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Four things to look for in your relevé

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

At FlySpace Physical Therapy, we look at SO many things when we assess a dancer's relevé. Read on to learn about four things we look at just at the level of the foot and ankle!

Relevé - or rising up onto the toes - is a fundamental movement in most forms of Western dance. Like with all dance steps, it is important to have good technique when performing relevé. This ensures a dancer's joints and muscles are in the optimal position to support and facilitate strong movement and decrease risk for injury.

Here are four things to look for in a relevé...

1. Ankle to toe relationship

In a relevé position, the middle of the ankle, or talocrural joint, should be centered over the second toe. This alignment should be maintained throughout the movement. If a dancer wings or sickles when moving into and out of a full relevé, tendons, ligaments and joints within the foot and ankle will be subject to increased stress. Performing multiple relevés with poor form could make a dancer more susceptible to overuse injuries like tendinopathies or even ligament sprains.

2. Toe position

Another thing that should be considered when looking at a relevé is the position of the dancer's toes. The toes should generally be facing in the same direction as the rest of the foot. If the toes are angled into abduction - or away from midline - this could be indicative of a winged foot position or could be a product of forced turnout.

3. Toe Gripping

When the dancer goes up into relevé, the toes should not grip the floor. Toe gripping indicates that the dancer may be overusing a group of muscles called the extrinsic toe flexors. These muscles originate under the large gastroc and soleus calf muscles, cross the back of the ankle, and attach to the underside of the toes. Among their other functions, they help point the ankle and the toes. When performing a relevé, the dancer should be using their gastroc and soleus muscles to perform the bulk of the movement. Curling of the toes might be a product of a weaker gastroc/soleus complex or could just be a poor habit formed by the dancer. Either way, if appropriate, the dancer should work on increasing the strength and endurance of the gastroc and soleus muscles in order to perform a technically correct relevé, to let the toes relax into the floor and to avoid overuse injuries of the extrinsic toe flexor muscles.

4. Go straight up

When performing an éleve, the dancer should have a very minimal weight shift forward before rising up onto their toes. Additionally, they should rise by pulling their heel towards their sitz bones as opposed to pushing their talus forwards. If a dancer has a large shift forward before going into the éleve, this may indicate that he or she has a weak gastroc/soleus or poor neuromotor control. Either way, a dancer should spend time practicing rising straight up.

A word of caution: These are not the only things to look for. If you think your relevé is not technically sound or if you have additional questions about this step's execution, look to a dance medicine specialist to help you figure out what might need to be addressed. Happy dancing!

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