The day I flexed my feet for the first time
Since when I started dancing, I never had a good relationship with flexed feet. I have always found flexing the feet painful and hard so I convinced myself that it was useless and never really worked on understanding how to flex properly. My mind changed the day I learnt how to properly flex my feet.
The story dates back to when I started regularly taking floor barre classes, live and online. For those unfamiliar with floor barre, I recommend reading this article to learn what it is and its benefits for dancers.
Each floor barre class involves a noticeable amount of flex and pointe motion, or simply stretches with flexed feet. At first, I couldn’t get to the end of the first set of exercises without feeling an uncomfortable pinch in the front of my ankles, I felt restricted and frustrated.
The cue that helped me find a smooth flex with less tension
It was my teacher who noticed my struggles with flexed feet. She observed how I was initiating the movement starting from the toes and getting stuck at some point feeling a great dose of tension in my whole foot, so she sat down by my side and began explaining to me what a true flex was all about.
After becoming aware of the fact that the toes were not supposed to initiate the flex and that, in my case, I should focus on moving from my heel and keeping my toes relaxed, my teacher came up with an image that forever changed my opinion on flexing the feet: visualising an arrow coming out of my heel.
Picturing an arrow that was coming out straight from my heels allowed me to simplify all the cues that were rattling about my head and resume them into one clear statement. I have to admit it, the first time I properly flexed my feet I felt awkward, but my calves were feeling lengthened and released, and I did not have the usual pinch in the front of my ankles!
How it improved my allegro and pointe work
Despite being challenging at first and requiring a great amount of concentration and effort, flexing my feet became one of my favorite things to do. I was able to deepen my demi plié, I had more range of motion and no more tension in my ankles.
Consequently, I noticed some improvements in my pointe work and allegro: I could pose my heels down on the floor during pliés, jump higher and for a longer time without getting as tired and I could finally perform consecutive relevés on a single foot!
Who would have thought that learning how to flex my feet properly could lead to so many breakthroughs in my ballet technique?