As Indian classical dancers we keep stomping away and those tired feet must be screaming for help during intense training sessions.
Have you ever thought about the structure of your foot? How it contributes to create your rhythmic footwork? and most importantly how it's development may have been affected?
Dr. Juhi Bharnuke (Mumbai) gives you a detailed explanation of what might be happening to your feet and how you can rehabilitate with a bit of love and care.
Enjoy and keep stomping!
Sangeet Natak Akademi set up by the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, has recognized eight dance forms:-Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Sattriyaunder under the umbrella term Indian Classical Dance forms. Bharatanatyam dance involves all three common aspects, ‘Nritta’ which is rhythmic body movements, ‘Nritya’ depicting story through facial expressions and body movements and ‘Natya’ which is the combination of the two. ‘Nritta’ includes actual gestures or movements.
Constantly varying footwork ranging from slow feet tapping to vigorous foot pounding forms the framework of Nritya. Alternate heel & forefoot stamping pattern is a characteristic pattern of footwork exclusive to these dance forms.
Additionally, some Bharatanatyam dance postures involve overly turned out feet (For e.g.: Aramandi) The forefoot is turned out even further than the foot axis, putting an additional strain on inner side of foot. This may result in a typical, functionally hyper-pronated foot. Dancers often tend to maintain this foot position thus encouraging faulty gait pattern even outside of the dance studio.
Moreover, the presence of ankle bells (ghungroos) further increases the load on complex joints of the foot. Each ankle bell consists of about 150 ghungroos contributing to about 1.5 kg of weight on each ankle. Excessive foot loading due to tapping over the hard surface for prolonged years may produce high compressive joint force over talocrural, subtalar and metatarsal joints thereby altering foot structure.
Image copyright: SADMSA
At the end of pedobarographic measurement using pressure platform, it was observed that dancers present wider fore-foot and mid-foot as compared to non-dancers. Intense practice and training in Indian classical dance form for prolonged years over hard surface may cause alteration in the foot structure. Continuous tapping of feet with alternate heel-forefoot pattern may interfere with normal development of the foot. Increased pressure over tarsal and metatarsal joint may alter the structure of the foot resulting in wider fore-foot, mid-foot among dancers.
Dancers presented 21% high arch index than non-dancers which is a direct indicator of flat foot. Indian classical dance training begins at a very young age between the age of 4-6 years. The maturation of the foot arch takes place at the age of 5-7 years; therefore early practice of the dance may cause high impact forces which may interfere with the growth and development of arches of the foot that may lead to flattening of the foot arches. Prolonged years of dance training including rhythmic feet stamping causes excessive loading of subtalar joint leading to calcaneal eversion talar adduction, talar plantar flexion and tibiofibular medial rotation which may be another reason for pronation of the subtalar joint resulting in flat feet.
Fig.1: Comparison between Foot Geometry and Pedobarography of (a) Dancers and (b) Non-Dancers
Tapping of the foot to a musical beat may have resulted in increased pressure distribution over sole of the foot among dancers as compared to non-dancers. Among dancers, highest peak pressure was observed at forefoot. Footwork of Indian classical dance forms involve complex footwork with emphasis on forefoot stamping unlike that is seen in western dance forms like Tap dance and salsa in which there is either pounding of entire foot or heel. This may have resulted in increased pressure distribution over forefoot compared to remaining foot among dancers.
Thus, to summarize, Indian classical dance forms involve repeated loading of lower-extremity and intricate footwork that result in altered foot geometry, pressure distribution among dancers performing them.
Indian classical dancers should be educated and trained about the foot problems associated with these dance forms and timely exercises to prevent them.
Following are a set of exercises that can be performed by dancers during warm-up and post dance practice to prevent long term complications associated with overuse of static and dynamic foot structures like chronic ankle instabilities, plantarfascitis, heel-pain.
Fig 2: Plantar-fascia stretch
Fig 3: Calf stretch
3 sets of 10 repetitions with 10 second hold
Fig 4: Plantar fascia mobilization with refrigerated cold bottle
3 repetitions twice daily for 5-8 minutes
Fig 5: Ankle mobility exercises
Fig 5 (a): Active Ankle plantarflexion
Fig 5(b): Active ankle dorsiflexion
Fig 5(c): Active ankle inversion
Fig 5(d): Active ankle eversion
1 set of 10 repetitions bilaterally
Fig 6a & 6b: Instrinsic foot strengthening (toe curls)
3 sets of 20 repetitions
1) Mukherjee S. Indian Classical Dance Forms(ICDs): “Three dimensions of Analyzing their Unity and Diversity; Gujarat, India: Chitrolekha International Magazine on Art and Design, 6;2016
2) Chatterjee Arpita. “Improved health status through prolonged practice of dance as a therapy- a case study.’’ International Journal of basic and applied Medical Sciences.2013,(3).pp.180-183.
3) Chatterjee. A. “Therapeutic value of Indian classical folk dance’’; West Bengal State University; 2013
4) Morphometric Analysis of Ankle and Foot in Classical Bharathanatyam Dancers Using Foot Posture Index(FPI) And Plantar Scan Images (PSI). Department of Anatomy, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India;2016
Dr Juhi Bharnuke (PT) is an Indian classical Kathak dancer and Master of Physiotherapy in Musculoskeletal Science (Hons) with pain management as her primary elective. She has been trained in Indian classical dance form Kathak from Gandharva Mahavidyalay, India and aims to continue her exploration in the field of movement science for South Asian Dance forms.
Juhi has conducted research on balance performance and gait analysis in Indian classical dancers and aspires to explore the health profile of Indian classical dancers. She is currently studying the causes of ankle and foot pain amongst professional kathak dancers.
She has presented a research poster on balance performance amongst Indian classical dancers at the International Association Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) annual conference in Hong Kong, October 2016