Pointe for beginners

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As a ballerina you will most likely have a basket or box full of pairs of old, dirty and battered pointe shoes that for 1 – 3 months were loved and used and wasted. Or you might have just gotten the permission from your ballet teacher to start pointe, and you are searching for the perfect pair of pointes. My first pair, I remember, was when I was twelve, and I went to London with my family for the summer. After having walked through the streets of London in the uncomfortable heat and after having tried shoes from Bloch, Freed and Gaynor Minden, I finally found my perfect pair of Grishko pointe shoes in the heart of Covent garden. Since then I have only used Grishko and have gone through multiple pairs of shoes that are now too soft, broken or full of holes. I’m sure you will have experienced the excitement of a brand new pair of shiny pointe shoes, and the tire of having to buy new ones every time your current shoes wear. If you are a beginner who is looking or advice on how to treat your very first pair of pointe shoes, then please keep reading!

Pads

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It is extremely important that you find the right pair of pads for you (that is, if your teacher and school allows the use of pads, which I know that not all do). If you are allowed, I would suggest trying multiple pairs of pads of different materials and thickness. I use one Bunhead Ouch Pouch pad in each shoe (Can be found here) which are relatively thin, which is why I use an extra thin layer of padding inside (Unfortunately I cannot remember where I purchased these). If I feel the need for extra padding in sore areas, I use small gel spots (similar can be found here). In my experience, thick silicone pads have not worked for me because I find them too thick, but that does not go to say they are not right for you. Everyones feet are different!

Storing my shoes

I would advise you to have a small pouch or bag to carry your pointe shoes in while travelling to and from class. After you have been rehearsing, your shoes will be sweaty and hot from your feet. It is therefore important to let your shoes cool down before putting them in your bag if you can help it. The purpose is to preserve your shoes. However, if this is not possible,  a small bag which is thin and has holes in it for breathing such as the one you see below is a good choice.

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After my shoes have cooled down, I fold the heel as shown on the picture so that the ribbons are free. I have put my pads in each shoe for safekeeping, however you can store them in a separate pouch or box if you like.

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Then I wrap the ribbon around the back of the heel (this will stop it from creasing), and I do this on both shoes as such.

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I then slip one shoe into the other, and put them into the bag, sealing the top.

How to tie your shoes

Tying your shoe correctly is important to maintain your performance and the quality of your pointe work. First of all, you do not want your shoes to slip off when dancing, or your ribbons to loosen. I will show you how I tie my shoes to give you an indication of the process.

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To begin with, your knee should be in a 90 degree triangle position so that it is correct. Then you begin by crossing both ribbons at the front.

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The ribbons should then go around your ankle and back to the front again, where you will once again cross them.

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Now bring the ribbon around your ankle again until they meet on the inside side of your legs. The purpose of this is so that it will look nicer when you dance and if it looks unity people won’t notice as well. You then tie a knot (make sure it is strong enough but not too tight as to cut the blood flow to your legs), and tuck it inside the ribbons, concealing it.

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And there you have it! Your shoe is now done and you are ready to dance!

Until next time,
Sophie

Source:

Reinhardt, A., (2008). Pointe shoes: tips & tricks for choosing, tuning and care. Alton, Hampshire, Dance Books.

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9 thoughts on “Pointe for beginners

  1. Thank you so much! I thought it would be so difficult to do this, but I followed your advice and it helped me! This is the first website that explains to everyone how they can do it!

  2. this was super helpful for me as i am new to this and it was a very interesting read and the simple language helped me a lot as i am a bit slow!

  3. It’s so sad that you quit ballet! If I were you I would have balanced it! I know how hard it can be to dance and do your studies at the same time. Sometimes you have to cut down sessions, and you start feeling like you aren’t making any progress. But you shouldn’t have given up! It’s not too late, Miss. Aker, you can still be a graceful ballet dancer!
    I suggest that you begin again as soon as the school year becomes easier to handle. You are 16 now, and you started when you were 5? That’s eleven years of dedication, you can’t waste all those years by quitting! Get a grip, girl!
    I use the Capezio glissé pointe shoes. Have you tried them?
    Maybe in your next post you can write about the different names for the components of the shoe; vamp, throat, quarter, and so forth?
    Don’t give up on your dream!!!

  4. Hi! My teacher told me that I might be able to start pointework pretty soon (in a couple of months) I was wondering what happens when you get pointeshoes and how do you know what kind to get? There are so many different brands!

    • That’s great! If your teacher said that it means your feet are strong enough. Your first pair is tricky, because there are so many to try and they all suit different feet. I would recommend trying many different paris of shoes, see which ones feel right and which ones you like the best. When I got my first pair I was in London and I was literally in every dance shop trying different pairs. Since you are a beginner, you might want your shoe to be a little softened. You might want to try Grishko pro-flex because they have purposefully been softened and are made for new beginners. However, these do get worn out pretty quickly, so after a while you might want to try the normal, unsoftened shoe, Grishko 2007 model. Otherwise, I have heard great things about Gaynor Minden. But keep in mind that you might not find your perfect pair the first time you try, and don’t despair if you have to change, it’s completely normal, although I was lucky with my pair and I have always used Grishko 2007. When you get your first pointe shoes you start off really slowly – don’t practice with them all the time and avoid really complicated exercises at first, it takes time before you are completely comfortable. Good luck with your first pair of shoes, I’m sure you will find it a great experience!

  5. “THE POINTE OF BALLET” by Dane Youssef

    To all of those out of there, those elite goddesses in the field of ballet… who give themselves wholly to the craft. All for ballet.

    Ladies, I have to bow my head and kneel in respect to you all, whoever you may be.

    The demands to reach excellence in ballet are infinite, aren’t they? Up with the sun, strenuous workout from the dawn ’til the dusk, pushing every part of the body to do the impossible. then after, the impossible is reached, it must be continuously worked on, every moment of every day.

    Because it’s not like any simple talent, it’s physical ability. The moment you stop working on it, it all goes away.

    Yes, those ladies are not merely professionals. They are soldiers. Their lives of one are endless access.

    I see you all bearing the war wounds of a professional. Crooked hammer toes, slight blisters, athlete’s foot–even blooming under the nails like a lush garden. As we all know, folks–ballet is never merely a hobby. Especially if you want to be particularly good at it.

    There are women all over the ballet world who do this. Who must. Many talk of “perfect feet.” The ideal feet for ballet, to truly possess feet for professional ballet– for the ladies in this field, are notoriously deformed—calluses, blisters, boils, warts, damaged nails, athlete’s foot, bunions, and on and on and on.

    And until those feet are good and strong enough, the Pointe shoe must remain just out of reach. An ideal peak goal to be achieved. Like a big juicy carrot a few inches in front of a donkey’s face.

    It’s a rite of passage. Not just to take a big milestone in her life in ballet, but new shoes. Special shoes. Powerful shoes. Every woman love shoes so. And ballerinas dream of the day they get to do those toe shoes.

    But beware, those shoes come at a hefty price. And no, I do not mean the pricey cost.

    The shoes can cause blisters, bunions, warts, calluses, broken toenails, athlete’s foot, splints, arthritis, crooked toes – and that’s just the headline.

    Still, that’s a necessary price one must pay to be part of such a craft. Ballet is sacrifice itself. And the reward is you become more than mortal. Do and feel more in a few weeks than most do in a lifetime.

    It is a part of immortal history that Margot Fonteyn was not only a prima ballerina, but was named “prima ballerina absolutta” by the British Empire as well as given the rank of Dame. History looks at her as one of the finest there ever was in the sport despite her notorious “bad feet.”

    Yes, that she had “bad ballet feet” is also a part of history–but this is only known to die-hard fanatical balletomanes. You know, people actually in the professional dance industry.

    But unless you’re really savvy about the craft, you must ask, “what are ballet feet? What are bad feet for ballet?”

    The kind of feet that are best equipped for ballet–high arches, high insteps that will suit jumps, Pointe, pirouette, tendus and what-have-you. From being able to arch your foot and being able to balance on the metatarsal.

    What this refers to is the fact that her feet had low arches, like “sticks of butter” and her legs were quite short for a ballerina. On a ballerina, long legs and arms are a must. Absolutely necessary as being able to stand up and walk. And Fonteyn’s were considerably short, and yes–flat feet.

    Look, I myself have been praised by ballet pros for my very own feet–made for ballet, which I’ve been taking for nine whole years. Take it from someone who’s done the craft and played the sport himself for almost a decade: You don’t just have to be born with it.

    If you want the glorified curve in your foot, for it to stand tall and prominent, you’ll just have to work at it. Doing pointe exercise with an elastic band until those arches come up. Mold your feet into the proper shape like they’re made of clay.

    Yet this little woman, one Margaret Fonteyn was given the title of “prima ballerina absolutta,” an honor given to the precious ballerinas who seem to be heaven-sent in the profession. Madams Anna Pavolva, Natalia Makarova, and of course, Fonteyn.

    Ballet master and innovator himself George Balanchine critiqued the first lady of Royal Ballet herself Margot as, “Hands like spoons, bad feet, can’t dance at all.” But he also attacked Rudi as, “a passable dancer whose problem is he always tries to be the prince.” Mr. Balanchine wanted the only star of his ballets to be his own choreography. Any dancer who’s career and reputation outshone his own made him feel threatened.

    He founded a school and company where he was God. That’s why he called his students/employees “dear.” He liked to think of them as his own children. One of those true artistes who was all ego.

    Look, kids: Technique is one thing. But Margot had a way of onstage, a charisma and persona that isn’t really taught. Makarova’s technique was flawless. She was born for technique. But technique can be taught. Margot had a way that transcended mere skill or exact body type.

    Fonteyn was an icon in her field, regardless of how “proper” her feet (or her short legs) might have been. There is more to the ballet than mere physical dance. She was a ballerina.

    So take this to heart, dear friends and readers, scholars of the ballet: the exact body type, feet, etc. is not written in stone or law. While the conventional way increase the odds of you getting classical roles and employment sooner–perhaps–remember, the ones that break the mold are the ones people remember. The ones who are granted Damehood. Absolute Prime Ballerina. Like the gifted lady in this picture.

    Remember, dance is an art form. A form of self-expression. And when you are not true to yourself or don’t have the faith, there’s just nothing there at all. No art. No dance. No beauty. No truth.

    Nothing.

    Still, judging from what I see. It all for good reason. To all those who put themselves through the endless ordeal, this life of nothing but sacrifice and constant testing of medal–yes, you are a ballerina. Those battered, beaten, bleeding feet speak deafening volumes.

    –Your Brother in Arms and Tights, Dane Youssef

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