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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Adult Pointe


nzdancer

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Okay...I am going to play devils' advocate here. I certainly understand why a younger dancer needs to be certain that they are ready for pointe work, and why you would want to avoid a studio that places student en pointe without adequate preparation, etc.

 

For adults, however, I don't see the big deal. If a person is interested in trying it, and is aware of the injury risk they are posing to themselves, why not? It's not like she is going to ruin their professional career prospects. I was thinking aobut this, as I have heard of people complaining about studios that would allow adult students en pointe when they shouldn't be, etc. I keep thinking about this blog I read from a person who definitely should not have been on pointe, and how happy she was that she got the chance. She was genuinely THRILLED to try.

 

It just seems that if it means that much to someone, should they really be dissuaded from it, even if they aren't perfectly ideal for pointe work?

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Sorry, nzdancer, but the answer is yes. Not everyone is meant for pointe work, and it's dangerous and can be damaging to feet and to a lot of joints if a person does not have both the physical facility and the training for pointe work.

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nzdancer I think I understand what you are asking: "Does the risk of injury really overshadow the fun they would have?".

I have been thinking this too, even making up a defence that one of the biggest physicists of our time is completely handicapped in a wheelchair, so that it's alright for me to ruin my feet if I feel like it... (I'm a physics student)

 

But you know what? In the end there is no way I would ever REALLY be that irresponsible!

 

1) I think injuries are easy to underestimate if you don't have them, but I imagine my regrets if I injure myself because of a small stupidity and subsequently can't dance for months (or longer...)!

 

2) It's useless, just like it's pointless to force your turnout from your knees: even if you don't care about the risk of injury, it will not give you the benefits for which we turnout in the first place anyway!

If I would get en pointe but would not be able to dance on them, what would be the point?

 

3) If I work hard on strengthening my ankles and feet, I might get my chance to dance en pointe in the long run. If I ruin my feet or ankles now, I might never...

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I had taken very little ballet as a child, and quite frankly was not very good. I restarted ballet lessons when I was far past an age when any professional dancer would have retired, but have a passion. I would never, never have been good enough to be a professional, but took 4-6 lessons a week, some in class and some private. I had studied for 2 years when my teacher started a new pointe class; I asked if I could join and was told yes. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be able to do this--thrilled and petrified. That was 3 years ago.

 

Believe me I don't want to hurt myself--too much life yet to live, and pain doesn't do much for my moods. But I have had very careful supervision by some teachers who wanted to help me fulfill my dream, and I will never forget them. So maybe I had the physical facility and training, and maybe not, who knows. I am just glad that I got to make the decision for myself.

 

I work hard and am very well motivated (moreso than some of the teens I take class with). I am a big girl--I won't hold anyone but myself responsible if I get hurt. But I would rather get hurt living my dream than doing something I don't care about. I am very glad I didn't have a teacher who cut me off from something that has been precious to me.

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But this also begs the question, "What's the definition someone who 'shoudn't' be on pointe?" I believe that different teachers will have different answers. I have read in some ballet texts that you should be able to hold a passe on releve in the center for 30 seconds in order to be able to go "up" on pointe, other books have said for a full minute. Some teachers have definite age restrictions, while other teachers go by ability. Some teachers say you can go up if you strong abs, others focus on straight knees in turns on demi-pointe as the ruler as to who can or cannot go on pointe. I have no doubt that some teachers would have taken a look at my very flat feet at age 23 -when I began pointe- (or even at age 13 for that matter) and said "No way." But I am gaining strength in pointe everyday (still have to get the turning and one footed releves down pat, but I have a life time to do so).

And as far as weight goes, if any of you have seen pictures of the Ballet Russes, or the movie that came out about it, or any pictures or footage of ballerinas centuries ago, they were not waifs by any means. Those women had thick thighs, legs, and some had considerable girth around their mid sections. Did this inhibit their pointe performances? No. Of course they probably started pointe when they were younger and lighter, but a heavy adult who has been taking ballet for years has strengthened her ankles to support her weight on demi-pointe with every single releve she has been doing, pointe is just a natural progression.

An 80 pound 12 year old with 3 years of ballet training can do a pique turn en pointe and break her ankle just as a 160 pound 50 year old with 3 years of ballet training can. Healing times will differ, but any physical activity can cause injury, isn't that why most ballet studios have a disclaimer in tiny print on their brochures about, "We are not liable for any injury incurred in our studios... etc."?

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Okay...I am going to play devils' advocate here. I certainly understand why a younger dancer needs to be certain that they are ready for pointe work, and why you would want to avoid a studio that places student en pointe without adequate preparation, etc.

 

Guys, I think that the key phrase here is "adequate preparation"! Plenty of students, both adults and young teens, are not "ideally suited" for pointe work. (Who the heck IS ideally suited to stand like that?!) I think it's clear, in the absence of ideal conditions, that "adequate preparation" should be a mandatory prerequisite for pretty much ANY activity involving physical risk, whether it's pointework or skydiving! Is it possible for adults to get such preparation? Of course.

 

Will the standards vary from teacher to teacher? Probably, yes. I think we've all see young kids wearing pointe shoes who shouldn't be, and that is just the sign of an unqualified teacher! Same goes for teachers of adults. But hopefully all your teachers will, in his or her own way, ensure that all pointe students are technically and physically prepared, whatever their age.

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Well without entirely being ready for pointework and without proper supervision by a teacher there will not be any progress on pointe either- and who does not want to progress?

Pointework without progress is pretty useless and frustrating- besides being highly dangerous.

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gerlonda, have you read the Sticky thread entitled Facts of Life About Pointe Work? It's on the YD boards and the Pointe Shoe Topics forum, in the group of Sticky's at the top. While it was written primarily for young students, the same things apply to adult students.

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And as far as weight goes, if any of you have seen pictures of the Ballet Russes, or the movie that came out about it, or any pictures or footage of ballerinas centuries ago, they were not waifs by any means. Those women had thick thighs, legs, and some had considerable girth around their mid sections. Did this inhibit their pointe performances? No. Of course they probably started pointe when they were younger and lighter, but a heavy adult who has been taking ballet for years has strengthened her ankles to support her weight on demi-pointe with every single releve she has been doing, pointe is just a natural progression.

 

I think you might be a bit fooled by the old videos and pictures. Your misconception is that the dancers then were "big" bones and heavily muscled, etc. Video and photography has improved quite a bit since then. The photos of my teacher show what appears to be a "thick" muscular dancer on pointe of apparent substantial height and weight. In truth, that is far from accurate. She's very petite, not very tall or weighty. Photos and video are deceptive.

 

Granted, they probably weren't all waifs, nor did they have quite the physical and flexibility demands placed upon todays dancers.

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Has anyone else seen the picture of the Sumo wrestler on pointe? Why not?

 

Why should there be such strict rules for adults who want to dance? We won't "use up a place in class" for someone with real talent, we pay our class fees, we know the risks of injury and are willing (for the most part) to accept them. We know we won't be "best ever" but just want to be the best we can.

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Here is my first question:

Are the adults in question really aware of the risks?

Most of us here know what is what about that because we are prowling around here learning things or we had good teachers who educated us as kids.

Are the adult classes making a point of educating adults at all about the potential of pointe work? Mine isn't. It is just an open class where you sink or swim.

I have only seen one adult in there en pointe and she wasn't thin... She didn't stay with the class either. Maybe the teacher said something to her????

 

It wouldn't bother me to see adults who aren't quite there allowed to try a few trial classes with a lot of supervision and advance education. (Not beginners) This could make it really clear to the student that she isn't up to it and specifically why; whether it is a lack of technique, core strength, excess weight, feet that do not arch properly, or whatever. It is a potentialy expensive mistake but one adults ought to be responsible to make. Many would figure the $40 - $80. investment for shoes was worth it even if they stopped after three classes. Of course if one had a teacher who was going to be watching a student closely enough in a trial class, it woulf follow that the same teacher has already been watching closely and maybe even letting students know when they are ready or not.

This is a tricky subject.

 

Meanwhile, I understand the reality of my over 6 foot, over 200 lb body being one of those who seriously shouldn't go up. I could see my long skinny feet bending over and snapping under all my current weight.

Nobody who sees me calls me huge. My weight is spread out all over and I am still under the range for plus sizes in proper tall stores. I look average for my height, with a bit of extra waistline. I have seen several ballet students en pointe with my general figure. They just weigh in closer to 130...assuming they are maybe 5 feet 6" That is a lot less pressure on the feet. I have seen one who was quite a bit heavier looking but very strong. I worried about her feet.

From what I was told as a 17 year old 145 lb kid, that weight was still a lot for pointe, in spite of my height and looking thoroughly skinny. I had a 9.5 Narrow street shoe size and supposedly that wasn't up to holding up much more body weight than my size 7.5 sisters could. Of course I tried it. It hurt as I recall, but I never had good fitting shoes either, so who knows??? I had less than a year at it, but it was worth the try.

 

 

Laschwen

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Why should there be such strict rules for adults who want to dance? We won't "use up a place in class" for someone with real talent, we pay our class fees, we know the risks of injury and are willing (for the most part) to accept them.

 

BECAUSE... a recreational organization is not obliged to let its customers do something that they know is unsafe. An analogy: I went to a rock climbing gym this weekend (which was fun!!), and everyone has to pass a basic technical test on knots and rops and belaying before they can have a pass into the gym. Because even if the customers might be willing to accept the risk of injury, the gym is not going to allow people to come in and hurt themselves!! That's just common business sense.

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Has anyone else seen the picture of the Sumo wrestler on pointe? Why not?

 

 

Are you talking about this picture?

http://magazyn-nova.webpark.pl/sumo_ballet.jpg

 

I'm inclined to believe it is a fake (look at the position of the ankle- not to mention the obvious sumo dancer as ballerina is hard to believe)- but even if it isn't based on how the ribbons are tied I'm not inclined to use this as a great example of "anyone can do pointe."

 

I went on pointe as an adult too early and luckily didn't have any problems, but also had the forsight to stop when I realized it was too early (and that wasn't when I first read it on this board, but instead when I switched studios and saw a real pointe class). I was back on pointe after a year long break to increase my technique and had been on pointe for 6 months and I hurt my ankle. I am just now ready to start again after an 8 week break.

 

Going on pointe when you aren't ready for it is just not a good idea. I thought the rock climbing analogy was a good one.

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Laschwen, I think you bring up a good point that many adults aren't aware of the risks of pointe. Those of us who post here are not necessarily representative of the average adult ballet student. We have come here in search of more information and thus are better educated. But based on the comments I've heard in class from fellow students, there are certainly plenty of adults who have no idea that there is such a thing as pointe readiness. I have overheard one of my teachers making a recommendation to a student who asked about the minimum number of classes to be taking per week, but it's never really been discussed in class. As it is, most people don't continue taking classes long enough to ever get to that point.

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I think the whole thing about adult classes is that there are not enough of them in most places and they are not set up in proper levels so as to make a proper or likely place for discussing pointe readiness. Most of our classes are open classes. Many of us had classes as children including pointe classes, but we get the occasional brand new student too. Only a few of them stick with it unfortunately, where I am. Some of the pointe knowledge may be assumed.

Maybe teachers and students don't really know what the other is thinking on the subject outside these boards????

I don't think anyone is realy asking to be educated in the adult classroom either. I know i am not. I am mostly just trying to keep up with as much of the regular class as I can. I don't hear the more advanced students doing any asking either. When class is over we make our thanks and go home.

For those of you in large enough programs, you might consider discussions with your teachers or AD's. It might not be appropriate in mixed classes of 6 to 8 people where they may never intend to teach pointe to maybe one or two adults who are ready.

 

Laschwen

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