The “pointe” of a dancer helps create the artistry and beauty of dance. There are many different muscles that dancers use to pointe the foot and ankle to create this aesthetically proficient position. Often in female ballet dancers, the Flexor Hallucis Longus (FHL) muscle becomes overworked to plantarflex the hallux and talocrural joint. It is important to teach your dancer how to relevé using the triceps surae, which includes the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. These two muscles are pure ankle plantarflexors, and should be the primary mover of ankle plantarflexion, instead of the FHL. The following exercise is used at Westside Dance Physical Therapy to assist in the rehabilitation of FHL tendinopathy, and many other foot/ankle disorders when appropriate.
By using a step, have your dancer place his/her entire foot on the step with the toes off of the front edge. Make sure your dancer’s knee is not positioned in hyperextension because the gastrocnemius muscle will be in a position of passive insufficiency. This makes it more difficult to activate the gastrocnemius. This exercise allows the dancer to relevé without using the FHL for stability during the movement, creating an aesthetically proficient position by allowing full talocrural joint plantar flexion with the triceps surae