The key principles of alignment will help to prevent dancers from getting injured; during ballet classes you may hear, “knees over toes”, “turn out from the hip” and “don’t curl your toes up” but the principles are the same for any dance discipline. Keeping your legs strong and aligned properly means you are using them correctly and have less chance of injury.
When correcting alignment, begin with the hips. All rotation must come from the hip joints, not the knees, ankles or feet. The pelvis must be neutral, which is the safest position to work from. If the hip bones are forward, they are in an anterior tilt with an arched lower back; if they are titled backward the hips are in a posterior tilt, and tucked under. The knees should match the direction of the toes, which can be checked during pliés – the knees should track over the toes and the feet should not be rolling in.
It is important to keep the feet strong – imagine the foot is nailed to the floor, through the heel and each side of the ball of the foot. This reduces risk of injury and prevents the feet from rolling, which is especially important en pointe. The toes should be straight and lengthened on the floor which encourages articulation and secure, correct pointe work. When the dancer moves to demi pointe, ensure the work is not sickled by continuing to lift the arches. The weight should be centered over the first two toes to help strengthen the muscles on the outside of the ankle, and guard against ankle sprain.
Once the legs and feet are aligned correctly, it is important to keep your weight over your toes, and not to swing back into the heels. Don’t lift the heels, but ensure your weight is in the balls of your feet ready to move.