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Footholds for dancers
- Veena Basavarajaiah, Bangalore

February 22, 2010

Dancers weave imagination into movement through bodies. The feet are like the wings to the body.The feet bear the body weight almost allthe time while moving. Unlike most animals balancing on all four limbs, human beings are constantly doing a balancing act on their feetto stand erect. Especially Bharatnatyam dancers seem to spend their life time of dancing on their feet. With hours of thattadavus,kudithamettadavus, thattu mettus and theermanadavus the feet are subjected to immeasurable stress and strain. Footwork being acharacteristic feature of many classical dance forms, it should be made mandatory to warm up the feet effectively to avoid infringementof pain and injuries.

The foot acts like a tripod. The weight of the entire body is distributed on the heels and the balls of the feet. One has to be aware of the alignment to ensure that the weight is equally distributed on both feet. There is also a tendency to roll in or out with the foot and this could be seen through the imprint on the soles of the shoes. Both hyper arched feet and flat feet can lead to discomfort and pain. Make sure the body weight is in the right place when you do different moves, especially when you land from jumps, walk or do thattadavus.

Exercises:It's very important to warm up one's feet before any dance form. Here are a few stretches and exercises that will help you takethe best feet forward.

- Vajrasana with flexed feet will stretch the arches and toes effectively. It also aids in strengthening the arches.

- A squat position with the heels on the floor is the best way to stretch your Achilles tendon.

- Strengthening the calf muscles through jumps and rises is very important to reduce the strain on the feet.

- Doing the mexican wave with your toes - to lift one toe after another and reversing it a couple of times to strengthen your toes.

- One could also try lifting marbles or small objects with the toes to make them more articulate and strong.

- Do asanas or stretches that will release the feet from bearing weight and inversions like handstands and head stands increase the blood flow to the foot.

Precautionary measures:
- Always dance on a wooden floor/sprung floor to avoid foot injuries.

- When you twist your ankle, rest it, ice it and support it with a crepe bandage.

- Wearing the right kind of footwear that supports your arches and correctly distributes the weight on your feet. Avoid wearing heel shoes for long hours.

- Wearing leg warmers and socks in cold weather keeps the ankle warm and less prone to injuries.

- Keep the ankles warm after performances, workouts or rigorous practice.

- Occasionally soak feet in hot water, salt water and moisturize it well to prevent cracked heels.

Dear dancers. Please take care, you cannot dance your dreams without your feet.

Veena Basavarajaiah is a Bangalore based solo dancer and choreographer who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Angika Dance Company, Attakkalari, Kalari Academy, Gati Forum, Nritarutya, Natyantharanga & Yana Lewis Dance Co. She has performed on various platforms across India, UK and Europe. She is the recipient of Special Mention Young Achievers Award in 2007 and also a paneled artist of the Indian council for Cultural relations.