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Foot articulation in pointe shoes


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(I'm not really sure if this is an Adult Ballet Students issue, but I'm not sure where else to put it)


I watched our school's recital last weekend, and started wondering about the development of foot articulation in pointe shoes. I saw two age groups in the recital, with an age gap in between.


The younger group of girls were only 13-14, and clearly still in that "growing" phase with slightly oversized feet and gangly limbs. They were still clearly students in many aspects. The main technical issue that attracted my attention was somehow "sloppy" foot articulation in the pointe shoe. (This is not an easy concept to express. I fear my command of the English language may be failing here.) It wasn't just that the younger girls did not point their feet; it was obvious they tried, and at least the ankles were generally pointed. Their shoes just somehow seemed not to articulate with their feet. The foot looked like a separate block of wood in the end of the leg: floppy at the ankle, stiff at the arch and generally inexpressive.


The older group was about 17, and the difference was marked - what I call foot articulation was clearly there. There was definition, springiness and sort of "decisiveness" in the way their feet worked. The shoe was like a part of the foot, not a separate thing tied on with ribbons at the ankle.


Now I have about a million questions in my head about this development of the foot in pointe shoe. (I also have similar questions about the development of consistent rotation, but I think I have to mentally chew that piece quite a bit more before I can ask intelligent questions... :speechless: )


1) It is obvious this foot development takes some time. How much generally? Had I also seen 14-15 and 15-16 year olds, what kind of development would I have seen? (I've seen 16-year olds at another recital, and they already had fairly nice feet)


2) What kind of work develops this articulation in pointe shoe? Classes, obviously, but how significant is the role of pointe classes and rehearsals in pointe shoes? Is it possible to develop that foot control without extensive work in pointe shoes (by attending mostly/only technique classes in soft shoes)?


3) How much does puberty/growing affect matters? Assuming two students were otherwise comparable, would a teacher expect a similar stage of development from two girls who were put on pointe at the same time or from two girls who finished growing at the same time?



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Assuming that the students are all being well trained and taught how to articulate their feet, it is really a matter of time and strength. Even though the younger ones know HOW, it doesn't mean that they can yet DO it, especially on stage in choreography. The early years of pointe work, while the articulation is certainly taught, they simply don't have the strength or the amount of time and techniuqe needed to maintain it.


Yes, the 15-16 should certainly show major improvement in the this area, but perhaps not as perfected as the older group you mention.


Articulating in pointe shoes takes several years to accomplish, and that is assuming that the student has the flexibility in the foot to do it in the first place.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest ArmedFiddler

Another aspect I've noticed in foot articulation is the choice of shoe. When I started pointe the first time around (age 11...21 years ago :) ), my old teacher was of the idea that first timers needed stiff shoes with hard boxes and hard shanks in order to develop proper foot strength. Wearing those shoes, I had almost no articulation in them whatsoever. Yet, when I switched to a softer shoe (even though I was still technically a beginner in pointe, and only 12 or 13 years old), there was an immediate marked increase in foot articulation through the shoe.


I should specify that while I was a pointe beginner, I already had 7 years of ballet and 7 years of Irish dancing under my belt. Irish and Highland type dancing certainly aids the ability to fully point with the whole foot, not just the ankle. So there's that factor to consider as well: what other forms of dance have students taken, and how has that contributed to their abiity to function well en pointe?

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I've noticed the same thing as psavola, but even in slippers. The students can point their feet, but when dancing don't have enough control to work the feet strongly while concentrating on everything at once. :) It is part of the neat "maturation" process you see happen throughout the teens - there aren't many new steps introduced in this period, but the refinement improves a hundredfold, until at the end you've gone from watching a "puppy dancer" (gangly, energetic, sloppy) to the real deal.



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