IN LIFE AS IN DANCE: GRACE GLIDES ON
BLISTERED FEET _ALICE ABRAMS
As said by Alice Abrams when you see a dancer performing, all you see is the glory of the performance but have you ever thought the agony that the dancer faces while practising and
performing the dance?
Many people are unaware of the stress and injury that occurs in a professional dancer, when people see them as performers, they often forget that they are the athletes who endure a great amount of physical trauma to their bodies.
Most of the dancers begin their practice at a very young age, which along with long hours of practice leads to negative impact over the musculoskeletal system of their body. It has been estimated that approximately 90% of professional dancers suffer from at least one musculoskeletal injury during
their career. (3) Literature states that around 64- 80% injuries occur in lower extremities and about 75% affect the muscles and soft tissues and around 34% injuries occur at the foot and ankle. (3)
South Asian dance styles are very unique and dynamic where the dancer has to perform repetitive movements along with simultaneous stamping of the feet, jump, pirouettes, and positions where the knees touch the floor forming a sophisticated patterns.
Have you experienced the pain while practising 'Kuttanam' (jumping downwards on the balls of the feet and then flattening the heels) or when you have to bang your foot onthe floor while performing the 'Adavus'?.
These can cause injuries that can be direct due to fall or indirectly due to stretching of the muscles as a result of inadequate warm up or due to repetitive use of same steps done hundreds to thousands times over the years. Your ankle joints help you move gracefully or powerfully, and they absorb shock from all types of landings. Because the ankle is the most frequently injured joint in dancers, you need to spend some quality time on exercising the muscles around this joint to help prevent injury.
So here are few simple ankle and foot exercises to keep your foot stronger and help you perform better. Practice these exercises along with your routine workout plan and dance pain free.
A) Stretch/Flexibility exercises
1. Gastrocnemius Stretch
Lean against a wall with right foot behind you.
Keep right knee locked and heel touching the ground.
Lean forward until you feel a stretch along your calf.
(You may have to move the foot closer to the wall or
further back in order to feel the stretch) A stretch should
Attain a good, pain free stretch and hold for 15 seconds then switch and stretch left leg, repeat 4 times
2. Anterior Tibialis Stretch
Sit in a chair and cross your right leg onto your left thigh.
Your malleolus, or ‘ankle bone’, should be about 2
inches off your thigh.
With your left hand, grasp the top of your foot and pull
your foot towards your left side, making sure movement
occurs at the ankle joint. A stretch should never hurt.
Attain a good, pain free stretch and hold for 15 seconds
then switch and stretch left leg, repeat 4 times.
B) Range of motion
Sit on a table, bed, or couch and rest right leg so that
your foot hangs 2 inches off ledge.
Using your toes as a pencil, draw small circles in the air,
clockwise then counter clockwise, for 15 seconds in each
direction. Repeat one more time for each direction.
Now draw large circles in a similar fashion, again
clockwise then counter clockwise for 15 seconds in each
direction, then repeat. Movement should be occurring at
the ankle joint. Repeat exercises with left foot.
C) Strength/ Endurance
1) Plantar Flexion Against Band
Wrap a resistance band around the forefoot and hold on
to it with you hands. Pull the band taunt, but not too tight
Increase resistance as you progress through reps.
Next, attempt to point the toes as far away as possible
from the shins and then slowly return to the original
Perform the reps slow at first and then add speed in
increments as you also increase the resistance.
Perform 10-15 reps on each foot.
2) Dorsi Flexion Against Band
Anchor the band around a pole or heavy bench and wrap
one end around the top of the foot. Make the band taunt,
but not too tight.
Next, pull the toes back towards the shins as far as
possible and then slowly return to the original starting
Perform the reps slow at first and then add speed in
increments as you also increase the resistance by moving
further away from the pole or bench. Perform 10-15 reps
on each foot.
3) Towel Scrunches
Sit in a chair and stretch a towel on the floor in front of
Begin with right foot and keep heel on the ground and
Using your toes scrunch the towel towards you. Scrunch
the towel as far as possible, then straighten and repeat a
total of 3 times.
Switch to left foot and repeat. (When exercise becomes
easy, place a book on the far end of the towel and then
4) Toe Raises
Stand in front of a chair and place hands on chair back.
Raise up on your toes and hold for two seconds, lower
until heels touch the ground (take about two seconds to
Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions. When exercise becomes easy,
perform exercise with one foot at a time.
5) Single-Leg Heel Lift
Stand on one foot and lift the opposite knee up to hip
Reach the arms forward towards the horizon and look
Next, press down into the forefoot and lift the standing
heel off the ground as far as possible while maintaining
Then lower the heel back down to the floor under
control. Repeat several more time and practice a variety
of tempos, such as ‘up and down up on a 5 count’, as
well as some isometric holds at the top.
Advanced Version: Eyes Closed- for further stimulation of the
Proprioceptors in the lower leg and foot, try this exercise all
over again with the eyes closed. Perform 10-15 reps on each
6) Toe Taps
Sit in chair, begin with right foot. Keep heel on the
Raise toes up toward body, and then lower so toes touch
ground. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Repeat toe taps for left foot.
1. Ankle strengthening program Program. By Manuel A.
Escalante, Jr. BS, ATC, EMT
3. Analysis of lower extremity muscle flexibility among
Indian classical bharatnatyam dancers.V.Anbarasi, David
V Rajan, K. Adalarasu. International journal of medical,
healgth, biomedical,bioengineering and pharmaceutical
engineering. Vol 6. 2012.
4. Musculoskeletal pain and injury in professional dancer;
orevalence, predisposing factors and treatment.
Happiness anulika aweto, Oluwapelumi mariam awolesi,
Racheal olumaykun Alao. Indian journal of physical
therapy, vol 2.
5. Morphometric analysis of ankle and foot in classical
bharatnatyam dancers using foot posture index (FPI) and
plantar scan images (PSI). K Vijay Kumar, Dr. S Senthil
Kumar. IOSR Journal of dental and medical science
Volume 15 2016.