June 3, 2011


What a fabulous summer vacation day it has been! I could write an entire post just about it, but lets get straight to the pointe (pun absolutely intended). This summer my school is offering ballet classes Mon-Fri, but no pointe classes at all, not even the kind where you have 15 minutes of exercises at the end of class. Dear readers, no way am I going to store my shoes away until mid August! Twelve weeks without is too long, especially since I´ve been making a bit of progress every week. That is why I consulted my teacher G and - yay - got permission to do a regular class in my pointe shoes! So today I hopped, skipped and piquéd my way some three levels down to basic ballet and it felt like.. a milestone.

Before the basic class was my own int-adv class, which was good too. I don´t know what is different this week, but my balances have been better than in the longest time. No wait, I´m on vacation! That must be it! That and sleeping more than 6 hours each night. I guess earlier nights are a must if one wishes to balance and pirouette. I probably should reduce that tweeting habit of mine.. Anyway, back to class. I was changing into my pointe shoes when the next group came in, lots of new faces. But oh dear, you should have seen some of the bambi-caught-in-headlights expressions.. One girl thought I was packing up, and was about to drop her stuff at my barre spot. When I told her I´m staying not leaving, she nearly double-backed out! Me: "Yes, this is basic class, but I´m still a beginner on pointe, and no, pointe shoes are not required!" Big relief all over.

Modifying a regular barre for pointe shoes:

  • Class starts as usual with plié exercises. I decide to do one side as I would in soft shoes, and the other up in relevé - we have been doing this with my other teacher M-P, so I feel confident enough. But it´s way harder with just one hand on the barre, especially if you do a grand plié on pointe all the way down, that is going over the boxes (with a fully pointed foot). 
  • I do all relevés rolling up, not springing up, and all balances on pointe. A couple of times my teacher comes over and corrects my ankle positioning or reminds me to straighten my knees more. When we do cambrés, she tells me to do them in relevé as well.  
  • Fondues are hard, and for a moment I wonder if I could turn towards the barre - but I don´t want to distract the girl next to me - so I do them on my stronger side, but with the heel down on my weaker side. Frappés on pointe, and when my teacher praises my effort I almost topple over!
  • Since this is basic ballet class, pirouettes are practiced facing the barre. Tendu to the side, 1/4 ronde de jambe to the back into fourth, plié and passé relevé, without turning first. We have been doing this in pointe class as well, so no prob. Except that I still worry about hitting the barre with my knee (would not be the first time). Fortunately for me, many girls in class do not yet have that plié - straighten knees fast -coordination, so our teacher adds another plié-relevé exercise which is identical to the one we have been doing in pointe class. Good thing too, because I really need the work!
  • Developpés into arabesque, and here G comes over to push me over my box. I´m just glad we are not yet doing penchés! The stretches (jambe sur la barre and talon a la main) I do in relevé, just like we have been doing with M-P. Grand battements with heel down, but I think we have done these sur la pointe as well.. 

In the center it´s your basic tendu-pirouette enchaînement, but G tells me I can do just the preparations instead. This elicits more curious looks from the others - maybe because some expected more skills from a student in pointe shoes. Guess I should have worn a Learning sign on my rear! When we get to the jumping part of class, 16 x sauts in first, I´m told to do relevés instead - but I would not have to do all sixteen, and could do the exercise in a slower tempo. I feel strong enough to be defiant and do them anyway. Changements come next, and I can´t think of any way to modify, so I jump with the rest. Making lots of noise in the process. Then G surprises me.

She tells me to go up into fifth, and hop my changements on pointe! I have seen this, but never done it. Your knees stay slightly bent, and you don´t really jump up high, just enough to get off the floor and change legs in the air. I do as I´m told, then she corrects me (smaller jump, quicker change), I hop again and it works! And it´s fun too! I´m so surprised that I don´t even notice everyone else watching and waiting.. After that it´s back to normal basic ballet stuff, glissades and pas de chats across the floor, and no difference with pointe shoes. Except for the noise.

I´m very happy to discover that the tempo and difficulty of the class suit me just perfectly. There is really nothing I have not done or attempted to do in pointe shoes before. Marie-Pierre´s pointe classes have been an excellent preparation for this, and I feel pretty close to strong and confident! In addition, Gabriella gives me bonus stuff to do, despite having to look after three barres full of other dancers, and I really appreciate it.  I´m also a bit proud of myself that I already know how to modify the barre, and after class G tells me to add even more. Balances, where there are none, and if I need to, face the barre while doing fondues. 

Dear readers, usually I do not write about every detail in class - but this time it seemed more relevant than usual. I hope I didn´t bore you out of your pointe shoes! It was just such a new and exciting experience for me - to be one of those dancers who comes to "regular" class all nonchalant in her pointe shoes. In all of my 17 years of dancing, I never thought I would get here! Of course, I have many more years to dance before I (hopefully) reach my current soft-slipper level.  After all, I have been on pointe for only eight months, once a week. And I know it will only get more challenging! But apparently I did quite well today - which is enough reason to give myself a pat on the back and simply enjoy this milestone.. with a lovely glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. Cheers!


  1. Sounds like you did great! No doubt you will get much better over summer. I certainly wish my studio offered adult classes that often; you are very lucky. So so jealous of you getting to be en pointe!

  2. Yay, that's great that you're getting all that pointe work in! And I never get bored of reading about people's classes. When I'm not actually dancing myself, I dance vicariously through others! ;)

  3. Hello "Four-eyed Ballerina"!

    Why, thank you :) Practice does make better! I do only the one class on pointe, plus three regular. My teacher G is on vacation starting July, so I´m not sure about pointe practice after that. But yes, I´m lucky there are summer classes at all!

    Thank you for commenting and the "jealous" ;)

  4. Hi Jeff!

    I´m getting seriously hooked on pointe :D Do you remember how down I was just a couple of classes ago? When the level is too difficult it´s no fun, but this is just right. Happy!

    Glad I didn´t bore you :) And I´m looking forward to more dance-posts from you too!

  5. Excellent post again. Loved to read about your class and fyi your texts are never boring. :)


  6. I share your fear of the barre hitting my knee whenever we do those pirouettes...
    I think it's great having advanced people come to our beginner class, because I feel that you really learn more by copying and watching the very good dancers ( and yes, you are a very good dancer even if you don't want to admit it, I was watching you during that class, very nice port de bras and pas de chat). Some people get annoyed by the fact, because they think that advanced people come to the beginner class to show off, but that's just beginner envy(I've had it myself). It's very rare I think that a beginner class has such a good vibe as this one. For some reason I think people get super competitive( who has the highest extensions, who can get the split, who does the most beautiful across the floor combos). Anyway, have a great summer day, and hope to see you again!

  7. Well done! It's so lovely to read about your joy! : D

    Is it the PT (basic level) class you're pointeing in? If so - I will probably share the same class at some point! That would be great! : ) I think it's very, very useful to have more advanced dancers in class, they help you advance yourself! I hate competitiveness, except with myself. But - if I'll survive the basic level classes with my limited ballet experience, I'll make others very happy by being the one who is definitely not challenging their standards..

  8. Thank you "m" :)

    After class I was telling my visiting friend the shortened version, and her attention still kept fading. Even though she has a dance background, though long time ago and not really ballet.

    It really takes another ballet-geek to know one :D

  9. Noora, you are very sweet :)

    And you are right, you can learn so much by watching others. I was very fortunate in my early days of training because there were such amazing dancers in class. Still are.

    However, most advanced dancers don´t go to basic levels to show off. At least I hope they don´t! Basic classes are real work! Because the advanced dancers already knows (or should know) about the plum line, the strong core, the stretched knees, the long back, the forward heels and long toes, the lengthening of lines, the oppositional forces, the working of the floor, the presentation and presence.. There is no fancy port de bras to distract you, no quick tempos to blame, no excuses :)

    Thanks for the great feedback, and yes, I will be back next week :) Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Another ballet-geek here is thrilled to hear class details! Sounds wonderful, so good that you hit the right level so you can really focus and advance!

  11. Thanks for the great detailed post...there are a few pointe ladies who drop in to take barre at some of my classes and I've been watching and taking notes (but your descriptions made it much more clear!) for when I can take "extra" point work. I love when really good dancers come to class...I try to watch and imitate and pick up some things to work on.

    I also go to basic ballet classes to really work on my technique, alignment, placement without the distraction of complicated port de bras and such...I honestly feel soooo exhausted physically after those classes because I am really working my muscles and feet! I think it's a very healthy and useful perspecti to experience a class that is a little ahead of you AND a class that is lower than your level. The former gives you a challenge and some glimpses at 'where you're going' and the latter gives you a chance to double back and work with the new awareness where you've been :)

    I a

  12. Kaija, that is just what our teacher keeps telling us! You take one class to challenge you, and another where you work on your present skills. And once in a while you backtrack and clean up :)

    Thanks for your insightful comment, as usual :)

  13. Congrats! I did beginner class en pointe for a while learning too - it's also good to learn how to do "normal" dancing en pointe.

    Now I do intermediate's barre sometimes if I'm in pointe mode and have to miss a class later in the week - I could probably manage the whole class in the shoes, but that's not what I'm there for... (my friends do keep bugging me to wear the shoes with them in that class, too. safety in numbers.)

  14. Hello I am a new follower. I did a little ballet when I was younger, but never really got good at it. Now I am almost thirty and started ballet lessons again 1 year ago. I am going to try pointe this September. I look forward to reading more posts from your blog.

  15. Hi Candice!

    Thank you :) I feel like I´ve come a long way.. Hey, it took me "only" some 17 years to get here! :D

    I feel surprisingly comfortable doing the "normal" dancing in pointe shoes, as long as its a basic level class. I´m still so far away from taking my pointe shoes to advanced class. Which is difficult enough in soft slippers!

    When you wear pointe shoes to your regular class, do you modify every exercise or do you have to adapt some to demi-pointe? I mean there are lot of things I love to do, but can´t imagine myself doing en pointe.. :)

    Thanks for your comment!

  16. Well, hello "Beginner Adult Ballerina"! Thank you for following my blog, it´s great to have new dancers on board :)

    I´m happy too that you have rediscovered ballet, as it can be so rewarding - I don´t really want to imagine my life without dance!

    I checked out your blog (will take a closer look next weekend) and it´s nice to have yet another new perspective on adult ballet (and pointe) dancing. By the way, have you already checked into twitter? Lots of other dancer-bloggers there..

    Welcome to the dancing blogosphere!

  17. For pointe shoes at regular (intermediate) barre I just do releve en pointe where there are releves. No real change; sometimes I do the petits battement a little slower and things like that. I can't pirouette really quickly in them so I usually leave them off in the center so I don't slow anyone down.

    I don't do any of the plies en pointe because that's so early in the class my feet are not warmed up - we are a "barre warms you up" type of class.

    It's tough but pointe class is harder, so I can generally get through it ok. I may have to go back to it since there's no pointe class over the summer - last summer there was but our teacher is recovering from illness and she's not having a sub for the summer classes.

  18. Oh also, the changements en pointe are one of those cool little things that look totally impossible but are really easy. I like them for that. There will be other things you discover are easy once you get around to trying them too. :)


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, ...