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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Paranoid about Pointe


Pirou

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Okay, so for the past few years, a former professional that I take class with has been encouraging me to try going on pointe. Finally, I spoke to our mutual teacher, and he said he was behind me "100 percent" for me to start pointe if I wanted to, with her as my tutor. So, I have gotten fitted for pointe shoes (not an easy task in itself) and have been following my tutor's guidelines for very slow elevés every day for 5-10 minutes. She has also pushed and pulled my feet so I understand what position they are supposed to be when I am up on the platforms. I have a rogue right foot, and it's much harder to get up on that side, but I'm working on it. I'm doing the slow elevés as prescribed, and all is going fine with those.

 

So then my tutor suggested that I join the other pointe students in the basic placement class at our school with our regular teacher and do through degagé in my pointe shoes. (There are a different set of exercises that those on pointe do for all the exercises at the barre.) I checked with our teacher, he concurred, so I did that, and it was fine. He watched me and gave me corrections/encouragements here and there.

 

My tutor has also recommended a dedicated pointe class with a teacher at a local regional company school (our regular school does not have a separate pointe class.) I liked this idea, because I'm kind of methodical in nature, and like the idea of a dedicated time and place to work out something new, and all the detail and depth that comes with it. So I went to the class, and although it was much more than I expected to be doing as a beginning pointe student, it was also fine. It was 45 minutes and we did pliés, roll-thrus/forced arch thingies, tendus, elevés, relevés, sousous, echappés (!), bourées and pas de bourées at the barre. It seemed like a lot to me, but that teacher watched me carefully during the exercises and helped me with the scary sousous and echappés that I hadn't tried before, encouraged me not to freak out, and said I did well. They did a little pas de bourée thing en pointe in the center at the end, but I opted to do that on demi pointe, since I didn't think I needed to be prancing around out there yet.

 

After class I specifically asked her if she thought it was okay that I was starting pointe or whether the class was too much for me, and she said I was at the perfect point to start and that the class was fine for me.

 

So, all 3 of these people (my daily class teacher, my tutor/mentor/former professional dancer friend, and my dedicated pointe teacher) have said it is okay for me to be starting pointe, but I've been catching up on this board reading all the entries I've missed since I've been away from the board, and of course I'm reading all the pointe readiness and pointe warning topics and it's making me feel worried. With all this talk about how some schools and teachers will let anyone who wants to go up, how do I know if I can trust my teachers?

 

Is there any kind of checklist I could go over by myself to ensure to myself that this is really okay? Something concrete like a certain number of relevés or being able to lift a certain weight on my toes or something?

 

For the record, I cannot balance in retiré for one minute in a high demi. If I let the heel drop slightly I can stay up indefinitely, I guess, but that's not exactly the same.

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I'm an adult who started pointe 5 years ago. In my opinion, if you have the backing of the three you mentioned your ("daily class teacher, my tutor/mentor/former professional dancer friend, and my dedicated pointe teacher"), you must be fine to try this. When I started doing pointe, I wasn't worried about anything except for the "scary" aspects of the sousous in center, which the younger (teenage) pointe students didn't seem to understand. It sounds as though you're doing just fine with all of it - enjoy! :P

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Wow, even for someone who balances very well, I wouldn't assume that one minute on one foot, high relevé without the barre would be the standard to start pointe. On the other hand, being able to balance for at least a few 8 counts on one foot on high relevé sounds not too demanding. There are other measures that you can do for yourself to strengthen as well - relevés and elevés on flat, both on one foot and two, with and without the barre. A series of nicely controlled elevé on one foot without the barre can be difficult, so I suggest being near the barre for that if you should get tired after a few. It seems like you're developing nicely, and if all your teachers back you and support you, then I would think they'd know best and wouldn't imperil you or put you at risk of hurting yourself. Congratulations, by the way! Having all of your teachers recommend you start pointe is a big step, and learning to dance en pointe becomes a new hurdle in training now.

 

If it's scary or uncommonly painful, ask. Never feel foolish about asking for help, advice, or even asking "is this typical"? Check the wear pattern on your platforms regularly to see if you're all the way up. If the tops of your platforms never get dirty, and just the bottom part by the pleats, then it could be an indicator that you'll have to either push to get further up on your pointe or that your shoes are preventing you from it.

 

My favorite daily exercise? I'm unsure how helpful it can be, but it makes me feel strong and capable for future class: in flat shoes, 8 relevés in first position, 8 in second position, 8 sur le coudepied each foot, (for me the song starts its second track right about here) 8 relevés in attitude derriere each foot, then 8 in arabesque each foot, and back to 8 in first. Always go through the deepest plié possible keeping knees over 3rd toe, pushing up from that deep plié into the highest relevé possible while keeping your bottom from sticking out. This is my personal "go-to" exercise besides sit ups/crunches that I can do on my own when not thinking. It feels like love for the calves!

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If I remember correctly, the recommended criteria on this site is that you have been taking ballet classes for 18 months or more and take at least 3 classes a week (more knowledge beings, please correct me if I'm wrong!). Lisa Howell, an Australian dance physiotherapist, recommends that one be able to do 20 single-leg rises/relevés (can't remember which...)on demi-pointe on each leg before starting pointe. There are so many different opinions out there and it's an individual thing (including being influenced by the shape and strength of your ankles and feet), so I think trusting your teachers might be the best way, as they can see you and know your technique/ability-level!

 

You might be interested in this youtube video, by a respected pre-professional school:

Maple Conservatory - requirements for pointe

 

These are some things I do on demi-pointe on a daily (well, try to do it daily) basis to help strengthen my ankles and feet:

- 20 rises in 6th position (parallel feet)

- 20 rises in 1st position

- 20 rises in 2nd position

- 30-45 single-leg rises in parallel (10-15 of them), turned-out cou-de-pied (10-15) and retiré (passé).

- rises and exercises with therabands (these largely to counteract an occasional sickling problem).

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Thank you so much for all these thoughts and exercises.  (I read that balance for one minute thing on one of these posts somewhere here - I'm thinking about taking a stopwatch and working up to it!)

 

I danced throughout childhood but had like a 20-year break and have been back at it now for about 3 and a half years. Right now I'm generally in class 4-5 days of 90-minute technique classes plus one 45-minute pointe class. I guess I'm worried because I had a break for shoulder surgery and had quite a few months off. I'm slowly working my way back up to my former schedule of 6 days a week/10.5 hours. Right now I might be able to do 20 one-footed relevés, but I don't know about 20 elevés. At any rate, I think I'll add LaFilleSylfide's and Swantobe's exercises to my daily routine and see if that makes me feel more confident. (Why do people call you Lau? I haven't seen that written anywhere? Should I call you Lau?)

 

I can't really remember any of my pointe training from childhood, as it was very brief (like a month) before we moved to another country and that was the end of it, so everything is unfamiliar and new. I did have one question which has come up (well, there are many, but this the first):

 

When we tendu to the front, my pointe teacher says the platform of the shoe should be flat on the floor, just as it is when we are up on pointe. To this end, as part of our tendu exercise, we tendu front, bend the front knee, lean down towards our foot, take the heel in our hand and push it forward until the platform is on the floor. Then we endeavor to gently let go, straighten the knee, and stand up, leaving the foot on the floor in this position. Is this really the right foot position?! I don't think my foot goes that way!!

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I believe it's a goal, one most people won't accomplish, but it's a good goal. You need extremely flexible feet and ankles, plus shanks that are very broken in. :yucky:

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Wow, that beautiful winged position - not always feasible for certain body types. I can *almost* do it when I'm wearing my "fakey" pointe shoes (as in deshanked shoes used for demi-pointe barre work). Like Dancepig said, it's a goal to work towards, but that shouldn't necessarily discourage you if you can't do it. After all, one can't pique onto a winged foot or ankle position right? Of course, working through your entire foot in a tendu, regardless of what kind of shoe you have on, is all important. Sadly, those vice like pointe shoes tend to make working through a tendu so much more difficult!

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When we tendu to the front, my pointe teacher says the platform of the shoe should be flat on the floor, just as it is when we are up on pointe. To this end, as part of our tendu exercise, we tendu front, bend the front knee, lean down towards our foot, take the heel in our hand and push it forward until the platform is on the floor. Then we endeavor to gently let go, straighten the knee, and stand up, leaving the foot on the floor in this position. Is this really the right foot position?! I don't think my foot goes that way!!

 

I completely disagree with this. A pointed foot should continue and complement the line of the leg, not call attention to itself by being placed at a strange angle. The foot must be pointed correctly and shaped well, without sickling. If you place your foot in the "wrapped" cou de pied position so that the foot is fully pointed with the heel pressing forward and the toes pressing back, but without relaxing or "winging" the ankle, that is approximately the shape of a correctly pointed foot. Yes, when you tendu to the front, the entire leg must be turned out, with the inner thigh, calf, and heel coming forward, but if the platform of the pointe shoe is flat on the floor, the foot is no longer fully pointed, the ankle is relaxed, and the arch and toes have to clench.

 

I also don't agree with balancing on one leg for one minute as a "test" for pointe readiness, for a variety of reasons.

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Well, it's good to know I don't have to balance on one foot for a minute, but I think it would be cool if I could!

 

Hmmm, conflicting information on the winged foot in tendu. That's what's making beginning pointe so confusing for me. Conflicting information on shoe fitting, on appropriate shanks for beginners, on technique. Guess I'll just have to muddle through and figure out what's safest for me. At least I don't feel too bad now that my foot doesn't bend that way when fully pointed.

 

So listen, when we tendu back, we are asked to push the toe down so that the ankle droops down toward the floor. But this just hurts my knee!? I guess it is the same principle as the tendu devant. I don't want to disobey the teacher. How should I handle this requested tendu derrière press?

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What about not thinking pointe as a separate thing from your previous training? It is just adding the little more length (metatarsal) into your previous training as a natural progression. None of the foundations would change just becuase of this little additional length, smaller balancing base and less friction.

 

In my opinion, a lot of the problems on pointe can find its root to problems on demi pointe. A lot of the times people who sickle on pointe also sickles on demi pointe. I think that some people's years of training fell apart when they go en pointe because pointe would exaggrate even the smallest problem on flat. So, maybe it is a good time to examine your technique on flat, too!

 

And good luck!

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Pirou, you are right--it is the same principle as tendu devant. And it's not just you--no one's foot bends that way when it's fully pointed. If a foot is bent at that angle, it means it isn't really pointed.

 

Re: tendu derrière, I would mention to the teacher that you find it painful. Perhaps you can work together to come up with a solution that works for both of you and that does not hurt. Ballet technique is not the most comfortable thing in the world, as you doubtless know, but it should not be actually painful except for the occasional muscle soreness. If it were me, I would encourage you to lengthen the leg and foot away from you in tendu while pulling up through the abs and spine, rather than pressing the foot into the floor. A tendu in which there is weight on the toes is not a correct tendu, in my opinion, and that of many other teachers.

 

I hope this helps, and that you and your teacher are able to find a solution. :)

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That's what's making beginning pointe so confusing for me. Conflicting information on shoe fitting, on appropriate shanks for beginners, on technique. Guess I'll just have to muddle through and figure out what's safest for me.

 

This is the difficult aspect of pointe training - finding the correct shoes alone is a bit of a nightmare at times, especially because of the number of inexperienced fitters at shops.

As adults, I think we are more equipped than many young pointe students (who may only be 11 or 12 when first going en pointe) to figure out what might be safest for us and I know that teachers (well, at least my teachers) expect and ask us to let them know if something is painful or confusing, so that they can help/correct us.

 

It takes time to learn to dance en pointe, to learn to dance ballet, to learn anything new really...so you need to be patient! I know that I know a LOT more now about pointe shoes/technique etc than I did when I first went en pointe two years ago. I also know that I have had to go back and re-learn things en pointe because I might not have been at the best ballet school for me at the time (I'm not saying this is so in your case, but it is something I have experienced). This forum has been incredibly helpful as I have attempted to navigate my way through the conflicting opinions (most usually to do with which shoes work for me) and I encourage you to learn what you can and to seek knowledge and understanding.

 

Sorry for my little random sharing-of-personal-experience which might not be relevant to you!

Oh, and people call me Lau at times because that used to be my username and some posts were started when I was still using that username.

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Hopefully this will help clear up some of your shoe searching traumas:

Rule 1 - no such thing as beginner shanks or beginner/advanced shoes! I never understood the concept of some of the advertisements that would say, "This shoe is suitable for beginners!" or "This shoe is for the advanced student." I'm not sure what determines that classification. Seriously, whichever shoe works for you and your feet just works for you. If the shoe fits, right? Don't worry if you're wearing a shoe that isn't made just for beginners.

 

Once upon a time, I got fitted for a pointe shoe that was severely wrong for me. I was still beginning, and the fitter said I needed a hard shank (to strengthen my foot) and a broad platform to better balance in. I messed my feet up so bad in one day of class, let me tell you, I tossed those shoes and never looked back. I ended up with a shoe that I'm still using (though I've tried countless others just for the sake of trying) and I love it. It has a 3/4 shank that's very soft and a rather tapered platform - hey, it's perfect! It works! They claim that this shoe that I'm using now is for a more advanced dancer, but I needed it when I was a beginner then and am still using it now.

 

If you're ever in the market for pointe shoes again, if the fitter says that this shoe is for beginners but it doesn't work for you, don't buy it! Try on a hundred more if you have to. Haha!

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If you're ever in the market for pointe shoes again, if the fitter says that this shoe is for beginners but it doesn't work for you, don't buy it!
Good advice! And, if the fitter tells you this shoe is for beginners, run from the shop!
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Pirou, I understand many of your fears TOTALLY. I only began ballet as an adult and danced for a good few years before starting pointe something which I have not found easy.

I have found the advice on this board unbelievably helpful and just wish that I had found it a LOT earlier!

 

I found the shift from demi to pointe a bit hairy scary in large because of pointe shoes that were just not right and my really crazy arches that have not been a help for pointe work at all (wonderful for demi pointe work but oh so hard for pointe work).

 

I still find pointe work quite daunting and seriously lack courage in this aspect of my dancing, but I have come so far from where I once was.

 

Work hard at finding the right pair of pointe shoes (the right pair is the pair that feels right to you!) and then give it all you have got.

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