One of my personal pet peeves when watching dancers is during slow routines. The dancer onstage is supposed to be holding a beautiful position but the audience sees shakiness. A lot of this distracting shakiness comes from balance and ankle strength. Here are a few exercises you can do to strengthen your ankles and improve control.
This is a big duh, but it’s still important. Every time you warm up, try different ways of balancing. To keep your students from getting bored, make a game out of it. Balancing competitions work well for getting kids to hold it. This can work for young and old dancers.
Use therabands to perform different ankles movements with some resistance. Simply flex and point, rotate and wing and you’ll build a bit of strength.
Plié, relevés on one leg
Go to center and practice plie, releves on one leg. Place your working leg in passe or low second and do each movement over the duration of four counts. This should be very slow and shaky if your dancers are beginning to intermediate. Advanced dancers shouldn’t have a problem with this slow exercise which means they should push to do 10+ sets or until it burns. This will improve ankle strength and the control will translate into better a la second turns, adagio, and movement quality.
Spell your Name
While either sitting on the floor or stretching in downward dog, spell your full name with your ankle. This forces your ankle to move in different ways without external forces. For young girls, make a game out of it by having them spell different words.
While pointe takes large amounts of ankle strength to begin with, there is no doubt that continuing to work on pointe will build your ankle strength. If your students are beginners, keep them at the barre and practice relevés over and over. This will help them tremendously.
Have a good ankle exercise? Comment below and let us know.