Excellent control of balance and stability of the foot and ankle are important in any dancer. Nevertheless, lots of dancers are unaware of the many things that integrate to provide you with great balance, and how to train the parts individually. Poor balance reactions might make your supporting foot wobble and you might find it tough to support en demi-pointe, or be constantly remedied for rolling arches! Poor stability in your supporting ankle is a big barrier in increasing how high you can raise your leg en l’air, as you will be using an unstable base.
There are many things that can affect your balance, including; your vision; your feeling of where your foot and ankle ligaments are (proprioception), and the balance sensors that in fact sit inside your inner ear. It is important to train the stability of the ankle while getting rid of a couple of the feedback systems that we use to establish all parts of the total system. Lots of dancers rely far too much on their vision to keep their balance, and this becomes a problem when turning or carrying out in low light circumstances.
Test yourself and the strength of each system by trying each of the following exercises. Attempt standing on a single leg in parallel or turnout, with each of the following variations:
· Closing your eyes.
· Standing on a pillow, or soft foam mat.
· Try turning your head from side to side.
· Tilting the head from side to side.
· Try a fondu/small knee bend on each leg.
If you are currently in pointe shoes, try all the above in bare feet and then in your pointe shoes and feel the distinction!
All of these are great tests and training concepts for improving your control of your ankles. Keep in mind to always turn on your deep turnout muscles and core stabilizing muscles when balancing in turnout, so that your hips do not twist too much!
Developing control of the small ‘intrinsic muscles of the feet are important to establishing great balance.