Friday, November 30, 2007

Building Strength, Your Age Profile and Dancing in Pointe Shoes

Regardless of your age profile, you can now get the information on how to build strength and good classical technique toward dancing in pointe shoes.

Ballet shoes naturally lead to pointe shoes, and although there is no guarantee that you will do pointe work, repetition builds strength, and correct instruction creates good dance technique. Precision and detail are required to achieve this. Education prevents injury. A whole new world opens to dance students with the correct information!


When I was professionally training and needed pointe shoes, I could choose only between Gamba and Freed. Freeds were agonizing for my not so flexible and not quite strong enough feet, and Gambas were much easier to break in for me. Unfortunately, no one told us how to initially break in a shoe so as to enhance our work.

I was in a class with some younger girls and they were a year ahead of me in training. I was told that pointe work hurts, and not to complain. I was told that a little Lamb's Wool was ok to put in the shoes, but that the dancer should be able to do pointe without it, and not to complain.

No one had help in fitting the shoes, or breaking them in. I went through pointe classes seeing black spots from the pain, straining my neck and shoulders, getting the usual bloody blisters. It did not seem to occur to my teacher that maybe something was amiss with me and a few others who had these problems.

Students shared different tips and tricks with each other, to make things easier. Wrapping Kleenex around our toes was one. Another amusing one was that at The National Ballet School, the ancient washroom (long gone at this point) had funny little squares of toilet paper that were waxy, as opposed to absorbent. They were perfect for pointe shoes! Two layers meant that they would slide against each other, unlike tissue which could bunch up. The waxy paper also slid against the tights, preventing blisters. Later we used plastic wrap too, for the slippery effect.

By year two of training I had developed better techniques of avoiding the extreme pain. What a waste of a year, also the negative perception of my abilities by my teachers. I was truly struggling unnecessarily and could have done much better.

We all wore shoes that were too small. We had no guidance in strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles. I think I was already teaching when I heard another teacher describe the "dragging the towel" exercise to a student, for strengthening under the foot. That student had a problem with muscle cramps. Which we all did in my first year.

I was extremely lucky in another aspect however. Our pre-pointe training was excellent in that our posture, placement, turnout, rises, releves and retire positions were as perfect as our physiques could allow. We had teachers' assistants in large classes so everyone was corrected, constantly.

However, the anatomical knowledge that is available now, was unknown. The details that could have allowed some of us to flourish, weren't known.

You can get ALL of this wealth of information and with instructional photos and video that will help you know how to start working your pre-pointe exercises, and assess your own progress, for dancing in pointe shoes!

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