Anna Greenberg of ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe.

Where Do You Hold Your Tension? 6 Top Trouble Areas and How to Ease the Strain

All dancers have their go-to tension area: shoulders that creep up towards the ears, a hand that becomes a claw, or feet and ankles that grip. Yet "Just relax" can be the hardest correction to apply. We spoke with four teachers for their tips on releasing tension throughout the body—and how it's all connected.


Feet and Ankles 

Jayme Thornton

The problem begins with the misconception that a huge, deep plié is desirable or even necessary onstage. "If you make a deep plié, it's passive," says Jhung. He advocates for what he calls an "active plié": It's smaller, with the core engaged, and begins and ends with the toes.

"Put your brains in your feet," says Jhung. "If you push off the floor, if you work your foot, it points." But, he specifies, before a relevé or a pirouette, "you have to flatten the toes and release the foot."

Cartwright has an image to help with that release. "Feel that your heels are lengthening towards each other (or past each other, in fifth position) as you plié." This will fire your hamstrings, and allow gripped toes, knees and ankles to effortlessly relax. "It spreads the foot along the ground, almost like a frog's foot—and a frog has wonderful elevation!"

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