Moscow's Polina Semionova and America's Julie Kent dazzle elite venues, sharing their idyllically lifted arches with audiences worldwide. Yet, even they had to work for those feet, having stretched and toned, lift and relevéd until their toes were sore. If you want prima ballerina arches, then you'll need to work for it, too. Do ballet exercises to lift your arches as a part of your overall routine.
At The Barre
The barre -- every ballet studio has one. After cozying up to the horizontal pole for your usual stretch routine, consider adding some extra ballet moves. Do a few tendus dègagès, rond de jambes and relevés before class begins. Do not be surprised if these moves are repeated during class. When you first do them, forget about the movement and focus on forming your arch. With each sweep of your leg, feel the muscles contract. Feel them tighten from your quads to the calves, pulling up the tiny arch supported by tendons and ligaments.
On The Floor
Lifting your arches does not have to be an in-class event. Nor should it be. It is important to strengthen your foot’s tiny muscles and ligaments, not just for a higher arch. For a ballerina, these muscles help you with pointe moves and provide loftiness when you jump, says Jacqui Greene Haas, long-time athletic trainer for the Cincinnati Ballet. Tone these muscles and lift the arch with big-toe abductions, marble pickups and towel curls.
Flex and point your way to a higher arch with exercise bands. Either paper thin and flat, or resembling a rubber hose with handles on both ends, exercise bands are inexpensive and ideal if you need exercise on the go. Avoid injury by asking your personal trainer or physical therapist for tension recommendations. For ballet arches, perform ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. Point your toes up during dorsiflexion and down during flexion to stretch and strengthen your arches.
Repetitions and Scheduling
Lifting the arches is an ongoing process that takes time. Remember that even the great ballerinas began with flat feet. Develop your arches by doing these exercises until you feel tension, but not pain, in the foot. Depending on your ballet ability, this may be five dègagès or 50. With floor exercises, such as big-toe abductions, watch for a tight feeling in your arch by the 12th rep. Stick to five towel curls and 20 marble pickups a day. For dorsiflexion and flexion with the resistance band, start by doing three sets of 10, three days a week.
- Ballet For Dummies; Scott Speck and Evelyn Cisneros
- The Joffrey Ballet School's Book of Ballet-Fit; Allison Kyle Leopold and Dena Simone Moss
- Dance Anatomy; Jacqui Greene Haas
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images