Pointe shoe tips! – Dance Matters

Written by | B-Roll

Mhari gives readers advice for taking care of their pointe shoes as well as answering a question from parents who ask about their child’s future in dance.

Q: Our son is 17 and has a full scholarship to a prestigious military school. He went to his first ballet and has informed us that he wants to move to NYC to become a ballet dancer. We are devastated! What should we do? –  Eugene S., Ft. Worth, Texas

A: While 17 is late for a boy (or anyone) to begin a pursuit of a ballet dancer’s career, if his desire is burning, I say LET HIM GO! Give him six months to see if he has the physical facility to match his desire, as both are essential. Chances are that his military training will come in handy with its discipline, tenacity, and stick-to-it-iveness. Who knows? He just may soon become the next new artist in the dance world!

Q: I am a ballet studio owner and am getting some resistance from my male students and their parents regarding their uniform. They say they are serious dancers but they refuse to comprehend the reasons behind the uniformity. How do I get them to comply? – Arlene L., Kalamazoo, Mi.

A: Ahhhh, I’ll bet football coaches never get this one. It gives the “battle of the bulge” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? Maybe a dance history lesson would be helpful. The instructor needs to see what the dancer’s core and hip placement is doing; an essential element to ballet. And a dance belt not only gives support to the “line” of ballet, it also supports the groin muscles when it’s time for strength and safety in partnering. I would be adamant that this is “not negotiable”. Why should they not have to comply when the female dancers must?

Q: Pointe shoes are so expensive! Is there a way to extend their lives? – Brenda K., Newport, Ca.

A: Darning the tips of new shoes will extend the life of the tip of the shoe. It adds a layer and helps with muffling the sound they make in ballet runs and petite allegro. As your pointe experience gets more dedicated, it’s a good idea, and cost-effective, to alternate pairs of shoes. Important: Always take your pointe shoes out at the end of your dance day and air them out! Sweaty shoes break down quicker if they stay in the bag.

My calves and Achilles tendons are so tight, how do I stretch them to deepen my plié? –  Hannah M., Payette, Id.

Sometimes it’s hereditary to have a shorter Achilles tendon, that could be a factor in your case. Keep stretching. There are some good stretches that runners do, one of which is stretching the calves and Achilles on a set of stairs. Use the barre as a brace and stretch while leaning towards it. Remember that tight Achilles can often make for a quick release from the floor which could benefit your jumps!

Q: How do I know when my pointe shoes are dead? – Marina E., Long Is., NY

A: Well, a sure sign is if you feel the floor when you go en pointe. The arches will lose their support and the box will become softer. Some dancers feel this makes them lift out of the shoe while dancing and embrace a broken-in shoe. You can “re-cycle” your shoes: some dancers take the shank out of the shoes and use them as ballet slippers or “demi-pointe” shoes.

– Mhari Wilson

Photo by TJ Seren

Mhari Wilson is a member of a famous dancing family. The daughter of original Joffrey Ballet founding members Brunilda Ruiz and John W. Wilson and step-daughter to Paul Sutherland, she had the good fortune to grow up, tour and study with both the Robert Joffrey and Rebekah Harkness Ballet Companies.A professional dancer at 13, she also worked in eastern regional companies, as well as working as Gerald Arpino’s  demonstration model for the City Center Joffrey Ballet in New York City and for Paul Sutherland at Ramapo College in New Jersey. A 2x nominee for the Idaho Governors Arts Award, a Boise Channel 7’s Hero, founding member of the Aspen Dance Connection and Boise’s Alley Repertory Theater; Ms. Wilson has been a teaching artist in Dance for over 40 years. She currently teaches at Eagle Performing Arts Center and for Very Special Arts/Idaho, specializing in classical ballet and developmental dance respectively.She is the author of the ‘Ballet-On-the-Go’ ballet glossary and reference guide as well as a dance-themed children’s book to be published in 2018.

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Last modified: August 12, 2017

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