How to Articulate Through Your Feet

Today we are talking about a requested topic, which is how to master articulating through your feet, and especially through your pointe shoes, during tendus, dégagés, rond de jambes, and any battement movement, really.  I hope you find this very helpful!

What is articulation?

Before we can do something, we have to understand what it is.  When you go out for a battement tendu, the first thing that most people do is lift their heel off the floor.  Then then brush out on the ball fo their foot, and their toes point at the very last second.   To return, they keep the foot in the cupped/pointed “clawed” position as they draw their foot back to first/fifth position.  This is incorrect.

The correct way to do a battement tendu would be to keep the whole foot on the floor as long as possible, lift the heel up at the last possible moment, and then point the toes as late as possible.  Then, you reverse it.  First the toes release, then the heel drops ASAP, and the foot draws back into first completely relaxed on the floor.  This is the correct way to do a battement tendu, and that is because you are articulating through your feet.

Exercises for mastery

You all know that I love my exercises and conditioning!  I have selected a few you can practice to learn how to articulate through your feet.  I’ve given each a paragraph below to describe them.

Basic thera band exercises.  Extend your foot out while sitting the floor so that it is in a pike with one leg. Wrap the thera band horizontally around the ball of the foot, still covering the toes.  Slowly point and flex the foot.  Or, especially, practice just pointing the toes and flexing them again.  You can also do it by isolating the ankle, but this is less effective for foot articulation and more effective for pointework.

Another tip I have is to really warm your feet up before ballet class.  Maybe invest in a quality pair of Bloch or Grishko booties to keep your feet warm before you jump into tendus, so your articulation muscles are already warmed up and ready to work.

You can try some exercises for your intrinsic toe muscles, too.  Put a towel on the floor, and then practice using the cupping action of your toes to pick it up or scrunch it up, and then release it down.  This will strengthen your intrinsic toe muscles and the arch of your foot, both very important muscles.

You can also pick up marbles with your toes from the floor and put them in a bowl.  This is one of my favorites – and it’s kind of a game, too!  This will, again, strengthen your intrinsic muscles and your arch.

I have many foot strengthening resources here – check out my Foot WorkoutStrengthening Guide, and Ankle Stabilization Workout.

Imagery that can help

My two approaches to the difficulties of ballet technique are anatomy and imagery – and I will give them both to you today.  Here are a few images you can imagine to help your articulation during battements…

Think of painting on the floor – your toes being the paintbrush.  Each time you tendu, you are drawing a line with the paint.

Massage the floor with your feet – get every little muscle of the floor by using different areas of your foot to press down.

Think of a magnent being on your heel – or velcro that is really hard to rip off.  It has to stay on the floor as long as possible!

Finally, articulation can just take practice.  Think of it during tendus and dégagés during every class, and I promise it will sink in.  I hope this helps!

I’ll see you on Wednesday with another blog post.  Back to our old schedule! 🙂

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