Health & Body
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Q: I have an 8-year-old student who is coming along quite nicely in her technique, but I've noticed that one foot doesn't point as well as the other. What's up?
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Teaching Tips
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Q: I have adult ballet students who are asking me about foot cramping, soreness and achiness when dancing, especially in the heel and arch area. Could it be plantar fasciitis?

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Teaching Tips
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Working with a 9-year-old student, Alexandra Koltun asks the young girl to face the barre. She reviews fifth position, demi-pointe with the front foot and coupé devant. "I separate all the positions, so the student understands each one," says Koltun, founder and artistic director of Koltun Ballet Boston. She reaches down to shape the girl's foot into sur le cou-de-pied, leaving the heel in front and gently squeezing the toes around the ankle. "This position will equip the foot with more strength," she says.

Depending on a ballet teacher's preference and style of training, sur le cou-de-pied (meaning "on the neck of the foot") may be incorporated into class at different times and in various ways. From steps like pas de cheval to frappé and développé, the wrapped position can be fundamental to a student's technical development. Or it can be used less often and as a supplement to cou-de-pied front and back. Either way, the value of the position remains constant as a tool to mold and strengthen dancers' feet.

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Health & Body
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I have plantar fasciitis. What do I do? —Jacqueline

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After long hours on your feet, it may be tempting to slip on a pair of toe separators to passively stretch your toes apart as you unwind. However, you might want to think twice. According to Dr. Thomas Novella, a podiatrist who works with professional dancers in New York City, there is no clinical proof that toe separators help fix bunions. “Bunions are not caused by the angle of the big toe at rest. They are caused by dynamic forces that snowball when you’re walking,” he says. “So you’re trying to do something at rest to fix a problem that occurs when walking. It’s apples and oranges.”

Rather than stretching the toes passively, which may weaken the muscles around the toes, Dr. Novella suggests seeing a podiatrist, physical therapist or orthopedist, who can recommend safe active stretches that strengthen those muscles.

Photo courtesy of Gaiam

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