By Angela D’Valda Sirico of Dance Teacher Web
Each year some of my students come to me and ask me to give them some sort of guidance or plan for the summer, something that will give them definite exercises and movement to work on. Some of them do go to summer programs and there are a lot of good ones out there, but others because of finances or other obstacles, are not able to do that and yet really want to keep improving those skills that either have or are starting to get while they have free time over the summer.
I have certain plans that I can give them and I encourage them to make charts up for themselves so that they have a regular schedule during the weeks that they are off from school. The really eager ones will often ask me if they can come into the studio to practice, and as long as they are not interfering with classes, or planning to come in at inconvenient times, I am happy to encourage them to do so. Anytime that I find a student is willing to go the extra mile I try to support them. However, most of the exercises that I give can easily be done at home or on vacation.
One of the most common plans that I give is using the Theraband. I love this simple tool because you can fold it up and take it anywhere and it can be so helpful in strengthening the legs and feet and also the upper body. Most dancers need constant strengthening of the feet and ankles especially anyone going on pointe. I have 5 basic exercises that dancers can do that really do strengthen those areas. Of course, consistency is always the key to any program but I have seen great results if they do these exercises over a period of even 2 months.
- Pointe and flex
- Toe tapping
- Outward and Inward rotation
- Wing and drop
- Pointe and flex
Sit on floor with both legs straight in front and feet flexed, place Theraband around both feet making sure that the little toes are tucked inside the band holding the band with both hands. Slowly point both feet making sure to work through the balls of the feet to get there and then slowly return to flexed foot position making sure to transition through the balls of the feet. Do 20 repetitions
- Toe Tapping
Again, sitting on floor, legs straight ahead, feet flexed with band around both feet holding with both hands, slowly point both feet and then tap the toes 20 times. Return to fled foot position
- Outward and inward rotation
Sit on floor with Right leg straight, Left leg bent foot flat on the floor by right knee. Place Theraband around right flexed foot and then hold it with both hands on left hip. Slowly rotate foot outwards without letting leg move (It is a small movement) and then return to starting position. Do 10 repetitions. Now place band on right hip and rotate foot inwards and return to starting position, again without moving leg. Do 10 repetitions. Repeat with other leg.
- Wing and drop
Lie on floor on your side in a straight line supporting upper body on the elbow. Bend underneath leg so that knees are together, lower leg right angle. Keeping leg parallel slowly raise leg up 45% winging toes upwards. Slowly lower leg and drop toes down (sickling foot). Do 10 repetitions. Repeat on other side. I tell my students that this is the only time they can sickle their feet! This exercise strengthens the outer tendons of the ankle that are the main support system for the ankle.
These need to be done facing the barre and holding with both hands or holding a chair or other surface. Feet together slowly rise up through ¼, ½ and ¾ point and then return to flat foot using resistance on the way down with good use of calf muscles. Make sure that knees are together and that thighs are fully pulled up, buttock muscles and core fully activated. Do 10 repetitions and then do single foot rises, 10 with right foot and ten with left foot. Keep the other foot tight against the ankle. After these repetitions make sure to slowly stretch out the calf muscles. Do these every day and gradually increase the amount of repetitions. Do not do more than 3 sets at any time and always stretch between sets.
These exercises are just one plan to give students to help them to strengthen over the summer. Therabands come in different resistances and depending on the strength of the dancer I would normally recommend them to use a medium resistance band which is usually green. If a dancer is extremely weak then I would start with the lightest band.