Feet are one of several fetishes in the dance world. They are the anatomical tools that delineate a ballerina from other athletes and are commonly subject to injury.
Good feet are judged on the size of the dancer’s arch, their high instep, strength and endurance. For those not blessed with naturally flawless feet, much is done to mould the foot and contour the lower leg. Young dancers engage in basic and often dangerous routines with weighty objects, such as pianos and phone books, that force the ankle joint upward and the toes downward.*
More recently, however, foot-stretching machines and padded sleeves provide safer alternatives for improving arches. Pilates and simple exercises that encourage dexterity of the feet are also taught to strengthen the metatarsals.
Over the years, there have been many dancers praised for their beautiful feet. Their feet have become so beautiful, in fact, that one could spend days perusing images and video clips of their feet at work.
And so here I attempt to rank ‘great feet’. It is by no means definitive. Click on the dancer’s names to see their tootsies in action!
1. Paloma Herrera – American Ballet Theatre
2. Sylvie Guillem – Sadler’s Wells Theatre
3. Alessandro Ferri – American Ballet Theatre, retired
4. Svetlana Zahkrakova – Bolshoi Ballet
5. Lynette Wills – The Australian Ballet, retired
6. Lucia Lacarra – Bavarian State Ballet
7. Polina Semionova – Berlin State Opera
8. Tamara Rojo – Royal Ballet
9. Lucinda Dunn – The Australian Ballet
10. Maria Kotchekova – San Francisco Ballet
* No, we do not endorse putting toes under a piano to improve a dancer’s instep! All dancers are encouraged to improve their feet using safe methods that lead to prettier – not injured – feet.
Marissa Shirbin was a dancer, is now a romancer and an editorial assistant at Right Angle Publishing
Photography Tim Richardson