iczerman

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

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One of the hallmarks of a well-trained ballet dancer is how he or she uses her feet --- in transitions from one step to another, or in preparation for some step, for example. Even before we talk about who has good feet and who doesn't, ballet dancers as a class use their feet in a different way than other dancers. For example, watching So You Think You Can Dance, as a ballet fan, it's kind of striking how many of those dancers don't use their feet effectively at all. It's not that they aren't pointing their feet or anything like that, but how they initiate their movements and transfer force into the floor. Klunky is the best word I can think of to describe the look.

Also, wasn't there an interview with Darcey Bussell right after her retirement where she lamented the fact that dancers have to get over their box so much these days leading to injuries but they had to do it because that was the look everyone wanted?

For a nice example of foot articulation, look for "Misericordes 2" on Youtube, and look around 9:26 when Michael Nunn points his foot. He has very nice feet, too. I'm not sure about posting the link here as I'm not sure of its copyright status --- it's the Ballet Boyz film that follows Christopher Wheeldon to the Bolshoi. Well worth seeing the whole thing, BTW.

--Andre

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Calegari: Kent role. She's a redhead, and I believe the only light-haired dancer among the women.

Pilarre: Hayden role. She was also in the "Emeralds" pas de trois (with Heather Watts and Daniel Duell) in the "Dance in America" series.

Saland: Adams role.

Spohn: Leclerq role. She also dances the First Theme in "4 T's" on the same DVD.

Ashley: Wilde role.

I have the DVD and I just checked. These are indeed the dancers

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I don't think anyone has mentioned Ekaterina Maksimova and Nadezhda Pavlova - who had absolutely beautiful feet and used them beautifully as well!

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The conclusion of Alastair Macaulay's review of Nina Ananiashvili's last performance at ABT as Odette/Odile:

Amid all the excitement I found it most marvelous that she still brought rare and eloquent beauty to tiny features. Nothing in this performance — not the turns, not the lifts, not the throw, not the alter ego Odette-Odile opposition — was more riveting than simply the way, during the White Swan adagio pas de deux of Act II, she slowly and softly brought her foot down from point, again and again, making the sole of her foot into an enthralling part of the drama.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/arts/dan...tml?_r=1&hp

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I hope we have many more such topics. I thank you, icezerman .... wherever you are this morning. :)

I've been here...reading with interest the various postings! I've just heard the term" good feet" thrown around so much I was just wanting a little more info. My conclusion is that one can be born with a great arch and relativley short metatarsals...but it's how you use your feet that counts...

Gillian Murphy( my first love when it comes to Ballerinas) has really long feet..but she's very quick with them..for example her Bouree's.

Alina Cojocaru is going to need a podiatrist soon...she has a bunion forming on her right foot...( poor thing...I'm starting to like her too!)

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Alina's always had that bunion -- I think they are more pronounced in some shoes than others. I've seen an old (like maybe used 3 years ago or so) pair of her Blochs (I forget the style), and she's worked them well to accommodate her feet. Us dancers do crazy things to our shoes. I'm a full-fledged adult with my own salary, and when I told my dad yesterday that I was buying pointe shoes this week -- he was very relieved that he wasn't buying them 'only to have me cut them up'. !

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I hope we have many more such topics. I thank you, icezerman .... wherever you are this morning. :wink:

I've been here...reading with interest the various postings! I've just heard the term" good feet" thrown around so much I was just wanting a little more info. My conclusion is that one can be born with a great arch and relativley short metatarsals...but it's how you use your feet that counts...

Gillian Murphy( my first love when it comes to Ballerinas) has really long feet..but she's very quick with them..for example her Bouree's.

Alina Cojocaru is going to need a podiatrist soon...she has a bunion forming on her right foot...( poor thing...I'm starting to like her too!)

Iczerman

I wish I'd known that you had a working knowledge of feet, the ballet lexicon and ballerinas including how they work their feet before making a total idiot of myself at length, defending someone who professed to be a total novice, including upbraiding and attacking other board members who I believed weren't helping by becomig too technical. Apologies everyone for any upset I caused. I'm an idiot.

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I'm an idiot.
Far from it. One thing you are, though, is very considerate. Many of us do sometimes forget that readers (not necessarily posters or even members) are the exact same novices we once were. It's good to be reminded every once in a while.

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I wish I'd known that you had a working knowledge of feet, the ballet lexicon and ballerinas including how they work their feet before making a total idiot of myself at length, defending someone who professed to be a total novice, including upbraiding and attacking other board members who I believed weren't helping by becomig too technical. Apologies everyone for any upset I caused. I'm an idiot.

Far from it, Simon...This have led to one VERY interesting thread/discussion

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Wow! No worries! It's SO good for us to all step back now and then, and start from the base to re-examine our thoughts. I've loved this discussion!

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Don't feel bad.

I am a X-ray technician and I take LOTS of x-rays of feet! And have been in one or two surgery's ( on others) to remove bunions. ( more like shaving the bone off......OUCH!)

I am new to ballet..but thanks to Youtube and the ABT ballet dictionary..I'm just starting to scratch the surface of the art.

I wish I'd known that you had a working knowledge of feet, the ballet lexicon and ballerinas including how they work their feet before making a total idiot of myself at length, defending someone who professed to be a total novice, including upbraiding and attacking other board members who I believed weren't helping by becomig too technical. Apologies everyone for any upset I caused. I'm an idiot.

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I also think of "good feet" as a ballerina whose footwork draws attention to the feet. For instance Merrill Ashley might not have had feet as pretty as, say, Lynn Seymour's, but every time I watch the Ballo della Regina video my eyes go to her feet and how impossibly fast and coordinated they are. Which goes back to the saying that very often, it's not what you have, but what you do with it, that counts.

Among beautiful feet, I'm surprised I haven't seen Altynai Asylmuratova on the list.

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I make a distinction between good feet, and beautiful feet. Good or bad feet referring to how well they are used, or not, beautiful being the visual appearance, i.e. a high arch.

While I love a highly arched foot, I don't like the very hyper extended knee that often accompanies it. Chacun a son gout! (Sorry, I need a tutorial in typing accents.)

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While I love a highly arched foot, I don't like the very hyper extended knee that often accompanies it. Chacun a son gout!

I feel the same way. I love to see a beautiful arch but really hate the ugly "caved-in" knee which absolutely spoils the line of the dancer's leg. Those knees seem to go along with the extreme extension too. But if the supporting leg isn't perpendicular with the floor of the stage.....ick. :wallbash:

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Very interesting point that about good feet and beautiful feet, LiLing. A dancer who I think demonstrate the difference well is Maria Alexandrova. Her feet are not beautiful (I don't think so) - square, with little arch - but she uses them like pencil points, drawing as she dances.

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A few names have been mentioned, but I wonder if I could solicit more recommendations for men with beautiful feet. Is what constitutes beautiful feet in men significantly different from women? Also--if it isn't muddying the waters too much--why do you think it is that hyper-extension is not also a phenomenon with men? At least, I've never noticed it (usually the opposite is the problem!). The links to photos and videos have been great, by the way.

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Men with beautiful feet include, IMO, Peter Boal, Yuri Soloviev, Andris Liepa, Laurent Hilaire, Manuel Legris (not a high arch/instep but a nice line and used skillfully) Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, and others. Off the top of my head I cannot think of any differences in the use of the foot between men and women--the foot points and presses against the floor in essentially the same manner. Men must appear to have more "weight" than women in their movements, but I think that has less to do with the foot than the way the rest of the body is used. I will say I do not like too much hyperextension in a male dancer as it makes the line appear less solid.

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Also--if it isn't muddying the waters too much--why do you think it is that hyper-extension is not also a phenomenon with men? At least, I've never noticed it (usually the opposite is the problem!).
Because just as men, as a class, are inherently stronger than women, women as a class are inherently more flexible than men.

I for one dislike the recent trend towards higher and higher extensions and 180-degree split jetes in men's dancing. :clapping:

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I've seen that line in women's jumps too. Grrr. It ruins both the picture in the air and the arc of the jump, as well as the efficiency of everything. Just no!!!!!!!

Meanwhile, I hear so many young 'uns talking about getting their 'oversplit leaps'. :clapping:

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One of the few men in which I've seen this hyper-extended/hyper-curved arch/instep is Taras Domitro-(ex Alonso's dancer, now Principal with SFB). He is, in general, extremely flexible. He was recently highly praised for his overly curved cambrees of his "Melancholic".

http://oberon481.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c...e5ea4970c-800wi

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/media/alter...4250-300140.jpg

http://www.almamater.cu/sitio%20nuevo/siti...-Taras--peq.jpg

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Hyperextension of the joint (as opposed to really high extension like lifting your leg to your ear) can be really beautiful, if the dancer knows how to use it well and at the right times. For me, it can really complement nice feet. I remember seeing a performance by Patricia Barker where the curves of her leg in hyperextension fit the curve of her instep in a really beautiful way. She's another example of a dancer with really beautiful feet (and legs and body and ...).

Teacher friends tell me they teach kids with hyperextended joints differently. For example, in a developpe a la seconde, the standing leg that supports the body cannot be hyperextended (knees not pushed back) in order to create stability, while the gesturing leg that's in the air is hyperextended for the best visual effect. Another striking example for me: hyperextended dancers have to think very much about how they do rondes de jambe a terre, releasing and engaging their hyperextension at the right times to balance stability with aesthetics.

I think men's legs and feet can be judged on the same general qualities as women's, but I don't like it when men are too Gumby-like and appear (emphasis on appear!) to be weaker. Tsiskaridze is an example of this for me, and I don't like how he looks.

--Andre

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Yes -- there's a difference between:

hyperextension - the ability of the joint to travel beyond straight

extreme flexibility

and...

hypermobility syndrome -- which is beyond extreme flexibility, and may include weak tendons, ligaments, a lack of collagen in joints, etc.

Hans will probably be able to explain this more fully/more eloquently!

Ed Watson is another extremely *flexible* male dancer:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multi...06_1174522a.jpg

But back to feet -- I've always enjoyed how Ivan Putrov uses his feet when jumping -- they are fully articulated and make a nice line. There's a youtube vid of him at 15 (and super skinny!) that just hints at it -- I'll see if I can find something better when I get back from class!

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This has been such a marvelous thread. I wonder if it gave NY Times Dance Critic, Alistair Macaulay, the idea to write "Notice the Feet in that Body of Work" Well ... it's a possibility, anyway. (Just fantasizing.)

Here's the Link (from our Wed. Links forum.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/arts/dan....html?ref=dance

Macaulay writes:

... I honor the importance of feet and footwork in dancing. Every part of the body — arms, fingers, thighs, eyes, waist, pelvis, neck — can make an irresistible contribution to this art. But the effect of the foot is disproportionate. Make a complex rhythm with your hands (like drumming), and in visual terms it’s just a local phenomenon. Make even a simple a rhythm with your feet — slow, slow, quick, quick, slow — and your whole body is engaged.

The foot is at the root of poetry. Lines of verse are divided into feet, and that’s because words, music and dance were once intimately connected. And in terms of physical complexity, the foot is among the most miraculous mechanisms of the body. (Dancers with broken or fractured bones in their feet have given great performances.) The instep, the toes, the heels and the soles can be used together in multiple ways. Whether in shoes with heels (as in flamenco, tango or ballroom); sheathed in ballet slippers and poised on point (as with women in ballet); or bare (as in much modern dance, in most African dance and, often with bells round the ankles, in Indian dance), the foot is what gives human movement much of its texture and meter.

He favorites in ballet as seen in NYC nowadays?

-- Natalia Osipova: "the exceptional thrill came from the liftoff provided by her feet; in more than 30 years of watching ballet I've never seen that degree of spring." "Ms. Osipova is remarkable to watch just standing on point."

-- David Hallberg, photographed from Ballo alla Regina. (I suspect something was edited out to fit the page, because Hallberg feet or footwork are never actually discussed in the print article.)

-- George Balanchine's choreography: "I was struck again by the many ways he deploys the feet [in The Nutcracker]. The Soldier doll in Actd I does much with his feet flexed and on his heels. The Coffee dancer keeps crossing one knee in front of another and gliding on her slippered soles. The male Tea dancer's feet keep exploding sideways like firecrackers. The Marzipan soloists hops on one point while slowly revolving full circle, then performs jumps in which each foot writes rings in the air (known as gargouillades)."

He also puts Argentine tango dancer Gabriel Misse (accent on the final "e") in the first rank, as well as several practitioners of Indian dance. He includes a tribute to Isadora Duncan, as channeled by Mark Morris in Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.: "Here again was the beauty that Duncan revealed in walking, running, hopping and skipping."

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-- Natalia Osipova: "the exceptional thrill came from the liftoff provided by her feet; in more than 30 years of watching ballet I've never seen that degree of spring." "Ms. Osipova is remarkable to watch just standing on point."

I would really quibble with the implication that her liftoff is provided by her feet. Many things contribute to a big jump, such as the shape of the legs and the timing of the movement. She may use her feet well as part of the mechanics of jumping, but her feet do not provide "that degree of spring."

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