How To Dance With Pointe Shoes – Tips For The Class Room

How to dance on pointe shoes

how to dance with pointe shoesHere is a post dedicated to the subject on how to dance with pointe shoes, as it is not as easy as ballerina’s make it look.

It is the dream of every little girl who does ballet to dance in pointe shoes.  In fact, all my pupils at some stage of their training ask me when they can buy their first pair of pointe shoes. Ballet is the only dance form that uses pointe shoes, although I have seen other dance forms lately attempting to adopt dancing on their toes for various shows or competitions.

Of course, the reality of dancing with pointe shoes is quite a different story and not a glamorous one at that.  There are blisters, ingrown toenails and varying degrees of pain to deal with. Learning to dance ‘en pointe’ is a long training process that takes years.

Pupils have to work slowly to develop the required strength in their feet and ankles before they start to do the complicated steps that they see the stars doing. There are no short cuts here, otherwise, you could be putting yourself in danger of getting permanent injuries.

Here is some practical advice for teachers and pupils who are learning the art of pointe work.

How To Dance With Pointe Shoes

How To Strengthen the Feet

If you want to know how to dance with pointe shoes, you must know that you won’t be able to do this properly until you have strong feet.

When doing your normal ballet class, make sure all your movements are with your feet using the floor.  There should be a feeling of pushing the floor away from you whenever you do a tendu. Your feet and the floor need to become good friends, and your feet need to use the floor with pressure in order to get strong enough over the years to master pointe work.

Here are a few more great ways to strengthen the feet:

  • While sitting curl foot into a c-shape to strengthen arch and hold for a while.
  • Walk while rising and lowing through the demi point, preferably working with no shoes.
  • Write the alphabet in cursive with your feet, one foot at a time.
  • While sitting push toes into the floor with pressure to arch feet (like pushing a towel underneath foot).  Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Scrunch up a towel with the feet.
  • Keep the heel on the floor in one spot and push the towel side to side with the toes.
  • Sit flat on knees to stretch the front of the foot.
  • Put the front of the foot against the wall with the foot flat and slowly stretch the knee and try to keep the top of the foot on the wall.
  • A good exercise to start with is standing parallel facing the bar.  Place foot on the calf and step up to 1st before lowering through the feet.  You can also do plies and rises then straighten legs turned in or out.
  • Do multiple rises and releves every week, on two feet and one foot.

Notes For Teachers

What Exercises Should I Start My Pupils  With En Pointe

When you dance in your pointe shoes for the first time, walk, run, and skip in the shoes first to get used to them.  They will feel totally different from the normal ballet slipper, and your foot will have to work a lot harder to make the shoes point and look good.

All pointe work should be done with the support of a barre or a partner, to begin with.  Gradually the student places less weight on the bar and more on his or her toes.

Many repetitions of rises and releves on two feet and then moving from two feet to one foot are required here. This is how to dance with pointe shoes in the beginning until your feet get stronger.

Be very careful of the overarched foot – the sole of the shoe must first be softened.  Make sure the knuckles of the toes don’t bend when standing on pointe.  The overarched foot will need more strengthening than the average foot in general.

Rolling feet in or out places strain on the ankles and knees, so insist on the student/dancer getting this right.

Here are some exercises for teachers to try with their pupils:

  • Stand parallel 1st on point and go from one foot to the other through demi point.  One foot goes down as the other goes up.  Both feet are ¾ point at the same time.
  • Facing bar, do battements tendus to each position and releve in each position.
  • Releve 5th and then retire devant 3 x, then retire passé to repeat on the other side.
  • Releve 5th and release back foot to do petit pas de bouree piques.
  • To teach courus do small foot changes on point.  Little courus on the spot with slightly relaxed knees.  Then go along bar facing it leading with the back foot.
  • Do walks up on toes.
  • Echappe to 2nd, not too wide and hold for 3 counts before closing to strengthen the feet.
  • Echappe to 4th and hold.  Make sure they stretch through the backs of knees.
  • Once they are stronger  you can bring them into the centre for echappes.

Once your pupils are more experienced try:

  • Rises through ¼, ½, ¾, and up in 1st, 2nd and 5th.  Show resistance in heels when going down.
  • Demi Plies and rises.
  • Tendu’s and Echappes.
  • Echappes and Detournes.
  • Releves two feet to one foot.
  • Pas de bourees Piques and Courus.
  • Courus on the spot with coupe over.
  • Up in 5th and move one leg at a time back, front, back and rest on point changing weight.
  • Walk along bar and back by bringing feet over, over, over and then under, under, under. (emboites)

Centre:

  • Releves devant and derriere with Echappes.
  • Walks with developes coming down through the feet.

Try to always work beyond your syllabus requirements. The process is slow and tedious, but this is how to dance with pointe shoes as you gradually get stronger and the idea is to make dancing on pointe look effortless.

How Do You Know If You Are Ready To Dance In Pointe Shoes?

Never start a beginner on pointe.  Even an adult should have a minimum of two years of dancing experience first.

The normal age varies between 11 and 14 years, although later is better.  Rather start later than earlier when learning how to dance with pointe shoes as the bodies must be mature and strong and growth in the foot must be settled. Never start pointe work before puberty.

The pupil should have even turnout, and be able to control the turnout from the hip.  She or he should have a good understanding of transfer of weight, and should be able to do releves and rises strongly on demi pointe.  The pupil should be able to rise and releve with ease on one foot.  Posture and balance must also be secure.

Other Pointe Shoe Problems

For the overarched foot, get them to sew a thick piece of elastic over the shoe for support until the feet have strengthened and the pupil has learned to support the feet.  Don’t allow them to go too far over as this will weaken the foot.

If one foot is bigger than the other, buy shoes for the bigger foot or buy 2 pairs.

A broken shoe means that muscles are weak and the student is not pulling up off the foot or she is sitting into the foot, thus putting undue pressure on the shoe and her feet.

Before starting point treat the feet with meths or camphrey or canyon herbal cream.  This helps to reduce the incidence of blisters.

If shoe twists off the heel then it is too big.

If the shoe is too small, the toes will be squashed. How to dance with pointe shoes

The heel should stay in the shoe on demi point and foot mustn’t slip in the shoe.

To fit a pointe shoe, stand in 2nd  and demi plie.  Relax foot and spread toes, as this stretches foot to its longest point.

Toes should be slightly touching the block with no pressure on the sides or top.  The shoe must be tight-fitting, but not the foot shouldn’t be squashed.  Be careful the shoe is not too pointy on the toe area.  Make sure that ribbons are tied correctly to support the ankles.

The other important aspect of how to dance with pointe shoes is choosing the right pair of pointe shoes for you.  The choice nowadays is vast, and there is a shoe type to suit every foot.  Go Here To Find Out More About Types of Shoes.

Pointe Shoe Fitting Guide For Your First Pointe Shoes

pointe shoe fitting guide

pointe shoe fitting guide

Getting your first pair of pointe shoes is an exciting time in any ballet dancers life, so in this post, I have decided to write a pointe shoe fitting guide to make your first experience on pointe as comfortable as possible for you.

If you were to dissect ballet down to a single, iconic image, it would most probably be the pointe shoe.

As young children, we always fantasized about dancing on our toes, but we knew that the pointe shoe was only for serious dancers and is the first step towards being a real ballerina.

It is the ultimate achievement in ballet to progress to pointe work, but be warned, the first time you go up onto those pointes, those tears of happiness could turn into tears of pain, but it is a pain that most dancers, in time, get used to.

When Is The Best Time To Start Dancing On Pointe?

As a rough guide, the absolute earliest age to go on point is 11, although 12 or 13 is more common and probably safer.

Going on pointe should be at the onset of puberty and never before. The dancer should have at least four years of ballet training under her belt, and if she is only taking one ballet class a week, four years then isn’t enough.

Starting later rather than earlier is always best because, in young bodies, the bones are yet to harden, and starting too early can cause enormous damage to both the bone formation and the growth plates in the feet.

Remember that there is absolutely no reason at all not to start later.

A good test for readiness is to do a series of releves devant on demi-pointe. Try sixteen on one leg in the center holding the body with balance and security. When you can do this well on both legs, you are probably ready for pointe work.

Remember that the shoes don’t do the dancing, the dancer does, and the dancer needs to be prepared both mentally and physically. Sometimes children are ready physically but don’t have the concentration to do justice to their pointe training.

What Is The Ideal Foot For Pointe Work?

The ideal foot for pointe work is said to have the first three toes the same length, but that doesn’t happen very often as it is the luck of the genetic draw.

pointe shoe fitting guideAny dancer can work on strengthening their feet with tools like resistance bands and working against your own body weight.

Feet with high arches, although very pretty, will need extra strengthening, as they tend to be the weaker type of foot.

Remember that it is not only the strength of the foot that is important but the body as a whole. A dancer on pointe has to be especially strong in the core.

A foot that has an arch that is neither too high or too flat is usually ideal.

Pointe Shoe Fitting Guide

Now the monumental occasion has arrived where you will go and buy your pointe shoes, armed of course with your pointe shoe fitting guide, it can still be overwhelming.

Before you go for your first pointe shoe fitting, cut your toenails short.

Make yourself some notes from this pointe shoe fitting guide and use it as a reference. If you don’t write it down, you won’t remember.

It can be confusing going up on pointe for the first time. You are not sure how you are supposed to feel when you go up on pointe – is it supposed to be so sore?

The most important advice I can give is to get a professional pointe shoe fitter.  Never buy your first pair of pointe shoes online without trying them first.

Never be scared to ask questions.

Try as many pairs as you can in different brands so that you can feel the difference.

You should be able to plie in your pointe shoes with the big toe just touching the end of the shoe. The pointe shoe should feel like a tight slightly suffocating hug around your forefoot. The toes should still be able to spread.

When you rise on your pointe, you should feel your big toe make contact with the floor, but also the feeling that your pointe shoes are supporting your foot evenly across the whole foot.

The toes should lie flat and not be clenched within the shoe.

The vamp should cover the toes, so in other words, no toe cleavage.

The shoe must be snug across the knuckle of the toe, but not squeeze it so much as to inhibit movement.

When on pointe, there is likely to be a bit of spare fabric at the heel – that’s ok.

Make sure that the shank of the shoe lines up straight with the sole of the foot. If you find it twisting to the side, then you probably have the wrong width of shoe.

When you get it right, the shoe actually becomes an extension of the body.

The most important part of this pointe shoe fitting guide is that you should not rush your fitting. Pointe shoes are an investment and you need to be absolutely sure that they are right for you before you purchase them.

Breaking Those Shoes In

While most pointe shoes are still made with traditional materials, there have been many advances in technology over the past few years.

pointe shoe fitting guideSome shoes now use more flexible polymer in the shank and box and even shock-absorbing cushioning.

Even the more traditional shoes have changed gradually to suit the more modern dancer. They have become softer and don’t need as much breaking in as they used to.

No more is bashing and hammering required, and you will just need the heat and the sweat of your feet to do most of the work.

The prep work you will still need to do is sew on your ribbons and maybe elastic. Make sure you find out from your fitter just where the best place is to attach them and at what angles for the best fit.

In the past, we had to darn the platform for extra grip, but nowadays you can also purchase small suede patches which you can glue to the shoe – much easier.

Prepping Those Feet

To prep our feet, we were told to dip our toes in surgical spirits to harden them, but nowadays, it is suggested that moisturizing the feet works better so that your skin stays more elastic.

Lambswool is an old favourite, but now dancers tend to tape their toes to stop the skin from splitting. There are also gel toe-spacers available to keep toes aligned and avoid bunions.

Silicon pads to slip over the toes also work a treat. The less bulky the better, or you won’t be able to articulate the joints.

Start Slowly

Of course, now that you have your shoes, you are probably rearing to go, but remember that pointe work must start slowly and gradually – maybe ten minutes at the end of class.

Practise walking in your shoes so that you get comfortable in them, then walk and run in three-quarter pointe, until those shoes feel like extensions of your feet. Click here for some more tips on starting pointe work.

With good fitting and good teaching, pointe work will become a joy to do.

If you have any more points to add to this pointe shoe fitting guide, please feel free to comment below.

Ballet Dancer Feet – Why Feet are so Important in Ballet

ballet dancer feet

What do people mean when they say ‘ballet dancer feet’?ballet dancer feet

In ballet, when you point your foot, the line from the top of your leg to the tip of your toes must curve down towards the floor as much as possible.

The higher the arch in the foot, the more aesthetically pleasing you will look as a ballet dancer. Ballet dancer feet are normally quite highly arched, but also strong and flexible. En pointe, a “good” foot gives the illusion that you are “floating” over your toes, rather than grounded solidly, as it looks more ethereal/graceful.

The use of feet and footwork in ballet is super important, and is stressed from a young age.  In order to gain the flexibility and strength needed there are many foot exercises that are given to children during their training to develop ballet dancer feet.  Of course some of us are more blessed than others as far as pretty ballet feet go, but we can go a long way to improve on what we have.

We all fall into either one of these foot types:

  • Greek foot
  • Egyptian Food
  • Giselle or Peasant Foot

You can read more about what foot type your are by clicking here.

Many dancers have fine-boned, delicate feet to go with their slender, fine-boned bodies. More than often dancers have Greek or Egyptian type feet and these foot types are compressible in the metatarsal area; they are not fleshy.  If you gently squeeze the sides of the foot at the metatarsal, the bones will move easily.

ballet dancer feet

The beauty of a dancer’s foot need not be measured by the height of her instep.  While highly arched feed are prized in ballet, they are often weaker and need extra strengthening to be ready to go up on pointe.

What makes a foot beautiful is its strength and articulation, and the way in which a dancer uses her feet.

There are stretches that a dancer can do to coax more flexibility from them, but really working them in every tendu and every jump is more effective in creating a foot that both looks good and produces lovely footwork in ballet.

Exercises to Help Create Ballet Dancer Feet

One thing that no dancer needs is flat feet.  Apart from the health issues related to flat feet, it is best to keep those arches strong and looking good in those pointe shoes.  Here are some things that you can do to strengthen those arches.

  • To strengthen your feet, it is a good idea to walk with no shoes as often as you can. Walking bare footed on beach sand is also another way to keep those arches healthy. Gentle running in the sand, or if you don’t have a beach nearby, in the soft grass is a great way to strengthen those feet.
  • Another great exercise for ballet dancer feet is to sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Point your feet and toes, and hold for three to five seconds. Next, keep your foot arched, but try to flex only your toes. Hold for three to five seconds, then point the toes. Repeat this about 10 times. This exercise is particularly beneficial for the upper arches.
  • Keep those Achilles Tendons stretched out. Tight Achilles Tendons can also cause arch problems in the foot.  Face a wall and place both palms on the wall.  Lunge and try to get the back heel to stay on the floor.  Push the bottom down to increase the stretch.
  • Perform this balance exercise, which uses your arch for stability. Stand barefoot with the right side of your body next to the back of a chair. Place your right hand on the chair for support as you lift your right foot off the floor and balance on your left leg. Slightly bend your left knee. Engage the arch of your foot; make sure the big toe stays on the floor. Bend forward at your waist and reach forward with your left hand as far in front of you as you are able while still maintaining your balance and keeping the knee at just a slight bend. Return to the starting position. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions on each foot.
  • Try picking up things with your toes, like pencils or towels.
  • Massage the arches of your foot with a tennis ball or even a can of frozen juice. If you massage the arch, you can increase flexibility and alleviate tightness on the bottom of your foot. Place the can or ball on the floor and roll your mid-arch over it, moving back and forth for three to five minutes. Repeat on the other foot.  See the note on arches and this exercise at the bottom of this post.
  • Walking or even just standing and shifting your weight on smooth rocks, like those smooth ones people use to landscape with, will do wonders for your feet and your entire body.
  • Walk around on the balls of your feet and do rises on both two feet and one foot every time you get a chance.

Some Notes on the Arches in your Feet and Rolling Them Out

Did you know that there are thee arches in your foot – Lateral (outside), Transverse (center) and Medial (inside) and these arches all work together to spring load your foot to increase balance, strength and power.

The Lateral or Outside Arch ties directly into your Calcaneus or heel bone, which is the heel bone.

The Transverse or Center Arch is located just behind the ball of your foot and when rolling on a tennis ball, you need to approach this one gently. Roll the ball from your ball to your heel rather than the other way around.  You can also roll it both ways, but make sure to emphasize the ball-to-heel direction with more pressure than the other direction.

The transverse arch will feel the most sensitive when rolling it out, and it will be more painful as you get closer to the heel, so be careful not to press too hard in the tender area.

The Medial or Inside Arch does not directly connect to your heel and effectively rests on to of your Lateral Arch. Make sure to address your lateral arch first, then move to your medial arch when rolling.

So now you have some great tools to get those ballet dancer feet into shape.

 

 

Ballet Dancing Feet – Types and Shapes of Feet

ballet dancing feet

ballet dancing feet
As dancers it is a good idea to know about the neuropathy of feet and the different types and shapes of feet. Unfortunately very few of us have perfect ballet dancing feet, but we can strengthen and work towards the ideal.

The foot is very intricate indeed and your two feet have one forth of all the bones in your entire body.  The human foot alone has 20 muscles, 3 arches, 26 bones, 24 ligaments, 33 joints and around 7 800 nerves.  The force of the body weight taken on by feet is about 1½ times during walking and up to 3-4 times during running. Add in 10,000 steps during a typical day while wearing ill-fitted shoes possibly, and it’s a wonder that those poor feet are still working so hard for you.

If you have any sort of foot pain, you would do well to learn a bit more about the workings of your foot and the different types and shapes of feet.

ballet dancing feet

Types and Shapes of Ballet Dancing Feet

1.  Giselle or Peasant Foot Type

This foot type has three short, stubby toes that are almost the same length.  This type of foot is ideal for dancers and especially ballet dancers, as it is usually strong and perfect for balance en pointe.

2.   Flat Foot Type

This type of foot is strong and functions normally in most cases, but it is not a pretty foot for dancing purposes.  The arches tend to drop inwards and calluses often develop on the side of the big toe.  Also the fallen arches usually create problems for a dancer as the whole alignment of the body is affected.  People with these types of feet usually suffer with knee, hip and back pain, as well as metatarsal stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

3.  Greek or Morton’s Foot

ballet dancing feet
Greek Foot

The Greek foot has a gap between the big toe and the second toe, making it an easy foot type to identify. The second toe is also normally longer than all the other toes.  Unfortunately this foot is quite unstable, and people with this foot type suffer with quite a few foot ailments.  Some of them include calluses, bunions, plantar fascitis, Morton’s neuroma and stress fractures.

4.  Egyptian Foot

Egyptian feet are narrow with a longer big toe.  The rest of the toes taper down from longest to shortest. This type of foot gives the least problems and is the ideal foot type to own.

5.  Simian Foot

In this type of foot, the big toe leans towards the little toe.  With this type of foot is is easier to get bunions, so try to avoid wearing pointed and narrow shoes.  Ladies with Simian foot, will find high heels quite painful.

6.  Rothbarts Foot

The Rothbarts foot is a genetic and abnormal type of foot.  You know you have it if you put your foot on the ground in a neutral position, and your big toe and second toe cannot lie flat.  This type of foot leads to bad posture.

Everyone should know what type and shape of foot they are, just as they know what blood type they are.  Then you will be more aware of what types of problems can occur and why.  For instance, if your knees hurt, it may stem from the way you are holding your feet, and nothing actually being wrong with your knees.

Trusting that this article on types and shapes of ballet dancing feet has helped somebody.  Please feel free to comment below.

 

Ballet Pointe Shoes – What Type Should I Buy?

ballet pointe shoes

ballet pointe shoesGetting a pair of ballet pointe shoes for the first time is a very personal experience.  You should  have the opportunity to be able try on various makes and types before making your final decision.  The shoe needs to suit your foot type and should be able to support your foot properly.  A highly arched foot for example needs a higher vamp than a flat foot. Also make sure that you get fitted by somebody who knows what they are doing.

Once you know your size and choice you can probably shop around online and get your pointe shoes a bit cheaper. Here are a few options for you to look at.  If you need to find out more about the pointe shoe in question, click on the picture.

Ballet Pointe Shoes Online

Sancha Recital II Pointe Shoe

Sancha is a well known brand developed by Franck Raoul-Duval in 1982.  Franck was a Frenchman with a passion for dance, and a lot of my dancers love this shoe.  It tends to work better for the dancer with a strong foot to start off with.  Sancha is well known for their split-sole ballet shoes that give a glove-like fit.  They also manufacure other ranges of shoes with everything from ballet to jazz to hip-hop to ballroom to flamenco.

Reviews:

‘I bought these pointe shoes after four years of not being on pointe. In the past I bought capezios, but my feet have grown several sizes and Sansha is the only company that has my size. The sizing chart you can find online is not very accurate. I bought a size 14 (I have size 12 street shoe) when I really should have gotten a 15. Make sure you wear toe pads because these shoes are hard to break in and can really tear up your feet.’

‘The Pointe are beautiful and the ribbons were easy to stitch in. I suggest the gel inserts though these will kill your feet if not.’

‘I really loved how strong these are. Even as my first pair of pointe shoes, I noticed that they were extremely well made and are very hard to break into. One draw back: The strap isnt attached and you need to get some ribbons as they arent given with the shoes. I usually wear a size 9 street shoe and ordered a 12; I’m kind of wishing I got a 13 because they’re a little tight, but I’ll deal with them. Overall I think these are good pointe shoes for the beginners and am excited to start trying these out. The colour is superb and beautiful!’

Capezio Women’s 102 Glisse Pointe Shoe

  • Pink Satin
  • Leather sole
  • This shoe runs 1/2 size smaller than street shoe size
  • U-throat
  • #3 Shank
  • Wide platform

Capezio is another great brand and well known in the ballet world.  This shoe has a broad, feathered toe box. Medium vamp and No. 3 leather board shank, 3/4 skived to No. 1. Round shape throat and elastic drawstring. Hand-flattened crown. New pleating with quiet toe construction. Soft cotton lining.

This is best for a medium to wide forefoot with toes of even length. Begin with street shoe size.

Capezio’s Glisse is a great starter pointe shoe. The long vamp and wider toe box will keep you more comfortable, while the #3 shank helps you to roll up on your toes more easily.

Reveiws:

‘I didn’t actually get a chance to dance on these shoes as the sizing on Amazon.com was horribly off! As a dancer who usually dances solely in Bloch shoes, I thought I’d take advantage of the wonderful sale Amazon was having on Capezio pointe shoes to try another brand and see what I thought. Unfortunately, the recommendation to purchase shoes 1/2 size smaller than street shoe sizing was terribly off and I had to return the shoes. When I checked on the Discount Dance website (those who had actually shipped the product to me), I found that they recommend sizing the Capezio pointe shoes 1 size *larger* than your street shoe size, which is a much more accurate recommendation. I attempted to do an exchange, only to find that the shipper was unable to exchange the too-small shoes for a pair that fit correctly because the inventory had been depleted. Had I received accurate information as to sizing in the first place, I could have taken advantage of the sale pricing to try out a new shoe. I notice that this inaccuracy still hasn’t been corrected on Amazon’s website, so I would recommend the buyer beware when relying on the sizing information provided on this website if you have never tried this particular shoe before.’

‘These are great shoes, particularly to start pointe work in. I am seeing a lot of complaints about sizing, but I just don’t get why in the world anyone would order a pointe shoe online that they hadn’t physically tried on. No one is the same size across brands and styles and fit is way too important in a pointe shoe to just order and hope it fits. GO GET FITTED, and by someone who knows what they are doing! I saw one mom say she ordered these for a 9 year old and they didn’t fit. WHY is a 9 year old in pointe shoes, and WHY would you not get her fitted for the first pair? You are risking the long term health of you feet if your shoes aren’t properly fitted!’

There are various makes available for the above pair of pointe shoes, so for your first pair, rather get fitted professionally so you know exactly what you want to order.  As you can see from above, don’t rely on the size guide alone.

Some Great Complimentary Products for your Ballet Pointe Shoes:

Here are some great additions for your ballet pointe shoes, that will help ease you into your pointe work with comfort. If you need to find out more, simply click on the pick of your choice.