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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Improving your arch - actively!

100% True story: when I was in college, a fellow dancer who wanted a better arch used to place weights on the tops of her feet at night while she was studying and let them pull her toes forward and down to the floor, stretching the muscles and ligaments in the hopes of creating a more pronounced lateral arch (i.e. the side view of the foot in which the top rises like a mountain, what people in the ballet world call "a good foot").

We scoffed at her. How on earth could that passive stretch do anything to her arch, which was primarily due to bone structure? If anything, allowing weight to pull your foot would simply result in overstretched ligaments which - PAY ATTENTION HERE - do not snap back once they are overstretched.

Let me say that again: Overstretched ligaments do not return from whence they came. Unlike muscles, they do not have the same amount of give. DO NOT passively stretch your foot like this - e.g. using an arch stretcher. DO NOT. Bad dancer, bad, bad dancer.

It worked. I can't recall how long it took her but one day we noticed, "Hey, she's got good feet." She never had them before. At the time we all attributed the change to her nightly regimen. Fortunately we were all smart enough not to attempt to replicate her success. Today she probably has really weak ankles and wobbles in her releve.

HOWEVER - thinking back on it now, and with my years of experience as a teacher, I doubt the veracity of this. Instead I think she probably just learned how to get up on her releve and to use the floor and point her feet properly.

Some people have naturally beautiful arches and that's great. Some don't and that's great too. How feet work is far more important (as an adult or recreational dancer) than how they look. As a teacher, I show people how to get the most from their feet, how to work the floor and pull up, how to keep the bones in line and use the right muscles to lift, and so on.

But there's nothing wrong with wanting to improve your arch. And in doing so, increase your strength and range of motion.

In this post on her blog, The Healthy Dancer, Diana Harris writes about the best exercises for dancers to increase their arch. I think they are all terrific suggestions and I highly recommend students who want to improve their arches take a look for themselves and try to incorporate one or two on a regular basis. Thank you, Diana, for letting me include your post! (You can also click the caption below the photo to get to the article)

From The Healthy Dancer, "Exercises to Improve the Arch of Your Foot"
Happy dancing~

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