So you finally did it, huh? You’ve finally gotten the okay to start pointe work! Well, I believe congratulations are in order! Starting pointe is most definitely one of the most important and defining moments in a ballet dancer’s career. When you’ve worked and trained so hard to reach such a huge accomplishment, when you finally hear those magic words of “You’re ready”, it feels like you’ve won the ballet super bowl. But now that you’ve gotten your teacher’s approval, what’s the next step? Well my friend, you’ve come to the right place. So grab a snack and get comfortable because we are about to talk about the ins and the outs of what to expect when you’re starting pointe.
Finding “The One”!
Before you start your first pointe class you must go to your local dancewear store and purchase the main attraction: the pointe shoes (obvi)! Make sure you call whatever dancewear retailer that you go to regularly and make an appointment for a “first time” pointe shoe fitting. Now, the number one thing to know when going into a pointe shoe fitting is that it takes time. Picking out pointe shoes is a science. It’s all about how long or short your feet are, how narrow or wide your feet are, how your toes are aligned, whether you have 10 toes or 15….okay not really but you get what I mean! Everyone’s feet are so incredibly different and you must find a shoe that caters to all of your needs and are the most comfortable to dance in. So generally this will not be a get in and get out type of thing but boy, is it worth the time that it takes! Along with the purchase of your pointe shoes, you will also have to purchase toe pads, as well as ribbons and elastics to sew onto your shoes.
Brace yourself, when you try on your first shoe option, the fitter will ask you to go up on pointe so they can see how the shoe fits and it can be a little uncomfortable. This brings us to our next point…
No Pain, No Gain!
I wish I could tell that all the things you hear about how uncomfortable pointe can be is an old wise tale but unfortunately, that would be a lie. Stop. Breath. Everything is going to be just fine! Yes, pointe does hurt when you’re first starting out. But honestly if you think about the concept, it actually makes sense. You are now being trained to dance and balance all of your body weight on your toes. YOUR TOES! And you know what, that’s awesome! So yeah, it is a little painful at first but the pain doesn’t last forever. As a matter of fact, there is a solution for the pain! “Toe pads?” No. “Lamb’s wool?” No. “Oh okay, I’ve got it! Toe spacers!” No. The solution to the pain is perseverance. As you continue to work in your pointe shoes, take class in them and practice in them, you will notice the pain will begin to decrease and you will actually begin to find comfort in the discomfort, to the point that there is no more discomfort. It’s just comfort! Did that make sense? I hope so! It will begin to become second nature and before you know it, when people ask you, “Oh man, doesn’t that hurt?” You’ll be able to answer with a genuine smile on your face and say, “Not really!” Also, make sure to keep your toenails cut. Dancing with raven’s claws will only make everything worse. So always keep that in mind!
Breaking Them In.
Breaking in your pointe shoes is a very important step going into your first class. It loosens up the shoe and makes them more pliable for your feet to work in. One of the best methods to break in your pointe shoes is by bending the sole of the shoe (the shank as it’s called) back and forth. You will begin to hear things crack and pop but don’t be alarmed! That’s just the glue of the shoe giving and becoming more flexible. A good way to break in your box is by stepping on the front and the back of it. Also, knocking it against the floor will always soften it and make it easier to dance on.
Only Know You Love ‘Em When You Let ‘Em Go.
As you continue to dance in your shoes, there will come a time when they will…well…die. “Dang, Lex!” I’m sorry, I’m sorry but it must happen! After a while of use the box will begin to get too soft, the arch will lose its support and they will become very painful and risky to dance in. Once the shoe dies and loses all of its support, dancing in them puts you at risk to injuries such as rolling or breaking an ankle. Never, ever dance in dead pointe shoes! Once your shoes die, all you have is to do is go to your local dancewear store and buy another pair, only this time you can just walk in the dancewear store, let them know what brand, shoe, model and size you wear and badda-bing, badda-boom! You’ve got yourself a brand new pair of pointe shoes! If you feel like your feet have grown since your first fitting, don’t sweat it! All you have to do is schedule another fitting appointment and find out what size works for you!
Give Yourself Time!
The most important tip of all is to be patient. Give yourself time to grow and blossom. We’re not going to be like Svetlana Zakharova over night. Heck, Svetlana Zakharova wasn’t even Svetlana Zakharova overnight! We all have to develop our skills with practice and strive to become the best US that we can be. You might not be able to do a chaine turn en pointe yet or even balance en pointe for a full eight counts but if you keep working hard, I promise that you will get there. Also, never compare yourself to anyone but yourself. Never try to be anyone other than you and never put yourself down. Never pick apart your efforts. Being aware of what you need to work on is one thing but being your own worst critic is another. Everything you’re picking apart about yourself is simply just an illusion that you have created in your own mind. Truthfully, we formulate an idea of perfection as dancers that simply does not exist. The perfect dancer doesn’t exist but do you know who does exist? You and you are enough. Maya Angelou once said that “success is loving what you do and liking the way that you do it.” Always be proud of yourself in where you have come from as a dancer and an artist, be proud of yourself, even in your struggles, and be excited about where you are going
FROM THE TOP QUESTION OF THE DAY: What brand did you pick for your first pair of pointe shoes? Leave a comment down below and share with us!
Once again, congratulations on this awesome achievement! Have fun in your first pointe class and most importantly have fun on this journey. I’ll see you all in the next post.