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"Good Feet" The Who's, What's and Why's


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#1 iczerman

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 08:44 AM

I a newbie to ballet..thanks to Youtube.
I have read many comments saying that "so and so" does'nt have "good feet".

Who DOES have "good feet"?
What do I look for?
Why does so and so..have good feet?

#2 Simon G

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 04:20 PM

Hi Iczerman,

"Good feet" is basically saying that they have the aesthetically pleasing shape and form which comes from having a high arch and instep - and so when pointed they form a kind of tumescent banana shape and beautiful curve.

When a woman with a high arch and instep wears pointe shoes where she's literally standing on her toes on the block in the shoe the effect of the arch is even more exagerrated and the line and curve of the arch extends into the shape of the toe shoe:

Famous examples of ballerinas with good feet are:

Sylvie Guillem

http://www.ballerina...pic/guill01.jpg


Lynn Seymour:

http://www.ballerina...ic/seymou05.jpg

Alessandra Ferri:

http://www.ballerina...pic/ferri02.jpg

Paloma Herrera

http://www.ballerina...ic/herrer01.jpg

The irony is that a very over arched foot whilst looking beautiful can actually adversely affect pointe work as the arch throws the body's weight over the foot throwing the dancer off balance.

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 04:46 PM

The irony is that a very over arched foot whilst looking beautiful can actually adversely affect pointe work as the arch throws the body's weight over the foot throwing the dancer off balance.

Plus the fact that an over-exaggerated arched does look as if the whole feet is bending and collapsing, hence loosing the clean, upward straight line that I most admire on ballerinas...
From here we can go to that other thread about the arch enhancers.

#4 carbro

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 04:53 PM

Welcome to BalletTalk, iczerman!

I would define "good feet" as feet that point fully when they leave the floor, feet strong and supple enough to roll smoothly through when rising to a high 3/4 pointe (or full pointe for women) and lowering from same. I like a high arch, but it's not as important as the actual working of the foot.

Among the best feet I've seen are Gelsey Kirkland's. I was able to watch her in class, in soft slippers, and when she did her warmup jumps in first position, the feet would seem to scoop along the floor in a caress as she left the floor, then point into crescent shapes in the air. It was such a simple step, but one of the most thrilling bits of dancing I've ever seen.

I've noticed that the girls in one of our major academies seem to keep their toes slightly clenched, even when flat on the floor. As they progress to the company, they lose this habit, but I can't help but wonder how safe the clenching is.

When I started viewing ballet, there were still men who had what might be called "no feet." Their grands jetes often featured a floppy appendage at the end of their trailing leg. And there's not much that can surpass small, beating steps performed with less than fully pointed feet for incongruousness. Not pretty. :bow: We are, for better (pointed foot-wise) or worse (other issues for other threads), in a new age.

#5 ami1436

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:08 PM

Tamara Rojo has those gorgeous bendy feet - but she's extremely strong as well, and her feet are some of the most articulate I've ever seen. I could probably just watch her all day, rolling down from pointe, bringing her foot from fifth to sur le coup de pied (an astonishing moment in her Giselle...)....

Thus, for me, it's not just the line that I care about -- I want an *articulate* foot... I want it to *speak* to me -- to facilitate technique but also further the dance....

#6 Simon G

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:12 PM

Hi Carbro & Cuban

Do you mind if I just step in as I think we're getting a bit technical for a total newbie to ballet:

Iczerman, as CubanMiamiBoy said his aesthetic ideal is slightly different from the examples of ballerinas I linked above. This is Alicia Alonso:

http://www.ballerina...ic/alonso03.jpg

As you can see her leg and foot form a straight line it's a very straight look and was the aesthetic ideal for quite a long time in the mid to latter half of the 20th century. Another famous ballerina who had that very vertical look, no arch in pointe was Margot Fonteyn:

http://www.ballerina...pic/fonte05.jpg

As Carbro mentioned the aesthetic ideal of what a ballerina should look like has changed radically in the last 40 or so years - thanks in great part to a famous choreographer called George Balanchine who with his company the New York City Ballet developed an aethetic ideal for the ballerina in the last 40 years of the 20th century which continues today.

(Please don't roast me for my very potted, potted history board regulars)

That ideal of a ballerina was long legged, flexible with the added bonus of an arched foot.

The dancer Carbro referred to Gelsey Kirkland:

http://www.ballerina.../pic/kirk07.jpg

She was a famous virtuoso and great ballerina who was known for her technique and strength particularly her balances and jump. If you go to Youtube and type in Gelsey Kirkland there's a very famous film of her in Coppelia where you can see just how phenomenal her balances were.

Feet is a funny issue, the dancer I linked to Sylvie Guillem who came to prominence in the mid 80s basically raised the bar as to what a ballerina should look like - she has an extreme physique and incredible technique, including hyper arched feet.

Good feet or rather beautiful looking arched feet are notoriously weak a great deal of the time and it takes a great deal of training to strengthen them. Because in ballet the use of the foot to bend (plie) jump is vital. A dancer goes through every bone in their foot to rise on to pointe, or demi pointe (3/4) to jump and foot strength is a big part of having a good jump, a strong foot is like a coiled spring.

Also when Carbro mentioned no feet or poor feet in men in a jump it's a common problem where the foot isn't pointed in one of the big ballet jumps and so the dagger like shape made by a leg stretching into a pointed foot is spoiled by a foot that isn't pointing and looks floppy.

The dancer Ami refered to above Tamara Rojo:

http://www.ballerina.../pic/rojo03.jpg

You can check her out on youtube too.

#7 EAW

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:27 PM

Gelsey Kirkland's feet may have been good, strong and well-arched, but, with their large, prominent heels they also looked quite idiosyncratic - one long-time observer likened them to "baked potatoes wrapped in foil." Disagree mightily about Sylvie Guillem "raising the bar" for any aspect of ballet - she did raise her legs up a lot, for sure.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:43 PM

As per a male "Who", get a glimpse of the second clip of post # 1 from this other thread, featuring Cuban Alejandro Virelles.
http://ballettalk.in...showtopic=29683

#9 Helene

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:54 PM

I also love feet that are very straight, like Suzanne Farrell's and one of the PNB soloists, Lesley Rausch. Another soloist, Maria Chapman, has very high arches, what I'd call "Patricia McBride feet".

http://www.ballerina...ic/mcbrid05.jpg
http://www.ballerina...ic/mcbrid03.jpg

For me, it's not just the way the feet look, but how they work through the floor. I saw Ballet Arizona perform "La Valse" in May's all-Balanchine program, and I didn't check the cast list during second intermission. In one of the middle waltzes, this short, dark-haired dancer, in her long tulle skirt, knocked me cold by the strength of her foot as she rose on point in arabesque. It was Jillian Barrell, and I had never seen her (or at least recognized her) with her hair down before.

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:56 PM

as CubanMiamiBoy said his aesthetic ideal is slightly different from the examples of ballerinas I linked above. This is Alicia Alonso:

http://www.ballerina...ic/alonso03.jpg

As you can see her leg and foot form a straight line it's a very straight look and was the aesthetic ideal for quite a long time in the mid to latter half of the 20th century.


( :bow: Am I slightly stuck in the past...? :blush: )

#11 ami1436

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:25 PM

Rojo's feet can be seen more clearly here:



Again, I think the use of the feet is more important than the 'genetic aesthetics' - but I think Rojo has both.

#12 volcanohunter

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 08:01 PM

Funny, I never thought of "good feet" as being particularly related to aesthetics. I always thought of certain dancers being able to achieve a level of technical mastery, particularly in jumps, because they had good feet, that is, feet that work efficiently, inevitably in combination with a well-aligned skeleton. Sometimes these feet also happen to be beautiful, but not necessarily. If a dancer has aesthetically pleasing feet, but he or she is not able to land jumps quietly, I wouldn't describe those feet as "good."

#13 carbro

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 08:49 PM

As Carbro mentioned the aesthetic ideal of what a ballerina should look like has changed radically in the last 40 or so years - thanks in great part to a famous choreographer called George Balanchine who with his company the New York City Ballet developed an aethetic ideal for the ballerina in the last 40 years of the 20th century which continues today.

Did I imply that? It wasn't my intention. And I think the change in the "preferred" foot was due to a softening of pointe shoes' shanks. By the early '70s when I started attending regularly, the arch was definitely in.

... Gelsey Kirkland ... was a famous virtuoso and great ballerina who was known for her technique and strength particularly her balances and jump. If you go to Youtube and type in Gelsey Kirkland there's a very famous film of her in Coppelia where you can see just how phenomenal her balances were.

A perfect illustration of why it's dangerous to summarize a career on the basis of scant video evidence. As a New York-based Kirkland follower, she most definitely was not famous for her balances, and my friends and I would often question her judgment in attempting them they weren't "required."

Gelsey Kirkland's feet may have been good, strong and well-arched, but, with their large, prominent heels they also looked quite idiosyncratic - one long-time observer likened them to "baked potatoes wrapped in foil."

If a foot is deeply arched, wouldn't that necessarily make the heel more prominent? I'll have to check out some of the archies next time I catch a performance.

#14 Hans

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 09:04 PM

I agree with those who say the answer to the "good feet" question is two-pronged. A dancer may be born with beautiful arches and insteps but not use them well at all. From what I have seen of her, Eva Evdokimova may well have my favourite pair of ballet feet, in terms of both natural beauty and her exquisite use of them. Manuel Legris is an example of a dancer who does not have extremely high arches (though they are more than adequate) but he uses them beautifully, and his dancing is more of a pleasure to me than that of others blessed with lovely feet but no idea how to use them.

Edit: I realise this is blowing my own horn, but in case you are interested, iczerman, I have written a blog post on this subject: http://ballettalk.in...hp?showentry=45

#15 ami1436

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 09:04 PM

Yes, when Gelsey was ill/at her weakest (the Baryshnikov at the Wolf Trap dvd), she seamed barely able to stand up.........

As for feet, a bit of dancer terminology. The curve underneath your foot is your arch --- the top curve is an instep... And it's the high insteps that are notable in folks like Ferri, Herrera, Rojo, etc. Yes, they often have higher arches as well, but it's the high instep that makes the s-curve on the outside of the leg (especially if one is hyperextended).


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