Health & Body

Ask Deb: What Exercises Are Best for Strengthening Ankles?

Getty Images

Q: I've made the transition from ballet to modern and have noticed an alarming decrease in ankle stability when on relevé. I assume this is due to a loss of ankle strength. What kinds of exercises are best for strengthening my ankles to alleviate this problem?

A: Modern dance often asks you to control your ascent and descent from relevé in odd positions and postures, unlike in ballet where you typically are going from a pointed foot, stepping up into piqué or going straight from a plié to a relevé. I suggest that you first practice balancing on one foot (in parallel and in turnout) while turning your head and doing simple port de bras. As your balance becomes better with that variation, add in cambré and bends with the upper body for more of a challenge. Try timing yourself and balancing on one foot for up to three minutes at a time. You'll be amazed at how long three minutes can feel when on one foot!

After some successful flat-footed balancing exercises, begin to challenge yourself doing single-leg rises with the balls of your feet on the step of a stair, or on a thick book. Allow your heel to lengthen below the book or stair and then slowly rise into relevé, sometimes with a straight leg, sometimes rising from the smallest of pliés. Do both legs separately, and notice how many it takes to begin to feel tired. I don't think it is asking too much to work toward doing 20 relevés without much fatigue. Please pay attention to how you are rising: Remember that you want to keep the weight evenly balanced on the foot between the second and third toes, avoiding pronation or supination.

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.