In every style of dance, feet are both the extension of the leg line and an important articulator of rhythm and modulator of both speed and stillness. In Latin and Rhythm, Smooth and Standard, the use of your feet is the key to driving your movement from point A to B.
Feet are used to punctuate changes of rhythm. And women, in particular are graded on the use of their arches and the pliability of the ball of the foot and heel. Aside from the aesthetic advantage of a beautiful arch, feet distribute weight either first through the heel lead in smooth and Standard dances or the ball of the foot in Latin and Rhythm.
When the feet are off the floor as in extension or pointed in tendu, they must be alive, with full engagement of the heel, arch and toes. In walks, the feet are like cats paws that use the ground to push through each part of the foot, again, toe, ball, heel. Distinguishing the 3 parts of each foot creates a sinuous quality that is both aesthetically pleasing and grounding for better balance and alignment.
Tip # 1
In your lessons and in all your social dancing, pay attention to your ankles. Are you tightening around the joint? If you notice this, ask yourself if you can let go and think of the ball of the foot as releasing into the floor. You can practice tightening and letting go to see just how much tone you need e.g. to step to the side, forward and back. The same goes for heel leads. The ankle joint should be pliable and not stiff.
Think your whole spine pointing up while your neck and shoulders are easeful. This will serve as an important tonal guide all the way down to your feet and ankles.
Find 10-15 minutes a day to work your feet. Here are some short exercises:
This foot exercise is designed to create mobility in the ankle joint and strengthen the arches.
- Lie on a mat or carpeted surface with your knees bent, feet on the floor.
- Flex your right foot, draw it up to knee level and with your knee bent, raise it up so that your flexed foot is facing the ceiling.
- Circle your foot around the ankle 8 times outward and then 8 times inward. Keep your lower leg quiet. Switch to the left foot and do the same.
- Repeat #1 and #2 and this time Curl your toes, spread your toes, point your foot (heel, ball of the foot and toes) and flex (toes, ball of the foot and heel). Repeat 5 times each foot.
Do these exercises every day and after a week, notice how pliable your feet and ankle joint feel!
However you move through life, feet that are stable and pliable help us to safely manage walking on uneven surfaces, improve balance, and prevent injury.
If you want to learn more about this process, book a lesson with me, either on Zoom or if you are in the NY/NJ area at my studio in Montclair, NJ. Please use my contact form, tell me about yourself and leave your availability. I will respond within 24 hours.