November 22, 2011

My Left Foot

.. is getting all the love. Just look at my new blog banner - out of those five feet, three are shots of the "famed" left one. Strictly speaking, that foot is my only ballet-y body part. It is flexible and has a naturally strong instep and a high arch. Leftie is also getting all the praise in class. "Such a nice and strong foot.. but you really have to work on the right one". Sadly, Right Foot is nothing like its sister. Low instep, and has a hard time aligning itself over the box. Neither does it help that the entire right leg is a wee bit longer than the left, which has resulted in a weaker pull-up of the knee. Oh, how I wish I had two left feet! Well, you know what I mean.

Of course, no body is entirely symmetrical. We all have our left-right idiosyncracies. Don't get me started on the many oddities of mine.. Right, I already did! On closer inspection, that left pied is not only nicer, it is also a tiny bit longer. The right foot is shorter and noticeably wider. It makes for interesting (pointe) shoe shopping, if nothing else. Toes are pretty much the same, short and in sort of square formation. Good for pointe shoes.

Left foot. Enjoys the spotlight.

Moving up, the right foot bends better down. This is probably a very common feature, that your "push-off" foot has a deeper plie. It does make landing from jumps a bit of a delicate job. The other heel is likely to lift off the floor when coming down, but I´m not sure if forcing it down is such a good idea? I do love to jump though, especially when I get a good bounce from rebounding!

My right side has also better turn-out, but the left side is stronger in extensions to the front and side. That left leg is also much more flexible than the right, to the point that teachers must think I'm always slacking off on the first side! When we do the pied/talon a la main -stretch, and let go off the foot, right leg sinks down to 90 degrees right away. But the left one stays at approx. 130, and on a good day I can hold it for at least 6 counts! So, the left is good for developpés devant and a la seconde but the right one does a much higher arabesque and attitude! Thank goodness there is some balance.

Yesterday we did this simple stretch for penchés at the barre: back leg on the barre, stretch. Leg off, penché arbesque. Hands on floor, turn away so that thigh of back leg rests on barre. Shuffle yourself as close to barre as possible -> upside down split! Then "walk" a little forward with hands and lift back leg off, try to push it further. Walk back again and press thigh against barre. Repeat. I had my left leg up when our teacher observed. "Johanna, get yourself closer to the barre, leg higher, more!" I'm like, are you kidding me? Any higher and my standing leg is gonna lift off! Never seen hand-stands being part of classical ballet rep..

Edgar Degas: Grand Arabesque, troisième temps.
The model could have been me! ;)

It's seriously annoying. Because the moment we switch sides and I have my stretchier leg in action, I get praised for getting it right! But it's not a question of effort. It's just the way my body works or does not work. The first time I even tried to do splits I must have been 22 already! To this day I cannot do a full split with my left leg in front. But I´m happy to say it's getting better since I re-started ballet five years ago. There´s still enough crawl-space for a cat, but at least toddlers are getting too big to fit under!

Perhaps if I had started ballet before my teens there would be less pronounced differences. I did sports long before dance, but having two equally strong and flexible sides was never an issue. I am still working on it, and hopefully left will catch up with right. And right with left.

How about you? Any interesting body specs you care to share? :)


  1. I totally understand the "one foot prettier than the other" thing. Except for me it's the right foot. Funny thing is that I broke the 5th metatarsal in my right foot when I was a teenager... yet that foot is stronger and more bendy than the other one. It's frustrating for sure. I don't know if you can get The Perfect Pointe book where you are... it's rather expensive, unfortunately, but there are a ton of great exercises in there for improving strength and flexibility in the feet/ankles. It didn't make mine anywhere near equal to one another, but did seem to help the weaker foot be able to do more (would probably help more if I actually did them on a consistent basis). Glad I'm not the only one with this problem!

  2. Wow, we are so alike! My left foot is also more banana than the right, and also a touch longer!

  3. Another here with a good left foot and a pesky homely right one! It's absolutely stunning that my two feet and ankles can be so different. My right foot is more flexible but weaker and points nicer in ballet flats but is treacherously fickle en pointe. My left foot has a flatter instep and is less flexible, but looks and functions soooo much better en pointe, probably because it is stronger. I am working with the Theraband and other foot and ankle exercises to get them to converge at some good blend of both sides' traits.

    I also have flexibility for days in my hamstrings and lower back when it comes to flexion...I can do the front splits on either side and rest my head on my knees in leg-on-the-barre stretches and have good extension to the front and side. spine is very inflexible in extension and I have a long torso so my cambres and upper body arabesque SUCK! Also, my inner thighs and hip ligaments in that area are very tight. I can't do a straddle split or get my legs to full seconde position. Oh well...I'll just keep stretching and working on it.

    Like you said, we all have our personal strengths and weaknesses as few of us are blessed with perfect ballet bodies. I just find it fascinating to learn more about how my own body works and am amazed that it can do so much of what I ask it to do that I can't be too disappointed about my limitations :)

  4. It was so funny to read this, because my body is similar, except opposite of yours!

    My right foot is flexible, strong, and has a great instep. My left foot I am super shaky on-- particularly on pointe.

    My left leg is stronger and goes higher, though. But my right leg has better turn out and thus better form. My body is all kinds of weird!

    I'm right handed, but when I did gymnastics and tumbling I was left-leg dominant, as I also am snowboarding/surfing, etc.

    I think it balances me out a bit at times, like in pirouettes en dehors. I feel more in control when turning to the right, but I am on my left foot, which is weaker. Turning to the left en dehors, on the other hand, feels harder and slower and yet sometimes my turns on that side are so much stronger and well-balanced just because I am on my right foot. Really interesting and funky. In fact, I just began pointe and can do a pirouette en dehors to the left but not to the right, even though I'm a righty. My left foot just doesn't feel solid enough to turn en pointe on yet.

    I'm sort of glad I have the trade-off, though, because I often see other dancers in class who can pull doubles or triples on one side, but as soon as we go to the other they are staggering out of their singles.

  5. I gotta agree with what Rori said - I'm glad that I'm not the only one with left vs right foot issues!

    Rori, I have heard good things about the Perfect Pointe book, but I'm afraid my budget is somewhat tight.. Classes cost a lot already, and then there are pointe shoes to be replaced, and tickets for occasional live performance.. Well, you know!

    I'm happy for you that you got that broken foot back in shape - and I'm astonished that it's even better than the other one!

    Thanks for sharing :)

  6. Hi Four-Eyed Ballerina!

    Our feet may have been seperated at birth ;)

  7. Hi Kaija!

    I really liked what you said about not being too disappointed about your limitations, and about being amazed what your body CAN do! Too often we tend to focus on our flaws and dismiss our strengths.

    What we need, in addition to strengthening & streching regimes, is to dance intelligently. To use whatever we have to our best advantage!

    By the way, I have tight hip ligaments as well - and I hate it! It's the last frontier stopping me from achieving those high arabesques and full-split grand jetés.

    But we'll keep working on it. :)

  8. Hi Chelsey!

    Wow. I have the same problem with pirouettes! I'm a leftie turner, but on pointe my left supporting leg is stronger. My right leg has been getting better, I just don't feel secure on pointe. My knee likes to stay soft, it's such a wimp!

    Like you said, good that there is some balance. :)

  9. Just last week, someone in my class asked our teacher what to do if one foot was better than the other... his answer, "accept it." My left side tires out faster than my right side and I going right is just so much more natural, but I guess I'm kind of fortunate that I don't notice a decidedly big difference. One thing that I do love about ballet is that it does work both sides in some attempt to sort of even them out!

  10. It is wise to accept that we are not equally blessed on both sides.. But you can always improve a little! First you need to figure out why you are weaker, and then go about strengthening, stretching and even re-imagining the lesser side. Sometimes your body may have already caught up, but your mind has not yet accepted the change.

    Physically I can stretch my right knee as much as needed. But on pointe it still feels weaker - which makes me hesitant when I should be decisive!

    Of course, you can´t change everything for the better. Bone structure is written in stone. Accept that. But don't let the "bad" foot turn into a pegleg. Or as my teacher said: There are no excuses! :)

  11. I'm curious about your right foot en pointe. Would you post a picture?
    So weird that we do almost everything evenly: walk, run, stand around, sit, and yet somehow nothing ends up actually being even.

  12. Hi AdultBeginner!

    I guess I owe you that picture after posting so many of Nice Left Foot.. Though it is really not that bad, there is a little less instep and the right foot is not as flexible, nor as strong as the other one. You can see the diff best in seconde position, only that's too much info to post..

    But I'll take a pointe pic this weekend - just for you :)

  13. Did you every find a way to make your right foot stronger? I am preparing for "Junior Miss", Distinguished Young Women, and I am doing a ballet peice. I took ballet for 10 years and then quit about 3-4 years ago. I really need to do my dance on pointe but my right foot can not do anything while my left foot acts like its a peice of cake. Just wondering if you had any advice!

  14. My right foot is getting stronger, but it has been a very gradual process. I can do petty solid single leg relevés now, and echappés are better too. But I still need to be very aware of it all the time. Luckily my teachers keep reminding me!

    You might want to strengthen your weaker foot with relevés on a stair case, that way you get more action (without pointe shoes). Also flexing and pushing toes against a big pilates ball works well. Make sure that your weakness isn't caused by sickling of the foot or any other misalignment of the hip-knee-ankle line. Also check that your pointe shoes are not pushing you back.

    Try to choreograph your piece so that the stronger leg gets the harder jobs!
    Hope you can work it out. :)

  15. My left foot is stronger than my right foot too! I also do gymnastics, so I take off from the left foot generally, so it's a lot stronger.


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...