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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Taken the plunge...


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...dear lord...on the advisement of my ballet teachers, I've invested in some pointe shoes...this is just to strengthen my feet/ankles with basic things like releves, not about to do anything like a pointe class in them...now I just have to get my teacher to show me how the darn things work...(that sounds bad, but yes, I did get fitted for them). Any beginning pointers (ha ha...) from other guys who have done this?

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I assume you've read the various "men en pointe" threads that have cropped up here from time to time. People have differing opinions on this issue, sometimes strong opinions, and there's no need to re-hash that discussion.


I guess what I would say: Wanting to dance en pointe is the best reason to invest in pointe shoes, IMHO. There's nothing easy about them, and I cannot imagine one going through all the trouble involved without a driving desire to dance en pointe. They take 3 hours to prepare, they don't last long, they require a lot of fiddling, and your first pair will be a total waste. It will probably take a while for you to get "over your arches," i.e. to have your feet and ankles in an alignment that allows you to contemplate doing anything interesting with them.


That said, if you do manage to make reasonable progress, then dancing en pointe really is special an unique --- every young girl knows that. It involves a degree of precision in body mechanics that really do not happen otherwise, in my opinion. And the process of learning how to use your body in a way that allows one to dance en pointe really does improve all dancing. I said "body" here, not just "foot:" pointe work is a whole-body experience.


However, I cannot imagine doing much of value with pointe shoes without attending pointe class. In my opinion, one should either commit to learning the technique and excelling at it, or not do it. And if you're going to commit to it, it really needs to be something you like and want to do. Half-hearted commitment of "I'll do X and Y, but not Z because I'm a man" will lead to half-hearted progress.


And as others have said... pointe shoes are not a foot-strengthening device! I question any teacher who believes that pointe shoes are somehow the best way to improve arches, or who would push men into it. But if it's something you want to do, then by all means enjoy it, and it's great that you have a teacher who will support you in this.

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One of my teachers wants me to go en pointe next year as well, mainly to strengthen my ankles and improve my feet. I'm assuming that I will either take part of class wearing pointe shoes (such as barre) or that I'll simply attend pointe class once in a while.

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Seems I need to clarify a bit here. I have not bought these things to learn to dance en pointe with any sort of aptitude or applicable use (i.e. the Trockaderos are not my goal). My reasons for doing this are two-fold: to enhance and facilitate the strength I have already acquired in my lower legs and feet (which may be a point of disagreement as you had previously noted), and to better understand the unique and rarefied world of dancing en pointe. The latter reason is because I hope to someday be a ballet master of some sorts, and I feel it would be prudent for me to be able to have this perspective for the girls' sake, however base and unrefined it may be. Is this something that should be required or is necessary of all men in ballet? I do not feel strongly one way or the other. My personal philosophy in regards to myself is that it is more desirable to have many perspectives to pull from and as many experiences as prudence allows, ergo I found that attempting this would be in my own best interests. Will I be taking pointe classes? I don't intend to, and I quite doubt I even could with any respectability, no matter how hard I might work. Will I walk away with more knowledge of how a pointe shoe works and how dancing upon them might feel? I believe so, and for me, that is key.


Essentially, know that I am regarding this as mainly a tool to better grasp a side of the world of ballet that I will never truly know and that any controversy over this is certainly not intended or sought.

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Sorry, if you want to understand even a modicum of what goes into pointe work, you need to take pointe class. There's a lot of stuff you will just never guess on your own. Also, it takes time and training for pointe shoes to start working right; without that time and training, the experience of the shoes is completely different. If you are changing rapidly, the shoes can even feel and work completely different from one session to the next.


Although getting additional perspective can certainly help in understanding how to work with or teach others, it is not essential, nor is it always possible. Everyone's body is different, and if you're going to work with dancers, you need to know how to work with anyone. There are so many variables out there. For example, my body has a medium construction; not too tight, not too loose. Some dancers are super-loose. Things that are easy for me are hard for them, and vice-versa. If I want to teach super-loose dancers effectively, I need to observe their bodies and how they respond to the training. I can't do it from my direct experience. Similarly, some dancers are hyper-extended, some are 95lb and under 5', some are 5'10", etc --- every different body construction, proportion or size comes with different parameters.


So yes, it is possible to be an effective teacher of pointe class, and choreographer of dancers en pointe, without ever studying pointe work oneself. This is how animal trainers work too, they get the beings they're working with to do very specific activities, often things that humans are incapable of.


Finally, I urge you to consider some of the things you have said from a feminist perspective. Far too often, I have seen subtle forms of chauvinism in the studio, a seeming belief that the men always need to be in charge or should be in charge, or will be in charge. However, leadership needs to be earned, and too often, the men I see this stuff coming from are behind their peers in terms of line, technique and training. Dancing en pointe is hard, and your peers have worked very hard at it. If you wish to be respected for really understanding first-hand what it is like to dance en pointe, then applying the same level of work over time can earn you that respect --- whether or not you end up with good results. You will also be respected if you never bother with pointe shoes, no one will question that.


For better or for worse, much of your job as a man on stage will consist of presenting your peers in ways so their (highly honed) lines look best from the front; it's a helping role, and contains only small amounts of being the star. In the end, partnering is a subtle, difficult and sometimes thankless job. The weight shifts involved in pointe work, I believe, can be learned equally well whether the shoes are on yourself or your partner. When I was learning how to dance en pointe myself, I found that my experience as a partner helped me out in that aspect.

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And seldom have I seen so much gratuitous condescenscion in a single post. One of the greatest ways to start an office fight is to start psychoanalyzing your colleagues. David, you are on moderated status, which means that your subsequent posts anywhere on this board will be invisible to members until a Moderator or Administrator makes them visible, possibly after edition. I'm leaving the offending post up, just as an object lesson as to what WILL get a member to moderated status.

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Please note, David has edited his previous post, and the tone is quite a bit better now. He has also apologized, so further moderation will be unnecessary.

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I don't know why a guy would need to take a pointe class in pointe shoes. Taking pointe class in technique (soft) shoes should help develop a good demi arch, which is all a guy needs.


Unless you have a terrible relever, you would be better off taking a mens class.

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My 2 cents... It is important to get correctly fitted pointe shoes. I am not sure what fitting options you have, but make sure that you take your time and try out different models before you settle for your first pair. Depending on your size, there should be a couple of shoes available (including specific mens pointe shoes).


Good luck and let us know how your first class went.

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Well, just to cautiously update, I was fitted quite nicely and easily since I have smaller feet for a guy, so it wasn't difficult to find my size in-store. They have been approved by my teacher and she's given some very basic beginning-pointe exercises at the bar I can do on my own that will also help with tracking of my releve' (I tend to slightly supinate). I also know what I should feel in the next few weeks as far as improvement goes, so it will be interesting to see if it helps, and my teacher will also be monitoring my progress and be available to answer any questions. And it's not like I'm replacing anything in my training regimen to do this (i.e. men's class), it's just another layer that will hopefully make me increasingly stronger and a better dancer (I liken it to cross-training, yes?).

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