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Pointe Work for Men at School

Guest GuillermoFL

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Guest GuillermoFL

Hello to Everyone,

I've been studying ballet for a few years now, and given my growing interest for it I decided to start formal training at a professional school. Here in Mexico it is rare to find any male dancers, so there's a school which offers an accelerated career for males (8 semesters instead of 8 years) up to 20 years old. Between these males there have been recent issues regarding the use of pointe work, and some started asking their teachers for help with it or working outside school.

Recently we had what supposedly was a meeting to provide us with information regarding the topic because there were many of us having thoughts about the benefits we could get from wearing pointes. The "meeting" turned more into a "warning" and the principal of the ballet area told us that as from that moment it was forbidden for any male to do pointe work at any time at school, because the institution did not encourage "feminity in the male dancer". We were told the school required men for pas de deux work and such, and that in no way were we allowed to have girlish attitudes, and that we could search for the benefits of pointe work doing other exercises. It is important to note that here in Mexico the standards of sexuality are very delicate and society is not very open, remember the term "macho, machismo, etc" was invented here. You think things would be different in an art school, well they're not. One time a girl who studies choreography at school tried to do a coreography with men on pointe and she was told to stop encouraging "sissies".

We all were quite surprised by this reaction and some of us were thinking to file a complain on the situation. Before doing so we would ask for advice regarding the topic. Personally what I've heard on the subject is that pointe work for the male dancer exists and that it provides benefits such as the strengthening of toes and arches, improved balance and body allignment as well as sensations regarding elevation (muscle stretching), greater knowledge of how to help the ballerina on pas de deux as well as in coreographical means, and of course, that there are a few ballets within the repertoire that may have this technical needs.

One of my concerns is that if pointe work at school is forbidden at school many students will try it on their own or at other risky situations, it is a delicate topic and i think it should be consulted with our teachers, but if we are not allowed to do so, some of us will do it on our own and it may result in injuries or so.

I would like to know more on the subject and mainly experiences of the male dancer and the pointe work, such as: if it's truly helpful, if it may injure a male dancer (due to body differences with females), and opinions about if it really makes a man "girlish". Honestly I think that there are males who tend to be more feminine than others, with or without pointe work, and that it has nothing to do with it. I've done a little pointe work myself with a teacher I had before starting in my present school, and I never felt or thought of myself "less of a man" because of it. I think that teaching us how to wear pointes will not cause that every graduated student auditions for Les Ballets Trockadero, for example. Ballets like this work like any other and are as respectable, maybe they even habe the plus originality give. Anyway how a person will develop a carerr is a personal choice and should in no way affect the school.

Before I go to my teachers and ask to re-open the subject for discussion at school I'd like to have a strong background on why I'm asking to reconsider the matter. Mostly information and experiences on the subject would be very helpful.



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Hello, Guillermo, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! :thumbsup: I moved your post here to the Men's forum, where our male teachers will address it quicker!

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No, Guillermo, my man, study of pointe is not going to hurt any man's manliness, and neither will it alter his sexual orientation, which are different things. Pointe can be a useful additional study, if it is desired, by men for any number of reasons, but most notably to provide additional stretch over the arch for the strengthening and benefit of the pointing of the foot.


Short of character roles which require pointe work, I can't think of any essential reasons for men to study pointe, but it does come in handy when you have to teach. I fear that all your school has done by (to mix badly military and naval metaphors) "drawing a line in the sand" is "to have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve!"

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My, a lot of issues here.


Ballet is an in art in which you don't just MAKE the art, you ARE the art. But that is more true for women than men. The women are the art, and the men are needed to lift the women. In fact, men are DESPERATELY needed for that. Choreographers would never (or rarely) put a man on stage for something a woman could do because women are so much easier to hire. So your teachers are right, there really is no room for "girlish" men in ballet. From what I've observed, your skill as a partner --- dancing with someone else's body --- will be more important to a succesful career than your skills dancing with your own body.


You don't like it? Go to modern dance, which you can do any time you like at any point in your career. But as long you stay in ballet, tough luck, that's how ballet is. Only rarely are the men put out there as the art to be viewed; although I have seen it happen (and applaud it when it does). There's speculation that this goes way back to sexist roles, etc. But today I'm sure it continues because of the lack of men in ballet.


Another contributing factor is our male bodies. Female bodies simply have an easier time achieving and executing the positions and motions of ballet. I didn't want to believe this for a long time. And I've built some of the best form of any male dancer. But I also teach an adult beginner's class --- and I watch women come in off the street with feet and legs I had to kill myself for. Meanwhile, the men I see come in off the street --- oy oy, they are VERY stiff, they will have to work on flexibility for a LONG time before they can begin to understand ballet in their bodies. So what I'm saying is this: choreographers will build the main texture of a dance with women not just because the women are more plentiful, but also because they're able to hit the positions more easily. Sorry, that's just anatomy.


Does pointe work make a man "girlish"? Only if he wants to be when he puts them on. Even though pointe shoes are associated so exclusively with feminity, they're still just shoes. They don't make you break out into a bouree with fluttery arms, or anything. In the wider society, displaying your body is considered feminine. Well, that's what ALL ballet dancers do. You have to be willing to put your body into a shape, evaluate the shape, and try to improve it. Unfortunately, I think a fear of doing something "feminine" prevents some men from achieving their potential in the form department.


Is pointe work truly helpful? I think it has been for me. I think I've learned some things with it that I brought into my dancing. Could I have learned those things without pointe work? In theory, yes. In practice, maybe not. Sometimes approaching familiar moves from a different angle can elucidate them, sometimes you say "aha, THAT's what my teacher was trying to tell me". And I've found that certain moves en pointe --- sous tenu, for example --- could help me with certain moves from men's class --- assemble en tournant, for example. At this point, I know of no better way to practice assemble en tournant.


But there's also a social dimension here. Ballet is not just about you, it's ultimately about relationships and communities on stage. The girls feel very posessive of pointe work. They need to respect you; and seeing you struggle at simple things en pointe, depending on their maturity level, they might lose some respect. If they don't respect you, partnering will never work. As I said above, ballet needs manly men; the ballet studio is NOT the place to push or question gender boundaries. The teachers are thinking about these larger issues as well as your technical merits when they consider your training.


With pointe work, you could also de-balance certain moves you've already mastered. The balance en pointe is different. It can help you improve some things, but for other things, it can just trash the movement. If you practice a lot en pointe, you might even see these moves get worse (on flat). Just try doing pirouettes on the flat immediately after a barre en pointe. The teachers need you to perform in slippers. Ballet training is a very delicate thing, one you're only partially aware of as a dancer.


There's also the matter of time. Even if something is "harmless", it could hurt your overall training if it takes time or energy away from other things you need more. Ballet curricula are already so full of stressful things --- and men's class is no joke either. Consider the accumulated effect of all those things on your body at once. The girls don't do men's class. I would not seek to undertake pointe training during a busy part of the year. What if you're tired from pointe class and you end up botching a jump the next day and twisting your ankle?


I've given some pros and cons here. In summary, I would suggest you don't make a big deal about this at your school. I would drop any request to re-open the subject for discussion. They've made it clear what they want, they run the school, and they're not going to change.


If you still want to study en pointe, do it somewhere else. Eventually your school will probably find out, but that's OK. If they bring it up and you really think studying en pointe is beneficial, you can basically tell them it's none of their business since it's outside their school. Don't be mean about it. You can just emphasize that you're doing well in their program, that you're doing well at partnering, that you're dancing in a manly way, that you come to class on time every day, etc. No school can afford to kick out its men, especially not its good men. But if you take this route, make sure you really are a good student they can't afford to kick out.


Of course, if you decide to leave the school to study somewhere else, you undergo certain risks. The teachers you find may not be as good at teaching pointe work as the teachers you might have been able to study with at your school. Or they might teach ballet in a different way that works against the way you're training at your school. Such is life, there's nothing you can do about it. If you feel the risks are not worth the possible benefit, then don't undertake them.


As for the risks inherent in pointe work itself: there is ample information out there about who is and is not ready. If you follow the general guidelines and your pointe teacher isn't totally incompetent and you take it easy, you're unlikely to hurt yourself very badly. You might lose a toenail, which can be very painful for four months. Just remember, your career doesn't depend on it, don't take stupid risks. And if you lose a toenail --- don't walk around the studio barefoot and don't complain to your teacher about your painful foot. As for the more serious kinds of pointe injuries: you're unlikely to ever go far enough with pointe work to encounter them.


One other thing: male feet are, in general, stronger and stiffer than female feet. Unlike some of the girls, you really don't need to be doing lots of releves for strength, although stretching out your feet enough to stand over your arch will help you in many ways as a dancer.


I hope this helps you better understand where your teachers are coming from, as well as approachs you might take if you feel you have to study en pointe anyway.

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Ho Ho we're MANLY MEN -- we're big, we're hairy, we make unusual noises with either end of our digestive tracts, we scratch certain areas of our bodies, we leave the toilet seat UP! We're MANLY MEN MANLY MEN Ho Ho.

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Mel, you're a funny guy!


But seriously: I think you agree with the very thing you mock --- witness threads from the past where some guy comes in and asks "can I wear my leotard over my tights like the ladies do?"

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Guest mic31

I study pointe, I agree with both Citibob and Mel. If your pointe studies took away from your regular studies for what you need to learn to be a good partner and just a good male dancer in general, then you are getting out into the weeds.

While there are benifits to pointe studies, it should be only a really low priority option.

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That's right mic. It's an adjunct. It shouldn't be anybody's focus of attention, but it should be there as a possible...mind, possible, tool.


Men are useful as partners, yes, but it's not their sole function. Men's technique should take precedence when you've reached the strength and training requirements like those required for pointe. And that's the same for everybody. Three years training, the last of which must be of at least three 1½ hour basic technique classes per week.

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Typically, when women take pointe, men take Men's class: Jumps and big bad allegros.


Work on strengthening your arms and back, it will help partnering better than pointe will improve your feet.



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Guest GuillermoFL

Hey all, just a little note, I don't know if I made myself quite clear. In no way did I suggest to take time away from our regular male technique class for pointe study, however I did suggest that it should not be a forbidden topic at school and that if we wanted to practice pointe in a class room (after school hours) or ask teacher for guidance on pointe, we should be able to do it. Just wanted to make that clear, I'm not saying it's a substitute, just a compliment everyone should have the right to take if they want to.

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I think most of the opinionizing here has been right down your track, Guillermo. We're just asserting that it's useful, but not essential. We vigorously support your opinion as stated. ("We aren't allowed to stick beans up our noses? Why not? Let's go behind the barn and try it and find out!")

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if we wanted to practice pointe in a class room (after school hours) or ask teacher for guidance on pointe, we should be able to do it.


I'm of the opinion that if you're going to study en pointe, you should not just try it out by yourself. You need to get a teacher who is committed to teaching you correctly.

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Yes, that's what I mean. It's the equivalent of going behind the barn to smoke cornsilk.

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Guest Until The End Of Time

I highly recommend not to ever try to smoke cornsilk. I did it when I was a little kid and I suffered pretty bad I mean I coughed so bad I thought I was going to die.

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