is probably close to 70 (though I am far too discreet to ask) who has had two hip replacements and is an avid ballroom dancer. I know how devoted you guys are to your art, and I find it truly admirable. Keep up the good work – and find yourself a good physiotherapist and/or certified Pilates teacher with a dance background. Most importantly – keep on dancing.

    Buona fortuna
    Giovanna Facciobene

  2. Sara
    Sara says:

    I recently had to rehab my posterior tibial tendon (inner ankle) in physical therapy, due to weakness and tendonitis after a broken foot, to be able to continue with ballet and Irish dance (I’m 39). The weak (and painful) releve was my problem as well. I was assigned several effective exercises to get power in my élevé (and eventually jumps).

    The slow descent from élevé on the bad food was one (starting with 10 slow reps, eventually revving up to 40 or 50 proper eleve’s on the bad foot).

    Balancing for a number of minutes on the weaker/foot ankle in plie with the strong leg held out at different angles was another. (I think our injured Seattle dancer will find this one very effective on the foot muscles; it was challenging).

    Another was lunging onto the bad foot with a theraband tied in a circle about the circumference of a watermelon, around both ankles. Lunge in all directions, (falling into a lunge in plie on the bad leg) from noon to six o’ clock. (I did this for only minutes per session.)

    In all the exercises, I was instructed to focus on proper foot (and knee) alignment, forcing my arch a bit with the toes as he does, so as not to let my foot go flat. All of these exercises, accompanied by 2 minutes of calf and achilles stretches, were highly effective. It took about four months to get serious power back, but only a couple months to achieve pain relief while dancing (there was very little pain in the exercises).

    I also recommend Dansko professional clogs (for daily wear, not dancing of course) to anyone with plantar fasciia or ankle tendon problems. The professional-type soles create proper foot alignment like orthotics would, and work the toe muscles. Once I ditched my podiatrist’s orders to wear running shoes, and started wearing my clogs instead (so weird that he was not into Danskos), my tendon started to heal and strengthen much faster.

    Good luck to our rockin’ sextagenarian!

    • deborah
      deborah says:

      Thank you so much, Sara, for your suggestions – they were great! I will also admit to having 4 pairs of danskos clogs. I love them!


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