Ballet Technique Problems – Sickling and Rolling of the Feet and Ankles

Sickling and rolling are terms that are often used in ballet dancing to describe problems with the alignment of the ankle. Many ballet pupils don’t have a clear understanding of this problem, and therefore battle to correct it.

Another word for sickling is supination. Supination or sickling is when you are standing on the outsides of your feet, and the foot has that same curled in look when it is pointed. When the dancer does a releve, their outer ankle bone is pulled into misalignment.

Pronation is the opposite of supination. This is the rolling in of the feet and allowing the arch to drop towards the floor. When the pronating dancer points her foot the inner heel is pushed forward, and this is often referred to as winging the foot. When the ballet dancer does a releve, the ankles also tilt inwards towards the middle line of the body.

Most people think that the ankles are to blame for these two faults, but the ankle joint only points and flexes. The bones in the tarsus create any additional motion and the weaknesses are usually found here.

It is easier for ballet teachers to spot pronation or the rolling in of the ankles when the pupil is standing. The muscles that are used to lift the arch need to be trained to do their job correctly. Supination is easier to spot when the ballet dancer goes up into a releve, as there is more flexibility in the tendons and muscles on the outer part of the foot.

Sickling is very common in younger dancers, as they haven’t developed sufficient strength yet to hold the muscles of the foot in place when lifting their legs.

Sickling and rolling is difficult to correct. It is easier to get it right if it is addressed early in the dancers life. Pupils of six or seven can be taught to feel the difference between a sickled foot and correct alignment. They will need to be constantly reminded for as long as it takes for correct alignment to become a habit.

Some dancers try to point their foot so hard that it sickles. These dancers need to relax their muscles while you physically place the foot into the correct position.

Slow rises with the feet in correct alignment will also help to correct the problems. Strengthening exercises with exercise bands also help to strengthen the weaker muscles.

If you have young children to correct it is best to use imagery. Maybe you could tell them that fairies live under the arches of their feet, and if they let their arches drop the fairies will be squashed.

If a dancer turns her feet out too much, her alignment will also be effected. The feet will then roll in and place strain on the knees. A dancer must never be made to force her turnout, as this can lead to injuries developing later in life.

Keeping good alignment in the feet is very important while dancing, as problems in the lower body will work their way up and can cause injuries in other body parts like the hips and the lower back, that have had to over compensate.

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