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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Putting Adults on Pointe


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See post #83 on this thread. Click the link. There is no universal standard which can be cited, as there are so many methods for teaching ballet. Consider the general area of "entering intermediate level" as the correct neighborhood, but there are many other factors other than simple technical level to consider. That's what good ballet teachers know what to identify; trust your teacher's judgment.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

I'll illustrate (hopefully!) what Mel is referring to with "entering intermediate level" with a new-to-me student who was put on pointe by another teacher at another studio. In my opinion, she is not ready. Here is why - she is not physically strong - cannot maintain her posture and placing on relevé in soft shoes, doesn't use her feet correctly in soft shoes, doesn't understand the concept of executing any piqué step onto a straight leg, cannot easily understand and perform the very clear barre exercises I give in my pointe foundation class (we face the barre - no fancy choreography or timing - etc. etc) and .... in my mind this is also very important, does not demonstrate a clear understanding of what pointe work entails and what her true level of achievement in ballet is. I have not had her in regular technique class but I would guess she is a beginner, with poor training. Sorry to say that but if we can't be honest with our students, we cannot help them.


She told me she has never been given any strengthening exercises to do outside of class (all my students have "homework") and she came to the first class with me fit with pointe shoes that were absolutely the wrong size and shape. I asked her how she felt her shoes were working for her - she said she didn't know - she guessed they were OK. This poor girl has blisters from her feet shifting around in the shoes. Her ribbons were sewn incorrectly, and she didn't know how to tie said ribbons. I put my pointe shoes on to demonstrate what they should look like and how a dancer should be able to work in them. She was just mystified. She said she had been "extra nice" to her other teacher, and so she was permitted to go on pointe.


Would you think this person is a young teen? This person is a college junior. :party:

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I'm an adult ballet student and a dance teacher. I love to see adult ballet students, and I'm so happy for them when they are able to do pointework, especially if they've started as adults!


That said *I'm pulling out my humble soapbox*, it's very hard for me as a teacher to come across an adult ballet student who has been put on pointe by another teacher when she is not strong enough. I don't like having to "take someone off of pointe", but I'll do it if it means sparing my student a broken ankle. Please, if you're an adult wanting to do pointework, and you start with one teacher and another has reservations and expresses them, please just ask the new teacher what you can do to get strong enough to start pointe again. He/She just wants to help you.

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  • 2 months later...

Sorry to bring back this old topic, but I just found it and am worried it may apply to me. I was just put on pointe after about 10 months of 3 classes per week. My teacher thinks I'm ready, but she didn't do any sort of test or have a good look at my feet before making this judgment, she just went by what she sees in class. I've had some training off-and-on before this, and I'm a former gymnast, very strong, hold my own in intermediate technique classes...but I worry that my teacher is making a judgment from this overall impression when in fact my feet not quite flexible enough! I've had two pointe classes now (just a few minutes at the barre) and am unable to get completely onto the platform with my legs straight in any position. Is this normal when starting out, or an indication that I'm not ready?


I expressed this concern to my teacher after my first pointe class, who gave me some theraband exercises (I was already doing them anyway) along with an "it's the first day, don't get discouraged" speech. So maybe I am overanalyzing, but I just want to look out for my own safety! After the summer I can rearrange my schedule to take some classes at a more reputable studio and perhaps get a second opinion, but for now I've just got this one teacher. Any advice would be much appreciated!

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I've had two pointe classes now (just a few minutes at the barre) and am unable to get completely onto the platform with my legs straight in any position. Is this normal when starting out, or an indication that I'm not ready?


I'll preface my response with a big caveat that I'm not on pointe yet myself and by no means an expert, but it strikes me as being very possible that your pointe shoes are not quite the right ones for you. From everything I read on the Pointe Shoes Topics forum here, and elsewhere, if your shoes aren't quiet right for your feet it can give many different problems, including not being able to get properly "over" onto the platforms. And/or maybe they're just not broken in properly?


You just might want to think about the shoes too, whilst also considering whether you're generally ready or not. I can't comment about that really - other than to say it seems a sensible idea to seek out a second opinion from the most experienced teacher you can find.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

I would say that if you are a former gymnast and hold your own in an intermediate class, then strength per se would not seem to be an issue. Without seeing you, and the pointe shoes you are working in, it is hard to give concrete advice. Many things can prevent a dancer from rising completely onto pointe: strength, placement, the suitability (or unsuitability) of the pointe shoes, shape of the foot, flexibility of the ankle. When you got your pointe shoes, were you able to get all the way onto pointe when trying them on in the store? If not, then my experience tells me you were not fitted with the right shoes. I suggest going to the pointe shoe forum and uploading a picture of your feet (as suggested on that forum) and asking for some expert advice on what may be going on with your feet, and a recommendation for the correct type of pointe shoes to try.


One thing stands out to me - you mention switching to a more reputable studio after summer is over. This is a big red flag. If you are not certain of the quality of instruction, you may want to consider postponing pointe work until you get that second opinion from a different teacher at this other studio. Summer is not that long - and waiting a few more months to start pointe (correctly) may be a good idea. A lot of harm can be done in a short amount of time if you are not being given the proper instruction with regards to pointe work.

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Thanks for the advice, GameDamsel and Pas de Quoi! I posted pictures on the pointe shoe forum, which turned out to be extremely helpful (it looks like my ankle flexibility and my shoes are both contributing to the problem!)


Pas de Quoi, you are absolutely right to pick up on my concern about the quality of my instruction. I thought my studio was fine until I started reading this board, but now I think the attitude toward adults is far too relaxed. I talked to my teacher about my concerns this morning, and while she was definitely surprised, she was supportive. We decided that I would stay off pointe for the summer and do some more structured pre-pointe training, then we'd re-evaluate in the fall once I'd started taking additional classes at another school. While I'm obviously disappointed about delaying starting pointe, I think this was the right choice and I'm much happier just having my concerns out in the open!!

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Groovibug, your feet look almost exactly like mine in terms of ankle flexibility. I couldn't wear Grishkos at all - vamp always too high on the models tried. And she tried as many as I think were available. The only real difference between your feet and mine are the toes - you have two that are about the same length while mine are totally tapered (and scarred up from previous experience - years and years ago).


I've managed pointe fairly well and my ankles and arch have actually started looking better - even at my advanced age. If you want to keep on it, then do so. But, as an adult, you do have the ability to say no if you don't want to do any pointe work. Personally, while I love it, it's not the be-all, end-all of ballet.

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Groovibug - if you like the shape of the Grishko, but do not like the length of the vamp, you might check out Russian Pointe shoes. They make several models that are close to the Grishkos, and they offer a huge amount of different vamp lengths.

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Hi all, I'm new to this board and have been reading a TON here...good information and interesting discussions, this topic especially :wub: I am an adult ballet student, started about 1.5 years ago after being in athletics since a small child. My specialty was ice hockey, and I have found that the ankle strength/balance I developed from skating has transferred extremely well to ballet. My challenge is grace and finesse...I'm used to powering my way through movements and ballet makes me do things so differently. Which is why I've fallen in love with it. It's a different kind of physical challenge and it blends two of my favorite things...music and athletic movement!


I have a goal of trying pointe one day, when I am ready, so I am thrilled to hear stories like dancepig's (you rock!). I'm taking 3-4 classes a week at two different studios and doing a lot of my own practice and strengthening exercises. I'm used to daily practice + daily workouts from sports...the discipline transfers as well. I'm in advanced beginning classes now and actively looking at different studios as to what kind of classes, support, encouragement they give to adult students. I definitely want corrections and challenges and to be pushed! The information in this thread has helped me clarify what I should be looking for...so thanks everyone :thumbsup:

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At my primary studio there is only one pointe track, and that is to take beginning pointe with the twelve year olds. The same rules for the adolescents apply to putting adults up. Additionally, there are a couple more rules for dancers over forty: No diabetics, no one with osteoporosis, and all dancers must put some kind of nonskid treatment on their platforms (most popular is suede or moleskin.) A couple of years ago, a retired pro in her sixties slipped in a pique turn, fell hard on her hip and fractured the neck of her femur. She needed surgery to fix it. After that incident, all of us old ladies had to nonskid our platforms.


We won't affect the growth of our feet, obviously, but older adults heal from injuries a lot slower than youngsters do. So I'm thankful that the rules exist in my studio.


However, there is a fallout to strict rules: Those of us with prior pointe experience have no trouble adjusting to the rules and abiding by them. However, there is a small contingent of those who have put themselves en pointe at home, on their own, without the blessing of the teacher. Since I occasionally take over her classes, she's confided her suspicions as to who the unofficial pointe people are. There's no way of knowing for sure, because the shoes stay at home, but I think I know who some of them are as well. Now and then one of them will forget herself and go all the way up momentarily in slippers.


Since a dance store isn't necessarily going to figure out that an adult has no business en pointe, and refuse to fit them the way they might a teenager, there's no way of stopping unofficial pointe. My teacher figures it's better to allow adults to go en pointe when they have enough in terms of strength, flexibility, and technique, and ensuring that they are properly taught. The marginal adults have a way of weeding themselves out, anyways: After the excitement of being in shoes wears off, and they've taken a few beginner's classes, they get bored clinging to the barre, decide it's more discomfort and trouble than it's worth, tie a bow in the ribbons and hang the shoes up on their bedroom walls. Or, they get serious about technique class, acquire more strength, technique, and flexibility, and progress en pointe.


When you stop and think about it, pointe is a lot safer than some other activities that undertrained people do--like alpine skiing, distance running, and several other sports. It would be pretty difficult to actually kill yourself fooling around with pointe shoes!

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I definitely felt a lot safer in my first pointe class than I did in my first (and probably last) ski lesson! :wallbash:

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Odile53, the rules at your studio sound very sensible!


The rules at my studio have become more strict over the years but I think there are many students that don't live by them. There is only one recommendation for how many classes one should take and that is two classes once you start doing pointe work, you don't have to take more than one class a week before that. That applies for adults and children alike. I don't think it is monitored in any way and as it is so vague, some might take one 60 minute class with the beginners and the other with the pointe students. I understand it must be almost impossible to make sure each student takes enough (even though two isn't enough!) classes because many students take classes at other studios as well. There are also about ten ballet teachers so it's not likely for a student to take all her classes with the same teacher so the monitoring can't be left to the teachers either. Anyone can sign up for any level whenever they want, but I think the teachers will move students down a level if they don't think the level they have chosen is appropriate. I have never seen this happen, though, and I don't think many students really sign up for classes that are too advanced for them.


This is considered the best school in the country apart from the School of the National Ballet so maybe this is the norm where I live. I was actually shocked when I first heard how long you must study ballet and how dedicated you must be to get on pointe in the US. I was put on pointe when I was about ten years old and had danced for a year. We had two 60 minute technique classes and 30 minutes of pointe work after one of these two classes. I had danced ballet before but had had a break so I don't think I was very strong. Can't be sure, though, I can't remember! We don't have Dolly Dinkle schools here and most dance teachers, almost all ballet and modern teachers have degrees in dance. All shcools are supported with tax money so they cannot take unqualified teachers.

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Serendipity, just out of curiosity, what shoes tend to work for you? (Sorry if this is an inappropriate place for this, but I can't PM yet!) Thanks!

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