The dreaded pointe shoe inspection before class.. I hand the offending pair to our Fabulous French Ballet Teacher, who immediately sees that the shanks are too hard for me. The thing is that I have fairly normal arches, but my insteps are low, as in nothing to write home about. That gorgeous curve you see on pointed ballerina feet? I wish.. But I digress. Back to class. And to longer sentences. So, Madame promptly asks if she can break the shoes for me, and hey, who am I to refuse? It takes her about ten seconds to snap the shank along 3/4 of its length, nothing is cut off or anything, but now there´s less resistance under the arch. I can´t wait to try them on!
The shoes really do feel different. It´s easier to roll through demi-pointe, and I think I have just a bit more foot control. But sadly, it´s not the magic trick I was sort of hoping for. It does bum me out that I still can´t get properly over the box with my right foot (which has an even lower instep than my other foot). Obviously I have to keep working my feet, and learning pointe technique is a very slow climb uphill. Nevertheless, it makes me want to have two left feet! And a magic wand!
So ballet is not easy. What else is new? This week we are doing slow relevés, rising and lowering carefully through demi-pointe and doing plies and grand-plies while up on full pointe. I find this gives me better control of turnout and I try my best to isolate the proper muscles. But there´s not much time to contemplate as we move on to really quick échappés and single leg retirés, followed by lots and lots of quick relevés in first and second positions. Thankfully, it´s not all work and no play. We end the barre with a beautiful enchainement and the idea is to be very "Juliet". Again, where´s that magic wand?
Center work is as challenging as ever, scary and fun at the same time, but forget about looking elegant or looking like "Juliet", for that matter! I just concentrate on not falling over. We do even more échappés, as well as single leg retirés, bourrés and a prep exercise for tour chaînés (déboulés). Now the correction I keep hearing most often is about my knees. "Stretch your knees! You have to stretch your knees at all times!" The class before it was about forwarding and presenting my heels, but now my lazy knees are the bad guys. There is so much to do, to learn and to remember! Luckily our Fabulous French Ballerina is the sweetest, most demanding and encouraging teacher you could ask for.
After class Madame takes another look at my shoes and says she´s going to bring in her old, custom-made pointes so we can see how shoes are supposed to be broken in. It is different for every dancer I think, but she is the professional ballerina and I trust her judgement. Would be a fool not to. Still, I´m feeling a bit sorry for me and my mediocre arches and insteps. Then Madame surprises me: she tells me that I actually have "nice feet"(!), and if I want to improve my pointe work (Yes!), I need to concentrate more on stretching my knees. Along with everything else, of course (think core strength, plum line, turn-out, coordination, épaulemant, etc..). So my feet do not have glorious ballerina arches, but they don´t suck either!
I´m in a happy place right now. Never had "nice feet" before. <insert big grin>. All I have to do is keep taking class, work hard, work harder, and then some (which I coincidentally love to do). And I´m thinking no magic wand is needed for that.
Just in case things don´t work out...
|Photo: Reinhold Thiele|