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Skyla

The Pointe Race

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Skyla

Hi Everyone

I am a brand-spanking-new adult ballet student with little practical knowledge and many ignorant questions. I started the journey long before finally taking the plunge to attend my first adult beginner class two weeks ago, much with the help of the senior members on this forum. Over the years I have read many blogs, subscribed to many Youtube channels and relentlessly watched the Swanlanke cygnets in slow motion in an attempt to understand the magnificent sorcery I see before me (I still don't, by the way). 

There is one question, especially from adults, that has no end to it: en pointe. ''When will I be ready? How long will it take? How can I do it quicker? How do I know if I'm ready?''

May I please ask the opinion of experienced dancers and teachers on here why there is a race to get en pointe

It's pretty. It's gracious. It's proper. It's real ballet. The thought of it does make me excited, almost as much as the cygnets.

Realistically though, I don't know if I will ever be able to. At 33 I consider myself fully grown and there is little to do about an adult's bone structure. My ankles are short so I assume my achilles tendons must be nearly non-existent. I spent a good 5 years of my life morbidly obese and lost _______lbs over the past year and a half. I might be at a near normal BMI now, but trust me it takes a long time for your muscles and bones to adapt to a significant change in body weight. I have an hourglass figure that is by no means a ballerina's slim yet athletic figure, and my bone structure is large comparing the size of my wrists to that of my friends. I also have very wide feet with a high profile which makes me wonder if even the Russian pointe brands size 6 width would fit. Besides for the love of ballet, the only things I have going for me are really long hamstrings and my toes being in line with my leg when I point them! (Yes, I have clearly thought about this thoroughly considering the multitude of adult ballet FAQ's I've encountered about going en pointe!)

This is the body I was given. My figure does not make me a ballerina, but my assets are appreciated in many instances outside the world of ballet. I have accepted it. 

Will I be left behind by those adults who do have the ability to go en pointe?

Is it suddenly not enough to love ballet and how doing ballet makes you feel anymore?

Why is going en pointe considered the end destination?

I look forward to hearing everyone's opinions!

 

 

Edited by dancemaven
Removed weight numbers per BT4D Rules and Policies.

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Chasse Away

Hey girl,

I just thought I’d weigh in again. I’ve never been to any school where pointe is considered the “end destination”. I mean yeah, sure, pointe is cool, but pointe shoes does not a ballet dancer make. At a certain point there is a natural progression to pointe work, just like there is a natural progression to pirouettes and fouetté turns, because there is a demand for all of if it in classical choreography. 

Honestly, I wouldn’t count yourself out just yet. Like pointe work isn’t easy, but it’s certainly not as unattainable as some people paint it to be. 

But yeah, like ballet is ballet, on pointe or not. I’m not sure where you are hearing otherwise, but you should definitely not be listening to them!!

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Skyla
1 hour ago, Chasse Away said:

Pointe shoes does not a ballet dancer make.....But yeah, like ballet is ballet, on pointe or not.

Hi Chasse Away

Thanks for commenting, always appreciated!

I love your quoted words and I'm really very happy to hear a dancer say this. I'm glad I asked this question from someone in the know. My sources have been the internet so far and this pointe race is seriously over represented in adult ballet discussions. 

With that being said, can the routines you progress towards still be learnt in normal non-pointe shoes too? Will I still be able to continue together with everyone else even if I'm not en pointe, or will it stop there for me?

 

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Chasse Away

Interesting. I must admit I have very little background on adults and their introduction to pointe so it may well be a very prevalent discussion. I mean, the shoes are pretty cool, and it's easy to see how some dancers might get carried away. After all, it's only natural to want to categorize our progress, and the distinction of pointe vs no pointe is an easy and obvious one to make. 

35 minutes ago, Skyla said:

With that being said, can the routines you progress towards still be learnt in normal non-pointe shoes too? 

Yes absolutely. Pointe work is just an extension of flat work, aside from the shoe there is minimal difference between the two and this is by design. Ballet existed for 200 years before pointe shoes were even invented. Let's say Marie Taglioni first stepped en pointe in 1830, since I can't find the exact date, that means every ballet choreographed prior, and some post probably since it could not have been an instantaneous implimentation, were choreographed to be danced in flat shoes. Based on my research that includes La Fille Mal Gardee, maybe Paquita (1846) or Giselle (1841), and countless others from the early nineteenth century that I can't think of right now. 

Flat work and pointe work follow the same aesthetic rules, the rules that say a pointed turned out foot makes the leg look longer and therefore nicer. Pointe work is just like a boost in that aesthetic direction, it isn't something new. My ballet teacher is a male who has never danced on pointe. How can he teach a pointe class? Because flat ballet (normal ballet) is all the fundamentals, the entire library, for dancing en pointe. If you have an understanding of (normal ie flat) ballet, and you have partnered a dancer en pointe, then you have all the knowledge you will ever need to understand pointe work. 

You can do any choreography you want on flat and still have it be 'technically' correct with little to no modifications. 

As for the question 

Quote

Will I still be able to continue together with everyone else even if I'm not en pointe, or will it stop there for me?

Probably not. Like, if you join an amateur ballet company they might require you dance en pointe, but the could have roles for dancers not en pointe as well, there are lots of character roles in most classical ballet, and those are usually danced in heeled shoes called character shoes. You might find yourself in classes where after barre everyone puts their pointe shoes on, but again, you can still take the class in your flat shoes, people do this in my pointe class all the time when they are recovering from an injury or need to sew their shoes or something. Maybe you dance at a studio and they put on a full ballet and your class is doing a section that is danced en pointe, but at this pointe your teacher would know you aren't on pointe so you will have already discussed it. These are like outer edge cases and I really don't see them happening at all, but they are the ONLY cases where not dancing en pointe would 'hold you back', and it wouldn't even hold you back per say, it's just the only cases where not dancing on pointe (with the rest of your class) could be considered. 

 

Hope this helps clarify things! Go fourth and dance and remind everyone who is propagating the idea that 'pointe is ballet' or whatever that they are incorrect!

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LaFilleSylphide

Technically any variation can be done on flat, it's just a bit different in that hops on pointe would look a bit different because they'd be hops on demi pointe. Even a partnered promenade can be done without pointe shoes, and again, a difference might be you wouldn't be able to make as many rotations off pointe with an assisted/partnered pirouette versus in regular shoes. That being due to friction alone. 

For the life of me, I can't think of anything that can't be done without pointe shoes besides being en pointe. Maybe échappés? Even an échappé can be done in demi, but it is sort of best on pointes. Anyway, the point is.. (sigh) not having pointe shoes doesn't stop you from learning any variation, not even cygnettes from swan lake. 

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BalletFamily

I'm 55, fat, disabled, and have terrible foot flexibility.  I started pointe last year.

I can't answer if pointe will be right for you; only you can answer that.  Nor do I know if you'll get to where you have the skills and the physical characteristics to start pointe safely.   It does take a few years of solid ballet training before you can consider it.  I'd never been on pointe before but I took ballet as a child/teen and other forms of dance into college.  But I hadn't danced ballet for 30 years.  I was cleared by my teacher to start pointe after 3-4 years of regular ballet classes but postponed for a year because of a chronic shoulder injury.

I completely stink at it but am slowly getting better.  I have to be very careful due to chronic injuries, but my physiotherapist says I'm fine to do pointe as long as I'm careful.

It's not a "race" and it's totally optional.  I wasn't even interested at first, as other adult students I take class with started doing it.  But then I decided to give it a try.  It's fun!  Though it will be a long time before I can do anything much.  And that's okay.

So, if you want to try when you're ready, go for it.  if not, then enjoy all the rest that ballet has to offer.

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Miss Persistent

As a teacher who has put many adult students en pointe, in answer to your questions;

1. No

2. No

3. It's not.

Does not being able to pirouette because of a medical condition mean you can't love ballet? No. Because my 70 year old adult student can't jump anymore does it mean she is finished and must be put out to pasture? No. I can no longer dance on pointe, does that mean I have no right to do beautiful pots de bras and dance with feeling? Ummmm.... No.

Learning ballet as an adult should not be about some end goal someone else has prescribed - It should be about what you want to get from it.  If that's pointe work, no dramas. But many people just want to experience dancing, learn a new skills, improve their mind and their body, relax and enjoy themselves, or fulfill a life dream.  So, what do you want to get out of ballet?

 

 

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Victoria Leigh

Amen, Miss Persistent!  I totally agree, and I can think of a ton of analogies to hundreds of other areas of our lives that should make this response totally clear.  No time now, but will try later to add a few. :)

 

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Redbookish

As an adult dancer (eternal ballet student) I totally agree with Miss Persistent. Pointe is possible for some adults, but honestly, I see women on pointe who should not be. They can't hold their turn out, they sickle, their knees are not pulled up (so they're not over the box properly), and so on.

I actually think as an adult dancer that there is so much to try to learn and dance with proficiency, ease & grace on demi-pointe, that one can spend a lifetime  exploring the repertoire.

Yes, there are some steps & some variations or even in-class combinations where I think, "Oh this would be lovely on pointe (and sometimes easier)" but I think people who use pointe as a shortcut to ballet fitness, or see pointe as the be-all and end-all of learning ballet have got their priorities a bit confused.

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LaFilleSylphide

Redbookish... I want to engrave that last sentence onto plaques and hang them in every studio.

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Redbookish

But I suspect I don't do pointe any more because it just hurts!

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BalletFamily

I'd like to add that...

When I started pointe it was in totally the wrong shoes (another story).  I was quite frustrated and didn't know if the problem was the shoes or my body, but I persisted with it because:

1) It was not causing me harm (not just my perception but also that of my teacher and my physiotherapist)
2) It was helping my non-pointe ballet.

My feet and ankles got stronger.
My lower limb flexibility improved.
A few moves I had just been coasting by on the technique for, I suddenly understood the underlying technique and fixed it.

This was all without letting go of the barre with either hand.  I've really noticed that I do better in my technique classes, and so have my teachers.

While I don't recommend anyone start pointe just for these reasons (though some do take pointe for the strengthening), there are advantages to doing it even at a very low level.

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Skyla
On 5/15/2019 at 4:01 AM, Miss Persistent said:

  So, what do you want to get out of ballet?

Miss Persistent

I want to dance because of how the movement of ballet to music makes me feel, not because of how it makes me look.

I am only a beginner, I am only learning the most basic very first introductory movements. It is the place in my mind and soul to which I escape when I do these movements that carry meaning to me. I do not want this taken away from me because of my physical limitations.

On 5/17/2019 at 4:18 AM, Redbookish said:

I think people who use pointe as a shortcut to ballet fitness, or see pointe as the be-all and end-all of learning ballet have got their priorities a bit confused.

Redbookish, 

This should be used as the gold standard to separate those who belong en pointe from those who do not. 

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Redbookish

BalletFamily, you sound very sensible about pointe work, and the way you've been able to use it with developing your technique. But I see people on pointe who have a very shaky grasp of technique ... It just looks awful, never mind what it might be doing to their bodies!

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BalletFamily

Thanks Redbookish.  And I didn't pursue the possibility for a couple years after I was likely ready because I assumed it would be too hard on my body.  I waited until all the pieces were in place (not just the pieces of my body).  It's fun but it's definitely not an important direction to take for us adults to enjoy and progress in ballet.

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