Ideas and advice from teachers
When several of my 8- to 11-year-old jazz dancers complained that their ankles often rolled over during class, I consulted a local physical therapist, Joshua Kernen, DPT, CSCS.
Kernen explained that weak ankles are common in kids in this age range who are growing quickly. He suggested three exercises that I incorporated into this class’ jazz warm-up. I do two sets of 15 reps each.
Sit on the floor, legs straight ahead, parallel and slightly separated.
Exercise 1: Move feet slowly and deliberately between flexed, demi-pointe, and pointed positions.
Exercise 2: Relax the feet. Bring the ankles to a sickled position and return to neutral.
Exercise 3: From a relaxed, parallel position, bring the feet into a beveled position. Return to neutral.
Within a few weeks, all dancers stopped rolling their ankles entirely and began pressing up to a stronger relevé. Stronger dancers could do these exercises using a lightweight Theraband for added resistance.
As the dancers sat and performed the exercises, I used the time as a teaching moment. We practiced correcting sickles while flexing and pointing. Some dancers who couldn’t feel when a foot was sickled began to look for, recognize, and correct a sickle—a step in the right direction.
Kernen recommended that dancers who had rolled their ankles wear ankle supports—the kind that can be purchased at any drugstore—during class for six weeks. (He emphasized that only dancers who had twisted their ankles should add a brace.)
Not only did my students’ ankle strength improve, but they came to better understand the proper use of the ankles and feet during jumps and complicated footwork. —Holly Derville-Teer
Holly Derville-Teer is the owner/director of Hillsboro Dance Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.