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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pointe work is extremely demanding and exhausting


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Okay, I have a question.


I have been en pointe for a month now. My schedule before going en pointe was more or less five or six 90-minute classes a week, depending on what my work schedule allowed, with Mondays off as the down day of our studio.


I have now replaced my Saturday 90-minute technique class at my home studio with a 30-45 minute pointe class at the new studio (which offers dedicated pointe classes), and I also either do the specialized pointe barre in my regular Wednesday night class at my home studio, or the Monday technique/pointe class at the other studio if I have to miss Wednesday or other technique classes due to work, still maintaining basically a 6-day-a-week schedule.


Prior to being en pointe, 6 days of class a week was perfectly doable. But now that some of those classes include or are composed of pointework, I am finding that my body is getting more taxed and tired. After 30 minutes of pointe, my legs are quivering with effort, and once or twice my muscles have even been slightly sore the next day. Not just my arches or the muscles under my toes, which I did feel once in the first week, but different areas in my thighs and even in my torso/abs! :shrug: I definitely cannot go all out the next day in technique class following a day with pointework.


Would it be better to keep up my daily schedule and let my body adjust to the increased demand (if not increased actual class time) or cut back to 3-4 days a week of class a week? What would be the repercussions of either of those choices?

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If you cut back, then your body won't get to the level you would like it to be at.


Last year, I had 8 hours of pointe out of 12 hours of classes. My body got used to it, though it was EXTREMELY hard at first. I couldn't get through a barre without stopping and resting, in one of my classes. I could barely do center work. It got better as my body got used to it, though, and by the end of the year, I could do the whole barre without stopping, while the young ones in the class, the ones who were SUPPOSED to have energy, could not.


This year, I've cut back the pointe work to about 2 hours a week and find I'm having stamina issues again. I know it's because of not taxing the body the way I had last year. The body will revert to whatever level you give it, if you cut back.


Of course, this is all said without knowing your physical circumstances. All I know is that if one doesn't try, it won't magically happen, so if your body can eventually handle it, I'd try to stick with the same schedule and modify within the class (e.g. do some things on demi, or opt out of an exercise if you get too winded).

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My first thought was good! That is absolutely what should happen. Your body will react and you will discover muscles that exist in places you didn't even know you had them!! If you were a teen I'd tell you that you darn well better get in there the next day and give it your all in order for your body to build the necessary strength. But I'd also know the teen well and know what her body could and could not handle because I'd be working with her in front of me.


You, as an adult, have to judge for yourself what you can and cannot handle. :shrug:

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I am going to add to my post above that one of the reasons I used my pointe shoes so much was to build up stamina and strength. Only 2 of the class I took last year were truly pointe classes - 3 hours total. The others were lower level ballet classes - one of them a beginner ballet class - in which I used my shoes. I used a heart rate monitor (still do) and it helped me determine how much my body was working (and why sometimes I was feeling faint or ill during class - HR spikes, etc.) and, as I said above, I'd modify based on that and my body's feelings. As an adult in mostly teen classes, the teachers generally let me do this. As I mentioned above, by the end of the year, my stamina was better than most of the teens I went to class with, in my hardest pointe class, at least.


Do what your body tells you to do, but do think about the fact that it's trying to build up stamina and reducing exercise will not help it build this.

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Oh, man. You guys are hardcore! Okay, I'm inspired. My friends and family and boyfriend all think I'm a bit bonkers to push the way I do. I'm turning 45 next Friday. But as long as I don't have to worry that there would be anything bad about it, I'm more satisfied to push through.


As far as modifying something down to demi, Ha! that is a no-go in my class! I got yelled at for that on Wednesday. If the shoes are on, I'm expected to go up. But, I can do like other students and switch down to my flats at any time. That is perfectly allowable. I just hate missing the first few beats of any exercise if I'm not fast enough.


By the way, can I wear my pointe shoes every day as a beginner? I mean, I have them on in classes 2-3 days a week, but I'd kind of like to put them on for 10-15 minutes after my technique classes and just do relevés and passés and pas de bourées. Do you think that's okay?


This is all after I recover from dropping the 20-lb board on my toe last night while trying to catch the giant rat in my kitchen, however. Until then, en flat, it is. Hopefully less than a week. Yes, that's the toe that was getting numb before. When it rains, it pours.

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Okay...I'm older than you. So there it is.


I don't see why you can't do some little practices as long as you do them correctly.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

If you don't feel you are strong enough to do a pointe exercise on pointe, I feel your instructor is correct is stating it can be done on demi pointe in your soft slippers but ... do you mean you are supposed to switch from pointe to flat and back to pointe again, during the class depending on the exercise?


I wouldn't recommend practicing on your own, even for a short while, if you truly are an absolute beginner (and after one month of pointe work, that would be a reasonable assumption). Why? We all "don't know what we don't know" when we are learning something new and unless supervised, we can get into some incorrect habits which can be hard to "unlearn".

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Hi Pas de Quoi!


Well, my teacher is a bit of a magical bird. If he expects us to do something, it's usually because we can. He will rarely ask someone to do something they can't do, but he will frequently ask someone to do something they don't think they can do. When I got called out for staying on demi pointe, I turned around for the other side and did it on full pointe flawlessly and with no hesitation, no wobble, no discomfort, and no feeling of lack of strength - much to my own surprise. Earlier, when I started to notice that my leg was starting to go up in arabesque, within 48 hours, the corrections started coming in (I had never mentioned that subtle feeling to him). When the leg, previously, couldn't physically go up any higher, no corrections. That's the kind of teacher he is. I don't know how he sees it. And he does it for every single student. It's amazing. If he tells me to let go of the barre, I truly believe it's because I can do it.


In the lower level non-dedicated-pointe class, we have an area in the classroom where those en pointe stand, right next to the teacher. We do different exercises than the rest of the class, and we get corrections specifically on our pointe technique (and often special warm-up exercises before class). When the exercises get above our level, we take our shoes off, and don't put them back on. That's the technique class in which I wear my pointes.


As far as exercises after class, we have a 10- to 15-minute period where anyone who has any energy left after class practices their turns or their pirouettes or something we did in class, etc. Our teacher watches us like a hawk, and corrects us, even in that period after class. Last week I was way on the opposite diagonal corner, far, far away from him, doing simple elevés in my slippers, and he still yelled out corrections (asked me to add a balance, actually). He sees everything! Any out-of-class pointework, whether before or after class, is highly scrutinized and corrected by our teacher. He will even assign exercises and make us do them in the before or after class period.


I also have an individual tutor who works with me after class sometimes and checks my technique, with my teacher's approval.


So these are the circumstances under which I work. I feel extremely well supported and encouraged by both my teachers, and I'm mainly asking if there is some physical reason I shouldn't do a few minutes of pointework after a normal daily technique class. I kind of like the consistency of a daily practice routine, so as long as it's safe, it feels most natural for me.


P.S. I wouldn't dare try a pirouette in my pointe shoes!!! A relevé on one foot at the barre is as far as I go! That relevé does come up in a variety of different combinations, however.


Serendipity, I am so encouraged to hear that you are at least my age and are maintaining a full schedule. I hope I can get stronger and stronger.

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I want to come to YOUR class! While I get corrections, now, in several of my classes, being an adult in mostly teen classes, generally the teachers don't watch me like your teacher watches you.


If you keep at it, though, you will improve and it sounds like you have a great teacher helping you through, as well.

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  • Administrators

Adding a little bit at a time should be helpful in gaining strength. Adding too much at once can be detrimental. Listen to your body. If it is tired or hurting, pushing through with something new like pointe work could be an invitation to injury. It is good that the teacher is there for your practice time, but, like Pas de Quoi, I would not encourage you to do more on your own yet.


I also agree with what she says about on, off, on again pointe shoes in a class. For what type of exercises do you remove the shoes? Are they things that you can't yet do on pointe but could do on demi pointe in the pointe shoes? If so, that could be good to do rather than change the shoes.

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Serendipity, we are VERY lucky here to have someone who pays attention to us like this as adults. People drive from all the nearby cities from several hours away to take class with him. Many of the other ballet teachers in town come and take class with him. Teenagers who have moved on to residential schools come back to his class on their breaks. Professionals come back between tours. It's pretty awesome.


We had someone quite above the rest of us in class last night, and he gave her special turn/jump combinations across the floor (just as he does for the boys) to match her level. We all enjoyed watching her and clapped when she got to the other side!


Miss Leigh, thank you very much for your information. I will take your advice and stay off my shoes except for when called for in class.


We are not putting on and taking off shoes in class. I didn't mean to make it sound that way. This is just in our barre-adjusted technique class, not the dedicated pointe class, but in this class, we all start out in our pointe shoes, and the exercises in class get successively harder. When we pass our level, we are supposed to take our shoes off and finish the class in our slippers. The most advanced students go all the way through both the barre and center in their pointe shoes. My shoes generally come off between rondo de jambs and passé or frappé (which has a lot of the one-foot relevé which is about my limit). (That's also the one he felt I could complete en pointe and not on demi, and it turned out he was right. I just tried to do it on demi because I wasn't fast enough to get my shoes off and didn't want to miss a few beats.)

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Does he ever let you face the barre but continue on pointe? Mine does, which means I can continue to build strength while maintaining some semblance of dignity (and confidence! LOL!).

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Well, I do turn to the barre when we do one-footed balances that are hard for me. I suppose I could try it and see if I get yelled at!

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I definitely have to agree with one of Pirou's earlier statements... "You guys are hardcore!" clearly I need to up my game a lot!


I wish that I had the sort of classes and attention that you have Pirou!

I have a really good teacher who is a stickler for technique and is known for such right across the country, but we just dont have the number of classes etc that you have!


My pointe work is the weakest area of my ballet training... I think that a large portion is just pure plain fear combined with a tendency to over analyse things as opposed to just getting on with it. I must say that reading about the number of classes and very busy schedules is a bit shocking sometimes I thought that my schedule was packed to capacity with working full day, taking class 4 times a week and running a home complete with kids... but clearly not. I need to dust off my pointe shoes and put them on my feet a LOT more often than I do!

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