Our guest columnist is Annette T. Thomas, a dance teacher and choreographer, who has trained at Carnegie Hall, the San Juan Ballet Company, and the Connecticut Regional Ballet Company under world class instructors. With 30 years of dance and figure skating experience behind her, Annette is certified in Russian Method Classical Ballet, and is a member of the Professional Skaters Association, U.S. Figure Skating, the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, and the Wisconsin Dance Council. Annette began working with figure skaters in 1998 and has conducted numerous off and on-ice workshops in the areas of conditioning and artistry. She is also the author of Fundamentals of Alignment and Classical Movement for Figure Skaters, which has received international acclaim from ice and roller skaters and their coaches.
Feet and Ankles: articulation, strength and correct alignment (continued)
by Annette T. Thomas
Let's now talk about ankle strength and proper alignment, which are a must for dancers and skaters as whole body alignment, balance and internal stability particularly in jumps and spins are reliant upon them. You may have noticed during the recent Summer Olympics that a number of the gymnasts and divers turned their feet inward (known as “sickling” in ballet) during an exercise which required pointed feet. Tendons from both the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) of the lower leg form a sling under the foot so that when there is an imbalance of strength vs. stretch between the two sides, this “sickling” often occurs. When a skater or dancer’s foot is sickled it not only looks awful, it is a potential injury waiting to happen.
Example of a sickled foot:
A sickled foot in boot:
A correctly pointed foot is a plantar flexion with a slight eversion:
A correctly pointed foot in boot:
Most skaters either sickle or crunch their toes and both of these actions are nearly impossible to correct with skates on. To work on correctly pointing the feet I have my skating students practice getting the accurate look and feel of pointing their feet first by sitting on the floor with legs straight and in bare feet; then, while standing, practicing tendus, degagés, and relevés (ballet exercises at the barre). Practicing plies and relevés with the skates and guards on also helps to develop foot, lower leg and knee strength as well as energize the mind-body flow.
Recognizing and enjoying the role your feet play in becoming the best skater you can be can invigorate, both mentally and physically, every area of your training.
Annette currently teaches workshops in Russian Method Classical ballet, Folk and Character Dance, and works with skaters at the Wisconsin Figure Skating Club and the Kettle Moraine Figure Skating Club. For additional information on feet, posture, movement, and pretty much everything else that figure skaters should concentrate on, please check out Annette's website Ballet for Figure Skaters.
Article and photos are copyright 2008 by Annette Thomas. Material may not be copied or distributed without the consent of Annette Thomas.