iczerman

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

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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?

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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.ballerinagallery.com/pic/guill01.jpg

Lynn Seymour:

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/pic/seymou05.jpg

Alessandra Ferri:

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/pic/ferri02.jpg

Paloma Herrera

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/pic/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.

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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.

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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.

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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....

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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.ballerinagallery.com/pic/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.ballerinagallery.com/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.ballerinagallery.com/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.ballerinagallery.com/pic/rojo03.jpg

You can check her out on youtube too.

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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.

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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.ballerinagallery.com/pic/mcbrid05.jpg

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/pic/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.

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

http://www.ballerinagallery.com/pic/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: )

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.invisionzone.com/blog/de...hp?showentry=45

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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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I think of good feet as those that work well -- like Baryshnikov's, or Peter Martins's -- they're also well-shaped, but the thing is that they start to point when they should and work with alacrity. It's how they take shape.

Monica Mason had great feet, they were so witty, they licked the floor. It's that ACTION that makes feet good.

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Monica Mason had great feet, they were so witty, they licked the floor. It's that ACTION that makes feet good.

Nicolas Blanc in "Emeralds" had that same quality doing the walks. It was gorgeous to behold.

Farrell's feet were beautiful to me because there was no difference between her foot and her shoe: it was all of one piece.

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Do you think perhaps we're getting somewhat over-involved in the politics of feet and the use of such within the dance technique of classical ballet from what the OP intended? This thread is evolving in a ballet connoisseur's dissection of the use of feet for ballet technique.

Yes, there are many ways to deconstruct the meaning of "good feet", however when I read or hear someone talk about a certain dancer having "good feet" I immediately think of feet like Rojo, Guillem or Hallberg.

Beautiful arched feet whether or not they actually work well are a criteria for entrance into schools and companies, though thankfully behind more important considerations such as artistry, technique, dance quality.

When I was a whippersnapper I gained entrance to White Lodge and at my audition even as a child I was asked to point my foot to see my arch, I have a very high arch and that was duly noted. Of course at 10 I was unable to use that arch and the foot in a fully realised way, but arch and instep are what's looked for at this basic level.

I wanted the OP to look at Kirkland in that Coppelia video because regardless of her physical and mental state at that time there are several beautiful beautiful balances and she uses her feet in a lyrical, evocative manner which I think for a ballet novice is a good example of a petit allegro/unsupported balance solo for a ballerina. Also it's one of the very very few films which exist of her which are accessible to the general public. Balanchine said of Kirkland she had the best balance of any ballerina he ever worked with.

I feel that the ensuing debate became something of an information overload for the OP who is just discovering ballet and is kind of alienating.

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Do you think perhaps we're getting somewhat over-involved in the politics of feet and the use of such within the dance technique of classical ballet from what the OP intended? This thread is evolving in a ballet connoisseur's dissection of the use of feet for ballet technique.

Actually -- no! The OP was remarking on comments on youtube, etc -- and you get comments re: bad feet on several ballet greats -- truth being, these feet aren't bad, and many of us consider them to be 'good feet' ------ it's all subjective!

And this is probably getting a bit board on boards........

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Do you think perhaps we're getting somewhat over-involved in the politics of feet and the use of such within the dance technique of classical ballet from what the OP intended? This thread is evolving in a ballet connoisseur's dissection of the use of feet for ballet technique.

Actually -- no! The OP was remarking on comments on youtube, etc -- and you get comments re: bad feet on several ballet greats -- truth being, these feet aren't bad, and many of us consider them to be 'good feet' ------ it's all subjective!

And this is probably getting a bit board on boards........

But Ami this is exactly my point. All the subsequent debate completely confused the issue. It's why I decided to illustrate the answer on the most basic level with pictures of feet which are considered "good" on pointe.

The minutiae of technique is incredibly alienating to ballet novices. If and when he wants to delve into the wider implications of feet and how they're used/trained in ballet that's further down the line.

This thread actually for me sums up why I have such a hard time of convincing my non ballet loving friends of why this is a wonderful, legitimate art form for everyone. It quickly can seem horrendously exclusory and exclusive. I purposely wanted to answer a total ballet novices question in a simple, clean and graphic manner.

How a top flight technician such as Rojo uses her feet is wonderful, yes, I agree, but it's a connoisseur's appreciation. It's meaningless to read when written in detail for a novice ballet goer. He didn't want debate or to open a can of ballet worms - he wanted a good accessible starting point to explore the art form at his own pace.

I noticed that the OP hasn't been back since, I just hope we haven't scared him off.

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:wink: ...sorry about my ignorance, but what does the acronym "OP" stands for...?

just curious..

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