by Marlena Juniman
Having the coveted “banana foot” may be beautiful but may also be painful because with a highly arched and flexible foot, more stress is placed on the section of the foot between the ankle and toes (metatarsals.) The dancer may also find it difficult to fit into pointe shoes properly. The foot may be unstable due to the heel tilting inward which can lead to weaker ankles and possible ankle sprains and Achilles tendinitis.
A “Banana Foot” – Maybe Not What You Really Want
Ask any ballerina from aspirant to professional to define “good feet” and you might well hear the term “banana feet.” A “banana foot” is best defined as a ballet foot with a high, graceful arch and instep that is raised more than the normal or average foot. The arch runs from the toes to the heel on the bottom of the foot. The instep is the arched upper surface of the foot between the toes and the ankle. Having a high arch and instep contributes to a long, elegant line when the ballerina points and stretches her feet, creating a perfect symmetry from the dancer's hip to the tip of her toes.
Can I dance without high arches?
Many dancers feel they will be overlooked in class or audition if they do not have the perfect, high arch, high instep foot. In most cases this is not so. Ballet instructors, choreographers and performance judges will look for “good feet” but realize that it is rare that a dancer is born with the perfect foot. Good feet can be the product of correct, diligent training and learning to best utilize the feet you are born with. Many dancers spend years developing their feet, arches, strength and suppleness. This dedication will show itself in how the dancer presents herself en pointe. An exquisite line, good extensions and confidently beautiful epaulement can be as important, if not more so, than an over-extended foot.
In conclusion- - love thy self and thy feet
Because feet are basically bones and ligaments supported by intrinsic muscles, a foot with a more moderate arch is generally stronger than the cavis (high arched) type foot. Many dancers have or can develop lovely feet with concise and proper training. The amount of flexibility of the ankles, range of motion of the foot, and body strength of the dancer will show how safely she can progress to achieve a beautiful appearance in pointe shoes. Most importantly is the self confidence and pleasure that the dancer displays when in class or performance. A good body image and being content to work with “what you have” will shine through so much more than the “banana” at the end of your ankle.
Marlena Juniman is President Footloose Dancewear Inc. dba/Prima Soft