Demi-Pointe, Balance and Toe Muscles
Demi-pointe features in many dance types, (or even walking in high heels!) But most particularly in ballet. Before getting into point shoes, dancers use the single leg demi pointe position to turn, balance in various positions such as arabesques and the movement at the ankle and foot contributes to jumps.
A recent study done by Ishihara et al 2022 looked at the contributing factors to successful stability in the single leg demi-pointe position and confirmed some interesting findings. Through out the information below you may encounter some unfamiliar terms. Please see the pictures for clarification of names of bones or muscles you may not be familiar with. Feel free to message me if you want any clarification on any of the names or ideas below.
The demi pointe is a unique position as it requires your whole centre of gravity to shift onto a small base of support. Your ankle joint should plantar flex (point down) to its fullest position and the toe joints (specifically the metatarsophalangeal joint) will extend (point up) by 80 – 100 degrees.
The study found that the muscles that flex the toes (Flexor Digitorum Longus or FDL) and the big toe (Flexor Hallucis Longus or FHL) are important for stability and controlling the centre of pressure or support when on demi point. These muscles were also found to be stronger in dancers than those found in non-dancers.
In particular, the muscles that flex the toes assist with forward and backward sway. This is vital information to assist us when approaching balance improvement for steps or combinations involving a single leg demi-pointe position.
Additionally, strength in the FHL helps to reduce injury occurrence in dancers as it reduces the pressure on the metatarsal heads.
(Metatarsal heads are the ends of these green coloured bones closest to the toes)
Essentially, the study found that dancers with stronger toe flexor strength and stronger FHL demonstrated better postural stability when standing in a single leg retire on demi pointe.
What does this mean for dancers?
If you find you wobble when holding an arabesque en demi- pointe or fall out of your pirouettes, you may want to try spending some time working on your toe flexor strength, particularly that of the FHL. Balance is more dynamic than you would think, with muscles such as the FHL and FDL adjusting constantly. See my previous Blog : Stability – Static or Dynamic? for more information.
Need some assistance with FHL and FDL exercises?
Contact Dancewright on 0493 536 222 or find details on the website www.dancewright.com.au to book in an initial session where your strength and balance can be assessed and addressed in your own individualised program.
References used for this Blog
Ishihara H, Maeda N, Komiya M, Toshiro T, Urabe Y. Investigation of the relationship between the morphology of the toe flexor muscles in ballet dancers and the postural stability during standing on demi-pointe: a cross-sectional study. J Dance Med Sci. 2022;26(4):205-12. https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.121522a (Including picture of leg on demi-pointe)
Picture of foot bones - www.kenhub.com