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Hans Solo: Good Feet 2

Read part 1 of Hans' guide to good feet here.

The Beautiful Foot in Motion

Of course, simply having beautiful feet is only one part of the equation. If a dancer has at least adequate feet, the most important thing then becomes how he uses them. Each teaching method has its own way of producing dancers who use their feet well, and each style of ballet has particular requirements for how the feet are used in order to fit its aesthetic. Nonetheless, nearly all methods and styles have certain basic similarities.

Boys at the Bolshoi Academy being corrected
during a foot exercise (date unknown).

To use the foot in a truly refined manner, one must be aware of, and use, the ankle, arch, and toes coordinated with each other. This coordination is developed in the classroom starting with the barre exercises and continuing through allegro. When pointing the foot for a battement tendu, a relevé, or a jump, the foot presses against the floor as the ankle and arch extend. The toes provide a final push against the floor as they extend without curling under to finish the line.

This may be done at various speeds (depending upon the tempo and character of the music and the style of the choreography) and different methods and styles prefer different accents. Some prefer the foot to point slowly so the dancer may be fully aware of the movement. Others use a strong, sharp motion. Both have their merits and in this era when ballet companies perform Petipa classics alongside Balanchine and crossover works, it is best for dancers to learn as many different ways of using the foot as possible. 

Across the world at the Royal Ballet School,
a remarkably similar photo (from 1979).

The way one points the foot is important, but not more important than the way one relaxes, or un-points the foot. When closing from a battement, coming down from a relevé, or landing from a jump, it is the toes that press into the floor first, immediately followed by the ball of the foot. Then the arch relaxes (without collapsing) as the ankle gently allows the heel to lower. The entire foot and leg must act as a series of springs so there is a sense of pressure, of the foot not wanting to relax immediately as it comes in contact with the floor. This allows for both a silent landing from jumps and a buildup of potential energy for the next movement.

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