Tucked away in a peaceful studio behind the dancefloor in Conway Hall is a class transforming the feet of all who enter it. Stiletto Detox, the brainchild of Adriana Pegorer, uses beautifully simple methods to alleviate pain, retrain muscles and unlock a freer feeling to movement in general and dance in particular.
A well known tanguera in the UK and abroad, Adriana has been studying dance and movement practices for 20 years, qualifying in Pilates amongst others, and blending successful methods into her teaching of both Argentine tango and contact tango. She uses her specialism in feet to help dancers, runners and athletes, office workers and the elderly.
As a devotee of foot rolling, I was curious to see what more I could learn about foot health for tango. I went along to Stiletto Detox on a Friday evening to find out what it’s all about.
Arriving early, I chatted with Adriana about the importance of foot health in tango. She has a unique and useful perspective as both a tango teacher, social dancer and health practitioner. Over the years she has found that complaints from her friends and colleagues about what they are struggling with in tango – wobbly axis, difficulty executing decorations, challenges with disassociation, lack of precision in ochos, and so on – can be vastly improved, if not solved altogether, by taking care of the feet.
Adriana began by giving us an overview of the structure of the foot, emphasising how the ball of the foot requires particular attention since most of the body weight is loaded there when wearing heels. Examining the foot of a model skeleton, I hadn’t before appreciated just how many bones there are in the foot. Some are really tiny and surprisingly knobbly to the touch.
Around and in between the bones are a network of nerves and tendons. Understanding where these nerves run, as well as the location of key tendons and ligaments, helps explain the location of soreness you may feel after wearing heels. In extreme cases, numbness and long term damage can occur when these nerves are restricted.
Whilst foot pain is the common after effect of wearing heels, the alteration to your axis also throws off the knees and spine from their natural positions. Though we might not want to throw away the heels, especially in tango, awareness of how the knees and spine are designed to function helps inform your positioning when wearing heels.
We started by exploring finding our ‘sitting bones’ in a seated position, shifting weight to get a sense of the position of the spine and hips. We then began a series of movements with a small ball aimed at massaging and relaxing the feet, in turn loosening up the knees, hips and spine. The movements are performed seated to begin with so you can focus on what is happening in the foot without bearing weight. After several minutes of guided rolling with the ball underfoot and varying the pressure we stood up and walked around. I noticed a feeling of lightness in the foot and an ease of movement in my knee.
Eventually we migrated to standing on a mat and repeated the exercises. With your full weight the pressure on the ball is much increased and a toe stretching movement had me instantly hooked. My toes have never felt so happy.
We finished by exploring the feeling of leaning backwards beyond your axis. Standing against a wall we played with angles until we let the wall completely support us. It is an interesting sensation for the spine and hips. Coming back to upright gives you a new perspective on your axis and the natural alignment of your whole frame.
At the end of the class I felt lighter and looser in my feet, knees and lower back and could happily have danced for the whole evening. I had a dinner to rush off to but even walking down the corridor in street shoes felt different.
Adriana gave us the red balls to take away and work with at home. I’m a convert to the toe stretching and am convinced my feet are happier for it. I’m tackling a hip problem at the moment and it will be interesting to see how what I’ve learnt will help. Overall, it was an enlightening class with great relevance for tango. I would recommend it to dancers of any level, men included.
Find out more
Adriana’s classes are held on Friday evenings in Conway Hall (the perfect prep for Carablanca). The next 5 session course starts on 5 May and you can attend the whole course or drop in to a single session. If you’re booking the 5 week course, use the promo code AMY to get 5 classes for the price of 3. Class attendees also get a £20 discount code for shoes on my website – be sure to ask Adriana for the code when you arrive.
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