November 3, 2011

Break Your Feet!

Look mom, no hands! Remember the first time you were allowed to venture into center with your pointe shoes on? I do. It was not 25 years, but just 14 months ago, and my mother sure as hell was no way near to witness this milestone. I felt jubilant nonetheless, and I think the occasion called for some sparkling drinks in ballet-geek company (the best kind). Ah, the benefits of being an adult dancer.. When you leave one barre, another bar is always at the ready. Not that our aprés-ballet bubbly is a daily event - more like once in a season. Just so you know. ;)

This week there was another fabulous milestone. Or more to the pointe, the stepping stone before the actual milestone. We were still at the barre, both hands on, and our teacher was giving us instructions for the next exercise. "You have to break your feet!" Gotta love Madame for being so blunt about it. The exercise was to jump changements in fifth, on pointe. I have tried it a couple of times before, when I was taking basic level in pointe shoes this past summer. My teacher at the time just told me to go for it, and I did some small sautes without really having a clue. This time is different though.

First up, we were told to relevé from seconde, then plié - but not pointe our feet over the boxes the way we usually do (or try to). Instead Madame told us to "break" our feet, that is retract the foot as if you´re trying to grab something. It is not a pretty sight. In fact, Madame told us that it´s the only time she will ever ask us not to be beautiful! I have to admit, I have had mixed feelings about this hopping on pointe with the retracted foot thingy. On the one hand, it´s an amazing technical feat. On the other hand - there is that broken foot look.. But I get the the practical aspect of it too. There really is no other way to hop on pointe. We then proceeded to jumping changements, still at the barre and with extra attention on the positioning of our feet.

Next up, hops on one foot in the diagonale the way Giselle does! No, that was just Madame joking around. Phew. At least for now.. :)


  1. Yes, the "broken foot" is an excellent way to describe that..and I agree that it doesn't look so nice, though I fully appreciate how difficult it is and what a measure of technique it requires. One of the Sugarplum Fairy variations contains two-foot hops in sous-sous, I believe, and I have always hated that variation because that move looks so ungainly and un-fairylike...the dancer looks like she's having a difficult time laying an egg!

  2. Hahhahahaa! :D Well, we don´t really know how Fairys reproduce, do we? What with the wings and all..

    I suppose the secret to making those hops look graceful is to draw attention away from the broken foot. Maybe if I make funny faces or something. ;)

    But seriously, I didn´t think I would even progress to this pointe. Which is both scary and cool.

    Thanks Kaija for your comment and that hilarious visual! :D

  3. I usually tell my students to allow the ankle to bend and the knees to soften (ankles and knees absorb the jump so the foot doesn't have to). The foot should not be crunched, but extended in the shoe, without going over the box. I've never heard it called "broken foot" before, but that's a good visual. :-)

  4. Whenever I hear talking about this particular move or see it written, the Giselle music starts playing in my head! :D And how easy they can make it look... (watching Marianela)

  5. Hi Melanie,

    thanks for explaining the shock-absorbtion aspect! I´m gonna try it again tonight and make sure there´s only breaking, not crunching. Heh, doesn´t sound like ballet class at all! :)

  6. Hi Iepukka,

    I begin to know what you mean.. ;) Since we started practicing variations, certain music has been permanently etched into my brain.

    I chose this particular Giselle because I adore Marianela! Her dancing is so natural and convincing. She not only dances or acts Giselle, she really is Giselle!

    The first arabesque, where she opens her arms from couronne? That little extra joyous allongé -divine. There is no apparent effort anywhere. Of course, we know the work and skill it takes! :)


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, ...