August 21, 2011

Pointe-Anniversary!


Dear Reader, it was precisely one year ago when I embarked on my very first pointe class. Before I tied those satin ribbons, I had long ago given up on pointe shoes. I figured that after 16 years of dancing in slippers and never going higher than demi (with the exception of one sorry and short-lived attempt in my twenties) - what would be the pointe? In slippers I don´t suck too much, that is I have fairly good technique for a late starter and adult recreational dancer. Of course there is no crowd lining up to see me perform, but on a good day I do well enough to get my kicks out of my jetés and some praise to boot. On bad days I still love it enough to keep coming back. What more could a girl ask for?

Happy Hour at the Barre (November 13, 2010)

But when my own teacher opened the door to pointe and invited me in - all of a sudden there was no doubt in my mind. I knew right away that no way would I deny myself this opportunity. Come hell and high water, bloody blisters and akwardness. Now, nearly 50 classes and three pairs of shoes later, I have advanced from akward to slightly less-than-akward - that is from pointe beginner to pointe basic-er. And dare I say it, I´m actually a little bit proud of myself!

1000 Minutes on Pointe (December 13, 2010)

Last Friday I went back in time, and re-started at pointe beginner level. Our school offers two classes, beginner and basic, and I take both. Classes have always been mixed; one year ago there were only two complete beginners: me and a friend of mine. This year, there are a lot more hopefuls and eager new dancers, and I hope they will find it just as exciting as I did. And still do, if not even more. Yes, more. Dancing more does not take away your hunger, it feeds it. Sure, at first exercises are difficult as hell and you think it will never amount to anything. But then your body starts to change, responding differently to your commands, becoming compliant instead of defiant.

In Memoriam: My First Pointe Shoes (February 10, 2011)

When I decided to make the jump out of the comfort of my slippers, I knew big challenges lay ahead. Having walked in uncomfortable shoes before (like most women I know), I figured that pointes would be no Birkenstocks. I had done some exercises like echappés and bourrés on demi, and done my research beforehand. I knew that getting over the box is a big deal, and that you would need to pull up and not sit in your shoes. Yeah, pointe technique turned out to be as difficult as I had expected. And then some. I could not get over my box. Pulling up on one foot, with a stretched knee and strong core - no easy feat. When Madame told us to be elegant, I was going for comedic. Pirouettes on pointe? Scary as hell. 

Potential (April 30, 2011)

That´s the thing - when your´re a grown-up ballet dancer, you know all that can go wrong. Instead of doing the pre-teen thing and being fearless and eager, you fear falling over. But I consider myself lucky. For one, I have had the best teachers you could ask for - they pushed me out of my comfort zone, but never let me pointe alone. They have been meticulous about proper alignment and technique, and encouraging when I had the hardest time suspending my disbelief!


Since that first class and Pointe Zero, I have improved and learned a lot. My feet are arching over the boxes, single leg relevés have become less daunting and I have just embarked on my first balanced pirouettes (singles still). But you know what the best part is? Despite all my research, the blisters and the achy feet and the killer-slow roll-up relevés, and the burn - I had not figured I would love it as much! It´s a whole new world out there, waiting to be conquered. One plié, piqué and pointed foot at a time..

13 comments:

  1. How about this for timing, it's your one year anniversary and I'm just starting. It's exciting and terrifying, I can't wait to get back at it.

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  2. Today was my very first class in pointe shoes. It was so difficult, and I did everything in demi-pointe.

    Reading about your progress gives me hope :)

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  3. You go Chris! :) I can´t wait to read about your pointe-adventure!

    One tip, if I may. Before pointe class, warm up properly. Do relevés, ankle rolls and toe exercises. Roll your feet on a tennisball, massage your soles and toes. Remember to stretch calfs too.

    By the way, what kind of padding do you use?

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  4. Hi Aleksie!

    Wow, congratulations! First time on pointe is a big deal :) Don´t worry if at first everything seems too hard, it will get better.

    Make sure you pointe shoes are poperly fitted and broken in, and then just go for it. You should be able to rise up on pointe certainly in parallel and first position. If it seems totally impossible, ask you teacher after class what you could do to improve.

    Anyway, it takes a while to adapt to pointe shoes. Easy it ain´t but it sure is worth it! You just hang in there :)

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  5. Congrats Johanna! You are my hero! And such source for inspiration!

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  6. Thank you! :)

    I don´t think I´ve ever been anyone´s hero before, certainly not in ballet ;)

    But let´s keep it real. You know I´m just another adult recreational dancer & ballet geek, no better or worse. Seriously, my writing is more eloquent than my dancing, and should I ever be brave & crazy enough to post pictures or even videos of me in action.. I don´t know how inspired you would feel afterwards. Less, most certainly.

    However, for the sake of inspiration, let´s forget the self-deprecating disclaimer I just wrote. Does it matter if reality does not live up to our imagination? No.

    All the experiences and feelings, failures and successes I have written about are 100% true. If any of it helps someone else to have more faith in their own abilities, it´s the best reward I could ever have imagined! :)

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  7. Congrats of one year on pointe, Johanna!
    I'm glad to read that you are still as excited as the first day, or even more!

    When I was on pointe as a child I remember feeling extremely happy when doing centre exercises; it was so cool! Now as an adult (re)beginner, I can't wait to be on pointe again (luckily next year?)!

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  8. Thanks Nerea! :)

    As you´re getting stronger, it just keeps getting better! I can imagine what it must have felt like to dance on pointe as a child - so exciting to pointe like a ballerina :)

    I´m sure you will get there again soon! Have you talked to your teacher about it? In the meantime, remember that all the exercises you are doing now are preparing you for pointe-work! So you´re like 1/4 pointed foot away from your goal :)

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  9. Congratulations Johanna!! I loved catching up to your pointe history! I don't think I will ever be on pointes, but I do love reading about it :D

    Nina xx

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  10. Thanks Nina!

    But never say never - stranger things have happened. Like me going up on pointe! :)

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  11. Happy pointe-anniversary! I love milestones like this. They remind you how far you've come and give you a chance to pat yourself on the back. Go you!

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  12. my one year anniversary was sept 1 of this year (also my bday! The absolute best bday ever--dancing to be accepted to a studio that offered beginning pointe, and the only one that would take an adult student)! Everything you write I relate to, and remember feeling that disappointment of thinking I'll never be on pointe. Last summer, I sucked up my courage and asked my teacher (who I had started with from scratch) if she thought I could ever go on pointe and she said yes! I still remember the terror of just asking--the possibility of being told no and the dream dying rather than it simply staying an unrealized dream. It seems we have both been very lucky and blessed in the teachers we have had! A belated congrats on your anniversary!

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  13. Belated congrats on your pointe-anniversary too!
    Happy you found the right school and the right teacher - it makes all the difference.

    I remember feeling always a bit of an outsider in ballet, whenever pointe came up. Even though you can advance and enjoy ballet in flatties too! But I knew I was missing out on something. At the same time I was scared - what if I would totally suck at it? What if it was too late? Then the years just passed and I pretty much gave up on the idea.

    If my teacher had not introduced pointe last year and asked me about taking class, I would never have started. Once we talked about late-starters in ballet, and specifically in pointe. The truth is that it's very hard to learn past a certain age (I'm a few years older than you). Unless you have a solid foundation and feet suitable for pointe work. It seems I've been lucky in more ways than one! :)

    Shannon, maybe our late timing was just right after all! I would love to hear about your progress, and please keep the comments coming!

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