Dancers pay a lot of attention to their feet. In ballet and modern, dancers constantly seek to improve their arches and insteps. The arch is the curved structure on the bottom of the foot, while the instep is the curve on top of the foot. Unfortunately, arch and instep height is largely determined by genetic factors over which we have no control. However, you can improve the look of your instep by increasing the strength and flexibility of the ankle and foot. Even if you perform these exercises religiously outside of class, you still must concentrate on using the foot properly throughout all dance movements.
Sit on the floor and bend your right leg. Position the midpoint of the resistance band across the ball of your foot so that it cradles your foot from side to side. Hold one end of the band in your right hand and the other end in your left hand. Straighten your right leg, with your foot flexed. Point your foot, pulling on the band to provide resistance. Then, flex your foot. Repeat 12 times with the right foot and 12 times with the left. Gradually work up to doing three sets. As you are pointing and flexing your foot, work through your foot properly. When you point, extend your ankle fully before pointing the toes. When you flex, begin with the toes and then flex the ankle. Keep your toes elongated throughout the sequence. If your toes curl at any point, reduce the amount of resistance on the band. This exercise builds strength and flexibility in the ankle as well as coordination of the foot.
Stand facing the barre or other waist-high surface. Perform a demi-plie in first position. At the bottom of your plie, lift your heels as high off the ground as possible. Straighten your legs, keeping your heels as high as possible. Repeat eight times. As you perform this exercise, pay attention to the alignment of your ankles as you lift your heels. Your ankles should be aligned with your second toes. Do not let them drift over your big toes or pinky toes. This exercise increases the flexibility of the ankle and helps you achieve a high demi-pointe position.
Stand facing the barre or other waist-high surface. Perform a demi-plie in second position. At the bottom of your plie, lift your heels as high off the ground as possible. With controlled movements, lower your heels back to the floor. To control the movement, imagine that you are squishing a tomato under your heel. Repeat eight times. As you perform this exercise, pay attention to the alignment of your ankles during the raising and lowering phases. As with the previous exercise, your ankle should line up with your second toe. Additionally, as you lower your heels, ensure that all five toes remain in contact with the floor. This exercise builds strength in the arch of the foot and flexibility in the ankle.
Do not place your toes under a couch or allow others to push down on your feet in order to stretch your arch and instep. This can cause permanent damage to the bones of your feet and shorten your dancing career.