Strong ankles benefit all dance styles, from tap to hip-hop to everything in between! And not only are strong ankles great for dance, but they will also help keep you safe in your daily life. Dance classes in Port Orange incorporate some ankle stabilizing and strengthening exercises but working on your own or with a physical therapist will ensure you get the most benefit from this focused work.
Why Is Ankle Stability Important?
Port Orange dance studios teach many styles of dance, and in styles like ballet and jazz, one of the most important skills young dancers learn is balance. From the tiniest ballerinas to the most advanced students, balance skills come into play during warm-ups, which set dancers up for the rest of class.
While it’s a full-body effort to maintain balance in any position, balancing on one foot in steps like passe, arabesque, and pique requires a huge amount of ankle stability. The muscles of the feet and lower leg have to work hard to engage in order to help keep the body upright.
Working along with the core and back muscles, the intrinsic muscles of the lower extremities are constantly fighting to pull the body up. And that’s only what is happening when dancers are trying to balance in a stationary position!
Ankle stability also comes into play when dancers land from jumps and leaps. Weak ankles can’t safely sustain the impact of an entire body coming down from a jump. Without strong and stable ankles, dancers run the risk of strains, sprains, breaks, and other injuries.
What Contributes To Ankle Instability in Dancers?
There are several reasons that dancers in Port Orange may have ankle instability. One reason is genetics! Some people have genetic predispositions to ligament laxity, due to conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. In these cases, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable physician or physical therapist for advice on how to proceed with activities like dance.
Another reason dancers may have ankle instability is from previous injuries. The most common injury in dancers is ankle sprains. Once you sprain an ankle, you are highly likely to do it again. For this reason, it’s important to rehab your ankle properly after an injury like a sprain. More on that later!
Finally, another reason for ankle instability is simply not paying attention to your training. Sometimes dancers get caught up in the excitement of a new skill or the fun of learning choreography that they neglect to focus on the most important part of dance class – learning the proper technique, and executing it! It can be tedious and boring to work on some of the exercises needed to develop strong and stable ankles, but your body will thank you when it stays safe and healthy throughout your life!
Exercises To Improve Ankle Stability
In addition to what you are likely already doing in dance class, you can always add more ankle-stabilizing exercises to your own routine at home. Check out these different ways to improve your ankle stability!
Adding resistance to simple exercises creates a new challenge for dancers in Port Orange. For this exercise, you will need a resistance band to wrap around your foot. Choose a strength that you feel comfortable with. Most resistance bands come in a range of strengths, so be sure to do your research!
Inversion and Eversion With Resistance
Start by sitting on the floor with your feet straight in front of you in pike position. Create a loop at one end of the resistance band by typing it in a double knot, leaving enough room for your foot to fit into the loop.
Slide the loop over your right foot with the knot and the rest of the band on the inside of your right foot. Pull the end of the resistance band under your left foot and up your left leg, so that the outside of your left foot is helping create resistance against your right foot.
Flexing your feet, evert, or “wing” your right foot out, and release back to neutral. There should be resistance when you do this. Repeat this movement for 3 sets of 10, being sure to come back to neutral every time.
To work the inversion of your foot, turn the loop so that the knot faces the outside of your right foot. Cross your left leg over your right leg, with feet flexed. Pull the band under your left foot and up your right leg, so that the long part of the resistance band is being pulled taut by the left foot. Invert your right foot towards the left, and come back to neutral. You may have to adjust where your left foot is in relation to the band to create the right amount of resistance. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.Switch feet after you’ve completed this exercise on the right foot.
You’re likely already working hard in your Port Orange dance classes on balance, from balancing in passe for pirouette preparation to trying to hold that releve just a little longer in jazz warm-ups. But, you can practice your balance anywhere and everywhere to help improve your ankle stability!
One easy way to practice balancing is to incorporate a single-leg stance into your everyday activities. Brushing your teeth? Stand on one leg! Waiting in line for lunch at school? Stand on one leg! You can find multiple opportunities throughout the day to practice balancing.
For more of a challenge, however, you can incorporate instability into your balance. This could be as simple as standing on a pillow to practice balancing, or you could invest in equipment like a balance board to enhance the difficulty. The point of adding instability is to force your muscles to work even harder to keep you upright. If you find that you have great balance on a stable surface, try adding instability to the surface and see how you do!
Controlling the Landing Exercises
One of the ways dancers notice their ankle instability is in landing from jumps. Let’s face it, the jump or the leap is the most fun part about steps like grand jetes or chaine jetes, not the take-off or the landing. But, the take-off and the landing of jumps and leaps directly impact how well the jump is executed and can make or break (literally) the success of the step. Proper dance floor is important for this like we have at our dance classes in Port Orange.
To practice controlling your landing, start with simple exercises like skater runs. In a skater run, you start in parallel first, and leap out to the side with your right foot, landing on the right and sliding the left foot behind your body in a curtsy-like position.
Focus on sticking the landing of the right foot without putting too much weight on your left foot. The left foot is there just as an assist, not to completely take over the balancing. Also, make sure your landing foot doesn’t wobble. Articulate through the foot as you land, and use a slight plie to absorb the impact.
Then, leap over to the left side and place the right foot behind in the curtsy position. Repeat with care, not speed, to ensure you are balancing properly.
Ankle instability can become a chronic problem for some dancers, so make sure you are focusing in class on the not-so-glamorous side of dance – take off, landing, balancing, and strengthening! Happy dancing!
Check out this article – Sore muscles after dance class