To relevé or not to relevé more?
may not be more relevés.
The Secret to the Perfect Relevé
The secret to a perfect relevé is not always in the foot. We may begin there but truthfully, the work should begin in the hips, core and your mind with useful imagery.
Face it~ our feet are tiny compared to our pelvis, right? They are the roots of a much larger tree.
Our body is a tree with many limbs
Our feet may be our base but they are also an appendage and not at our center. We must extend them, reaching away into beautiful lines in space, jump from them, turn on them and of course relevé in all sorts of positions!
Love your feet, nurture them and work on them! In case you don’t know, I wrote a 67-page e-book on strengthening and stretching your feet. You can find it here.
My personal favorite for my students and when I take class is the 24 parallel relevés on one foot at the end of barre. How?
- Face the barre on one foot with the other in a parallel cou de pied.
- Plié and rise 24 times on each side.
- You can build up to this in increments:
- I recommend 12 relevés for beginners with a calf stretch.
- 16 relevés for pre-pointe students.
- 24 for upper intermediate – advanced students.
Kudos to the Australian Ballet for sharing this wonderful exercise on World Ballet Day every year. Their physical therapy staff created it for their company dancers to do at the end of every barre. It reduced ankle and foot injuries significantly! Here is their video in slow motion with a good demo on supination and pronation.
There is a point to increasing your relevés if your feet, lateral support of your ankles or any of your lower leg muscles are weak. However, I do see more core issues in dancers that are more important than the feet. To be clear, we must do both!
Here is a recent video of a private lesson with a student who was attempting to keep her feet turned out on the way down from her relevé in first. I asked her to turn her feet in slightly and eliminate the pronation (rolling in ). She needs to work on her core strength in order to keep her pelvis in neutral. Getting this in line, will enable her to acquire a finer control of her ankles and feet.
You can see that she is working on it. Being a diligent student, I know she will accomplish this quickly!The secret to a perfect relevé is more than the foot. How about the hips, core and useful imagery? Click To Tweet
of your body is not called that for nothin’. The trunk is the true center of your body. It is your core, not just your abdominal muscles.
There is a lot of talk about core strength but what good is it if you can only stand there and show off your ripped muscles? Can you move from your center and keep your leg up in arabesque upon landing even a simple jeté entrelacé (tour jeté)? Nowadays, sit-ups are passé. Well really, they don’t help in passé :).
Sit-ups build your rectus abdominis which bring you up from a cambré back and probably more but they are not as essential to ballet as the core muscles below.
your obliques— hint: enables higher extensions to the side and trunk support in any spiral pose or movement.
proper training of your psoas
What about your upper back? Your standing leg? All of these are essential to operating from your center.
I made my point
But just imagine a tree blowing in the wind. If it is a healthy tree, its limbs will stay connected and freely support the movement. If it is too rigid or dry, they may snap off.
Think of your dancer’s body as a supple, strong and responsive instrument at your beck and call. I had a teacher once tell us that we are in charge of our body, not our body in charge of you! Isn’t that empowering?
Now get on with your conditioning and you will be in charge of those wayward limbs and relevé!