November 28, 2010

The One About Nice Feet and Magic Wands

The dreaded pointe shoe inspection before class.. I hand my shoes over 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-ish. That gorgeous curve you see on pointed ballerina feet? I wish.. Madame then asks me if she could 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, but now there's less resistance under my arch. 


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, not yet the magic trick I was sort of hoping for.  It bugs me that I still can't get properly over the box with my right foot (my left foot is better). Obviously I have to keep working both my feet, and learning pointe technique is a very slow climb uphill. No magic.

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 think 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 where the idea is to be very "Juliet". I feel shy, out of my comfort zone, but at the same time it's very exciting. 

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. Still, I'm feeling a bit sorry about my mediocre feet. 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 is needed for that.

Just in case things don´t work out...

Photo: Reinhold Thiele


  1. Täähän käy hyvästä treenipäiväkirjasta! Voit sit vaikka keväällä palata näiden pariin ja tarkkailla kehitystä :) Varmaan on eri asiat työn alla silloin.

  2. Hyvä idea, Salla! Mutta aika hitaasti tässä mennään eteenpäin, taso/taidot ei varmaan niin paljon kehity kevääksi. Olen muutenkin kirjoittanut korjauksia ylös, joskus myös vaikeita sarjoja. Mutta niitä on vaikea muotoilla niin että muutkin lukijat ymmärtäisi ;)

    Pidätkö itse treenipäiväkirjaa? Ois kiva vertailla joskus.. :)

  3. No tottakai jokin kehittyy, vaikkei sitä itte niin konkreettisesti huomaiskaan. Kirjoitan päiväkirjaa joka päivä (joku 8 vuosi menossa...) ja sinne tulee kans treeneihin liittyvät avautumiset :) Yleensä siis ininää.

  4. Hello.
    I really like your way of writing. it's very catchy and involving. I'm not the best dancer, and I may not be on the same level as you. But I see the same problem with my own feet;
    My arches are strong, and medium-high, but my instep is a different story. It is very low, and it doesn't make my feet look so ballerina-like. Therefore i'm struggeling finding the "perfect" pointe shoe. I just wanted to say that i love your blog, and you are an inspiration in your way of writing. Ballet is hard as you say, but I LOVE IT. I hope it works out well for you. Thank you for posting this, it helps a ballet-dancer with low confidence...

    Good luck with your dancing. =)

  5. Hello to you too, and thanks for the lovely feedback! :)

    Do you have trouble getting over the box at all? Or is it just a matter of appearance? If it´s the latter, do not worry! How you dance in those shoes is more important than having high insteps.

    If you, on the other hand, have trouble getting over the box you need to find a better shoe. Your shank might be too hard and the vamp too high.. You could also make the shoe fit better to your foot by cutting the outer sole. I have a post which shows you how to do it, but if you possibly can, consult your teacher. If she does not know this technique, ask some experienced dancer. If both advice against, then maybe not.. Or you might want to try it on a pair that´s dead already! :)

    Klick here for the shoe-post:

    Ready, Set, Bourrée!

  6. Hi... I landed here in a very round-about way, but *what* a coincidence. I am a very young 46, 5' 2", 100 lbs ... and I recently started taking ballet again after over 20 years. I started when I was 10, but only took for a couple years before I prioritized the piano, but I then did modern dance in high school. Anyway - I have been *obessing* about being on pointe --- for ZERO reason other than it is just something I have always wanted to do and I want to live out a fantasy before I die, kind of thing. I have been thinking that I am insane. I even bought a pair of point shoes - which is, I know, completely against all ballet religion. I bought them online as to avoid the obvious humiliation I would get if I tried to purchase them in a store. ... Anyway - congratulations!!! I'm so excited for you. And, whether it ever happens or not, you have given me hope that I'm not too old. Thank you!! :)

  7. We offer a large selection of real magic wands, including hardwood magic wands, copper healing wands, subtle energy amulets, wizard kits and leather journals


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...