Wobble-free balance—a sign of ankle stability—requires strength in the smaller muscles on all sides of the lower legs and ankles: the peroneals, the tibialus posterior and anterior and the flexor hallucis longus. Many dancers overuse their calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus, when trying to find balance on relevé, says San Francisco–based physical therapist Kendall Alway of ODC's Healthy Dancers' Clinic. "It's helpful for getting into relevé, but it doesn't stabilize you," she says. In other words, it gets you there, but that muscle alone won't keep you there.

You shouldn't wait for a surgery or injury to build muscles in your ankles and lower legs. Strong ankles support solid, beautiful lines and protect dancers while they're moving, whether through quick direction changes, landing from leaps, turning or balancing on pointe.

Here are some of Alway's favorite ankle-strengtheners that you can add to your routine.

Pressed Parallel Relevés

This exercise helps you practice bearing weight in relevé over the correct part of the foot—between the first and second toes.

1. With a hand on a barre or lightly touching the wall for balance, stand in parallel with toes and heels together. Make all the skin between the two feet touch.

2. Rise up onto full relevé without allowing any space between the anklebones. Slowly lower. Do 10 reps three times a day.

If this is uncomfortable, try holding a tennis ball between the feet, but don't allow the feet to wing or sickle.

Four-Way Resistance-Band Workout

These exercises strengthen stabilizing muscles all the way around the lower legs. Start with 10 reps of each variation.

1. The basic pointe-and-flex: Sitting on the floor with legs straight out in front, loop the band around one flexed foot at a time so you can focus on pressing sequentially and slowly through ankle, ball, toe, then back through toe, ball, ankle. Keep your working heel on the ground.

2. Cross the right ankle over the left knee, making a figure-four shape. Wrap the band around the right toes and use two hands to hold the ends of the band behind your back at your left hip. Pointe and flex slowly, avoiding winging or sickling the foot. Switch legs and hold the band at your right hip.

3. Supination, or sickling: Use one foot as an anchor to supinate the foot with resistance. With legs extended, wrap the band around your right toes. Cross your left foot over your right, allowing the left knee to bend as necessary to use the left foot to pull both sides of the resistance band out to the right, so your right foot pronates open. With a relaxed foot position, pull the right foot laterally against the band to supinate, then resist as you slowly pronate. Switch legs.

4. Change the direction of the band's resistance for pronation, or winging. Set up the same exercise, but with legs side-by-side. Wrap the band around the right toes. Use your left foot to hook both sides of the band and pull it inward so you can position legs side-by-side and the band is pulling the right foot to a supinated position. Pull against the band to pronate, and then slowly return to the supinated position.

Don't Forget the Core!

Ankle strength doesn't mean a thing without correct alignment and a solid core. "I wish everyone would do side planks on their forearm every day," says Kendall Alway, of ODC's Healthy Dancers' Clinic. "It's just so good for so many different kinds of stability."

She recommends holding for one minute on each side, with the shoulders stacked over the bottom elbow, pushing the bottom hip toward the ceiling.

Start on the forearm to make sure you have correct shoulder placement before trying the full side plank with the wrist under the shoulder.
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How does your studio handle enrollment for boys? Photo courtesy of Shona Roebuck

I recently set up a classical ballet partnering master class for my youth dance company. A pas de deux class, if you will—think Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, etc., chock full of promenades, pirouettes and lifts.

I knew we would have plenty of girls interested in signing up, but enlisting boys is always a challenge.

Without much thought, we offered it for free to boys who attended because, here's the thing: no boys = no class. At least, in a ballet partnering class—every Sugar Plum Fairy needs a Cavalier, right?

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Photo by Sean Boyd, courtesy of White

Julie Hammond White is an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she directs the dance education BFA. Here, the mother of two (Townsend, 10, and Dominic, 7) takes us through a typical week of juggling her personal and professional life. We caught up with White in October on the first day of work after her fall break. —Jill Randall


6:30–10 am Up and trying to rouse the boys. Throw in a load of laundry, pack lunches, set out uniforms. Drop kids off at school and head to the library. Finish planning advanced ballet.

10:30–11 Read 99 (?!) work e-mails. Taking a few days off is a bad idea…

11 am–12:30 pm Teach advanced ballet. I'm doing what I call "vitamin phrases": 2- to 3-minute phrases that focus on one aspect of ballet (this week, petit allégro).

12:40–1:55 Teach Methods in Dance Education. This is a course that all juniors, regardless of their major (performance/choreography or dance ed), must take to learn how to effectively teach dance in K–12, studios, higher education or community programs.

3:30–4 Grab a quick salad at restaurant across the street. Read letters from the promotion committee—passed the first stage of being recommended for full professor!

4–6 Grade DED 360 papers. These take a while. DED 360 is one of two writing- and speaking-intensive classes for the major. In their papers, students comment on eight areas of diversity as defined by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and find a media resource that addresses each to compare and contrast their views.

7–8 Grocery: bread, cantaloupe, Go-GURTS, apples, bananas, peanut butter, Nutella, pasta, cheese and oatmeal.

8–9 Laundry. Three loads. Also do a quick pickup of the house.

9 Boys home from day with Dad. They shower, brush teeth and set out their clothes for tomorrow. I sign homework and read them a story. Hugs and kisses, then bed by 10 pm.

10–10:30 More e-mails. Bed.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of The Ailey School

Depending upon whom you ask, there are different approaches to mastering the art of turning. Whether it's fouetté turns or a single pirouette, every teacher tends to have their own unique way to break down the physics of pulling off balance, strong arms and quick spotting to students. And here's one more visual to consider, courtesy of master ballet teacher Finis Jhung.

Bottom line: There are never enough ways to describe how to do a pirouette.

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Do you call the pirouette position passé or retiré, or do you use both? What about the term élevé? Do you use it? Have you ever considered what these French words actually mean?

“Ballet terminology is somewhat subjective," says Raymond Lukens of ABT's JKO School. “Often there is no definitive way to say something. What's really important is to create a picture in the minds of your students so that they will do the step you're asking the best way possible. You can split hairs forever over this stuff!"

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Taylor Swift's latest music video for her hit song "Delicate" has taken the internet by storm since its premier at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards. (Is anyone surprised? 💁) If you've been watching headlines, you know that it's simultaneously dancey, goofy, nods at Margaret Qualley's dance advertisement for KENZO and is chock-full of secret messages for all of Swift's biggest fans.

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Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:

You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet Schoolwas far tougher.

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DaSilva (center) teaching at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts Center in NYC. Photo courtesy of DaSilva

Chanel DaSilva has two pillars of focus for every class she teaches: performance quality and musicality. The former Trey McIntyre Project dancer asks her students to really listen and be the music, emphasizing the importance of being expressive artists. She wants students to find that euphoric place dancers feel when they're under the lights with an audience watching. "I want that in class," she says. "Don't wait for the stage."

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