Miss Sara’s Point(e) of View: My Philosophies on Pointe Education.

 

Hello Curtain Call Family,

Thank you for joining me for my second blog entry. This article will tell you everything you need to know about pointe shoes. I think this will serve as an informative read for all: young students who one day dream to dance on their toes, current pre-pointe, intermediate pointe and advanced pointe students, and especially the families who fund and support their student’s pointe experiences.

Happy reading!

With love and pointed toes,

Miss Sara

P.S. If you have any more questions, please leave a comment and I will answer throughout the next few weeks!

 

Five Fun Facts about the History of Pointe Shoes

 

  1. Women haven’t always danced en pointe. In fact, when ballet originated in the French and Italian Courts of the 15th and 16th centuries, dancers were predominantly male. Women did not begin dancing until King Louis XIV of France established the first dance company and school called the Academie Royale De Danse. Even than women wore heavy skirts, rigid corsets and high heeled shoes. Most of the dancing was small, minimal and performed in the round of the royal courts. Women were not able to jump, turn or show of any foot work.

 

  1. A need for pointe shoes came about during the Romantic Era of Ballet. Choreographers were inspired by fairies, birds and mythical creatures. They wanted their dancers to appear light, ethereal and as if they were dancing on air. After the failure of the “flying machine”, invented in 1795 by Charles Didelot, dancers began experimenting with new types of soft shoes with hardened toes to lift themselves up to the tips of their toes.

 

  1. Marie Taglioni is one of the most famous dancers of the Romantic Era of Ballet and is credited with inspiring and wearing the first version of the pointe shoe. However, they were more reminiscent of a present day ballet slipper, with a leather sole and strong thread darned along the toe area to create a platform. Dancers could only hold a position en pointe for a few seconds each, but it was so revolutionary that audiences were thrilled. Marie Taglioni is most known for her role as a fairy in La Sylphide. She made ballet dancing so popular that it is rumored to say that people would buy her pointe shoes after shows, cook them and eat them!

 

  1. We can credit the birth of the pointe shoe with a stiffened box and ankle/arch support to Italian dancer Pierina Legani. She was the first dancer to ever do 32 fouettes en pointe, and she served as inspiration to Marius Petipa to include this difficult turn sequence in his famous grand pas de deuxs for ballets such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and even the Nutcracker.

 

  1. Today’s professional dancers require a lot out of their pointe shoes to keep up with the demands of choreography. Some are even made of new and different materials- like Gaynor Minden Pointe shoe made of a special plastic that lasts longer than a normal pointe shoe. Many professional ballet dancers have pointe shoes made for their unique feet by their own personal maker. They can go through one pair of shoes a day and often have a shoe allowance built into their salary benefits.

Curious how pointe shoes are made today? What materials are used and how long  it takes to create a gorgeous pointe shoes? Here is an excellent video to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlfExx49dSs

 

The Curtain Call Way: Our Philosophy on Pointe Training

My number one goal for pointe education at Curtain Call is safety first! Dancers who are placed en pointe too early can sustain stunt in their growth, sprained ankles and toe injuries. Bones in our feet do not begin to harden until our teen years, and many times our growth plates are still shifting and forming. For this reason, I do not start dancers en pointe at any age below thirteen. However, not all dancers are ready to be en pointe just because they hit this age.

 

Method to my Madness- Personal Experience!

I was placed en pointe at age 12, at a studio that did not have qualified teachers or a preparatory pointe program. I developed late in life. I did not stop growing until I was 17 years old and I was not dancing at a studio with a ballet program until the end of middle school. I was by no means ready to be en pointe.

My teacher told me to go the dance store and be ready in a week to join an advanced class. My mom and I did just that. We had no idea what we were getting into. We had no idea how to sew the ribbons or elastics. My mom did her best and ended up pricking her fingers and bleeding on the pink satin. I walked into my first class without any toe pads, and with my ribbons tied in a bow at my ankles. I had no idea how to correctly rise to my toes and was embarrassed and upset.

In my classes I walk my students through everything they would need to know prior to getting their shoes so they do not feel the anxiety and stress that I did. During your pre- pointe education with me you will learn

  • The anatomy of a pointe shoe
  • Your foot shape and characteristics of your unique foot
  • What shoes would look best on you
  • Injury prevention and foot hygiene
  • How to sew and tie your ribbons
  • How to properly break them in and care for them

Dancers will begin my class on flat shoes with the focus of creating more ankle, leg and core strength to eventually support themselves in pointe shoes. Not all dancers get their shoes at the same time. Not all dancers get their shoes within the first year of class. This year I have created a Pre- Pointe Trainee Program that assists dancers who are not quite ready for pointe work this year, but gives them the opportunity to learn and develop more strength. This program can take up to  2-3 years.

When can I go en pointe?

Your teacher will let you know when you are ready to enroll in a pointe class. But in the mean time here are questions to ask yourself. Any answer of “no” means you still have some more things to work on before you can safely wear pointe shoes.

  • Can I pique passe onto a straight leg without bending at my knee?
  • Do I have awareness of proper ankle and foot alignment? Do I tend to sickle or roll in?
  • Can I balance on one foot with body correctly positioned over supporting leg?
  • Can I maintain a releve for an extended period of time? Can I repeat multiple releve at the barre without tiring easily?
  • Can I maintain my balance with my abs strong, my rib cage closed and without falling backwards?

Now imagine yourself doing all of these exercises with only the tips of your toes to support you. 😊

Final Thoughts

Please remember that as you grow older and further your ballet training that pointe work is a privilege and not a right of passage. Not everyone is right for pointe work. Also, please consider the cost, care and responsibility of owning and working on pointe shoes. These days prices for pointe shoes start at 85$-115$ dollars. I always encourage my dancers to set aside money from babysitting, chores or birthday gifts to help supplement their first pair of shoes.

I will leave you today with a quote from an article I use in my classes called “Pointe Readiness and What to Expect” by studio owner Nichelle M.

“As a student you should expect no less of a teacher than to instruct logically, carefully and thoughtfully. Make a commitment to respecting your instructor’s judgment and knowledge if she feels you are not ready yet for pointe work. A teacher willing to say no to you has likely put a lot of thought behind that decision. A teacher who tells everyone yes is not someone to trust.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *