Sickled Feet in Ballet | How to avoid sickling | Why do you get sickled feet in ballet?

Sickled Feet in Ballet | What, Why, and How to avoid it?

Ballet is hands down one of the most complicated forms of dancing. The beauty of ballet dancing lies in how gracefully one performs it. However, an artistic error named sickled feet can make the dance unsophisticated along with harming the health of the dancer as it exposes the dancer to certain foot and ankle injuries. 

For some, dance is an escape, a therapy. But it sure involves a lot of tricks and hard work. Likewise, for ballet dancers, sickled feet are one common error. This article will talk about sickled feet and how to avoid them in detail. 

If you are a fan of dancing or a beginner, this article can be of great help as it covers and clears the following aspects regarding sickled feet:

  • What are sickled feet?
  • Different perspectives about sickled feet
  • Why does sickling happen?
  • How to avoid sickling of the feet?
  • How to prevent sickling of the feet?
  • What can be done at home?
  • Conclusion

Sickled Feet: All You Need To Know

Keep reading to learn more about sickled feet

Sickled Feet in Ballet | How to avoid sickling | Why do you get sickled feet in ballet? 2 - Daily Medicos
Image credit Freepik

Sickled Feet: What Are They?

No, sickled feet have no connection with any kind of medical health condition. Instead, it is a foot position that can cause severe foot/ankle injuries and tendonitis. In the case of a sickled foot, a dancer’s toes are curved inwards with heels positioning backward.

Sickled Feet in Ballet | How to avoid sickling | Why do you get sickled feet in ballet? 3 - Daily Medicos

Let’s have a look at the above-mentioned picture. The one on the right shows a sickled foot. A ballet dancer never aims for a sickled foot position. Instead, they look for a “fish” position on their feet. 

A sickle is a point at which the foot is turned in and is by and large more agreeable than a fish. A fish can look extremely beautiful, particularly in arabesques and penches as it simply finishes the line.

In simpler terms, to sickle, your foot is to turn it inwards. Let’s have a look at an easy example; taking your right foot and turning the lower leg towards your left foot rather than going it to the right side, your foot would sickle. This way, not just do you stretch muscles of the foot, yet you break the line (that adds beauty to the dance) also.

Sickled Feet: Different Perspectives

Sickled feet can cause some serious injuries in the foot and ankle creating a medical emergency. Let’s have a look at the idea of sickled feet from two perspectives;

  1. The dance perspective
  2. The medical perspective

The Dancer Perspective

Sickling of feet is not limited to ballet dancing. It can happen in any dance form from retiré to élevé to relevé to jeté. 

For a dancer, their forms and line are what adds aesthetics to their dance. This is why a lot of dancers avoid sickling their feet. A correctly pointed food that flawlessly turns into a rounded shape is what dancers aim for; it gives a beautiful and strong touch to their dance rather than a sickled foot. 

Secondly, dancers avoid sickled feet and prefer a perfectly pointed foot because it gives them room for a better and more functional technique that subsequently helps them with stronger balance. 

A lot of technicians and veteran dancers have emphasized avoiding sickled feet as it destroys the dancers “Theory and Technique (Cyril Beaumont).” Let’s talk about what different veterans had to say about sickling:

  • Cyril Beaumont said that the foot should be extended as wide as possible while pointing forced downwards. If the dancerr’s foot is forcws inwards and not outwards, it destroys the dance theory and technique. 
  • Another ballet teacher. Sarah Arnold explained how feet can sickle both ways; inwards and outwards. She further explained sickling by calling it “banana foot” saying that inward sickling of the foot is more common amongst the dancers.

The Medical Perspective

The posture where the toes turn inwards is known as supination in medical language. This can be harmful to one’s body and posture. As the medical specialists suggest, supination can cause weakness, injury, and pain due to the outwards stretching of the ankles.

However, many of the dancers are said to have naturally supinated posture. This can occur due to any chronic ankle instability or due to too much stretch on the peroneal tendon leading to chronic ankle instability.

Sickled Feet: Why Does It Happen?

Sickling in ballet dancing is a common mistake. To avoid doing so requires a lot of training. Training will help the dancer build strength, understand the posture and technique of dances, awareness of the body, and most importantly avoid sickling.

Follow the below-mentioned list discussing the reasons for the sickling of the feet:

Low Strength And Ability

One of the main reasons why dancers sickle is because their foot does not have the power to hold the posture together. This can also cause the posture to be different and incorrect. 

Incorrect Orientation

Another reason why dancers may sickle is that they do not have proper awareness and know-how about different postures and positions. This causes them to perform the wrong step which results in sickle feet.

Tolerance

Since dancers are always on their toes (literally), they are often fatigued and this lowers their tolerance level. This is another reason why their feet sickle; because there is too much pressure on their ankle, they can sometimes either suffer injury or lose control over their posture.

Sickled Feet: How To Avoid It?

Sickling can happen due to several reasons, but worry not as it can be avoided! 

Following are the ways you can avoid sickled feet:

Build Strength

As mentioned earlier, sickling happens when a dancer is weak and does not have the strength to stand correctly for long. 

To avoid doing so, a dancer must get himself trained. This training can help him build strength and strong muscles of the leg, ankle, foot, and glute likewise avoiding sickling. The more time spent in training the more will be the chances of avoiding sickling.

Build Tolerance

As mentioned earlier, sickling happens when dancers have low tolerance because they are always performing and jumping which also leads to ankle injuries. 

To avoid doing so, dancers must build endurance. This will help them prevent lower-body injuries and develop strong core stability.

Correct Orientation

As mentioned earlier, wrong orientation and posture are what cause sickled feet. 

Ever heard of proprioception? Well, that is a skill where the dance actually knows their feet positioning and orientation. Of course, this skill is learned over time. Dancers who get proper training can differentiate between mundane dancing and skillful dancing.

Proprioception can help position the ankle, hips, and knee well to avoid any chances of injury.

Sickled Feet: Can It Be Prevented?

Well, we just got done talking about how to avoid sickled feet; but that is something we do when we have experienced sickling. Let’s now talk about how sickled feet can be prevented.

Personal Instruction

One important point to note is that when you fail to do something the way it is supposed to be done or needs correction every time you do something, it means that you need help.

Likewise, in dance, if you are sickling or getting injured over and over again, you need help too. This help could arrive in the form of personalized instruction from a veteran ballet dancer or a physical therapist.

But not everyone is looking out for a costly lesson. The good news is that you can get better even after one or two personal instructors or physical therapy sessions.

In case you can not afford to get a personal instructor, here is a little guide that you can do at home:

  1. While in the sitting position on the floor, wise open your legs in a parallel position. Make sure your knees face the roof.
  2. Once correctly positioned, point your toes towards the floor. Make sure you fully point the ankles.
  3. Next step would be pulsing your toes towards the body sides without letting go of your ankles. Make sure you do so slightly.
  4. You need to keep repeating this till your muscles start to cramp. 
  5. Lastly, you would know that the procedure worked when you feel the muscles working when you place your hands on the outer calves.

Physical Therapy

If your feet often sickle while dancing, the best solution would be to go for physical therapy. While looking for a physical therapist, make sure you opt for one who is a veteran and is experienced in treating dancers.

Physical therapists can help dancers in avoiding future injuries in the ankle, hip, or back muscles along with helping in identifying early problems and correcting postures.

Not Every Trend Is For You

One very important thing to look out for is social media. You need to understand that not every trend is for you. Every day there is a new trend on social media and TikTok especially in the field of dancing. 

Dancing is a complicated art and hence it is recommended to not try any new dance posture without having prior knowledge and training.

Sickled Feet: What Can Be Done At Home?

Using A Ruler

In the first place, sharpen yourself to the ideal lower leg/foot arrangement with a showing utilizing a ruler or measuring stick. 

Next, in a low weight path by having yourself demonstrate a pike, at that point fixing up the ruler with your shin bone. In an ideal arrangement, the ruler should run along your shin bone, at that point through your second and third toes. 

Next, at that point position the ruler/measuring stick along your shin bone; indeed, it should agree with the second and third toes. You may have to shake your weight further toward your large toes to get the ruler to arrange appropriately.

Using A Theraband

  1. Stand corresponding with the feet around 6″ separated. Tie a theraband around your lower legs so it is extended a piece. Now, do releves, bringing down your heels without a plie. These ought to be done gradually, feeling the weight similarly ready of the enormous toe and pinky toe and with the shin bone arranged as portrayed previously.
  2. For better stamina in the external calves and  so you can address a sickled foot when it is pointed; protest a pike and tie the wads of your feet together firmly with a theraband. Point your feet and attempt to wing them, isolating the bundles of your feet from one another, battling the theraband to do as such. You might have to flex your feet a little while doing so.

Conclusion

Sickled feet is an expressive dance term that implies an artist is bending the foot toward a path that isn’t supported creatively and can possibly harm the foot and lower leg. 

To address sickling, artists need to foster both actual strength and further developed consciousness of how they move. Preparing with the correct dance educator or working with an actual advisor who has some expertise in treating artists might be important to address sickled feet before they cause injury. 

Sickling can prompt shortcoming in lower leg ligaments and ongoing lower leg unsteadiness, making them more helpless against wounds like tendonitis, injuries.

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