Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Position: standing at the barre holding with 2 hands, barefoot, parallel.
Exercise: Elevé slowly up to the full height of the arch, keeping alignment as top priority. As the dancer lowers, they will be careful to go slowly, not allowing any wobbles in the feet.
The teacher will place their hands under the heels and pull up while the student pushes down, creating resistance - this will activate the muscles in the feet to a higher degree. The dancer should push against the teacher’s hands and create pressure to push the heels down.
Once the student does a few of these correctly with the teacher’s hands, the teacher can remove their hands and have the student do the same exercise without hands. They should still create the same amount of resistance as if their teachers hands were still there.
This is called the orange juice exercise because I tell students that there is an orange under their heels, and they have to squeeze all the juice out of the orange as they push the heels down.
Teacher notes - This exercise is the first, because it is essential. Students should understand that any time they lower the heel from an elevé or relevé, they should be squeezing their foot down, rather than “plopping” it down. Reiterate this as often as possible in regular classes, and try saying “squeeze” instead of “lower” when teaching combinations to help reinforce the concept.
Also note that often when students do this, the muscles in the back of the leg (hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and soleus) will kick in, and cause the knee to bend. Watch that their knees stay straight!
Reps: Students should begin with between 8 and 10, and add several each day they repeat the exercise. Work towards 30 with no wobbles.