Summer Plans

Well once again I’ve been on an enforced ballet break due to recuperation from health issues. Blah! The good news is that I went to class on Wednesday and it was FAB-U-LOUS, darling.

Thought I’d share my summer ballet plans with y’all.

Next week (21st-25th) I’m doing a summer short course at the Royal Academy of Dance. Actually in their school in Battersea! Very excited to see their premises, and get a taste of how they work. The course is 5 evenings, and comprises a pilates class followed by a ballet class every night. Very hard work – the most I’m used to dancing is three evenings spread out over a week, and that’s me at my most full-out.

I’ve also applied to some rep workshops, and some one-off intensive 3-hour classes, details as I get them.

AAaannnd – Pointe’s back! Our teacher runs 6-weekly short courses and I’m signed up for course 2! I want to reflect on “what I’ve learned in Pointe”, as I still think it’s such a bizarre activity that we kind of take for granted as a normal thing when IT ISN’T AT ALL.

Ohhh darlings, much love, mwah mwah xx

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Keep On Keepin’ On

I’ve been really rather poorly lately, and missed out on a lot of important things, including class and the ENB Dance Writing Course. I’m so disappointed, but trying not to be too hard on myself; these things happen. I’m heading out shortly for Sunday class and beginner’s pointe and my challenge to myself is to journal it and blog it.

How do you keep positive after illness or coming back after an injury? I can’t wait to get back to class, but I’m also feeling daunted about maybe having lost flexibility or lost progress on the things I find challenging. And keeping up with pointe group!

In other news I have some very cute knitty shorties that I’ve made whilst laid up poorly – photos to come!

 

My Pointe Shoes

I’m back in love with my pointe shoes again. Here’s some pics! And a walkthrough! (Bourée-through?)

First of all, Pointe Til You Drop has the best guide to stitching your ribbons and elastics, with lovely clear photos. I’m just adding my own observations and notes from talking to pro dancers

Ok so, my shoes are Capezio’s Tiffany with a medium skived shank. They’ve just recently come in to the UK Capezio shop in London from the US! Swit-swoo. I got myself some nice coloured toe pads too, fancy-dancy. Also will show up the muck less than the nude ones I reckon?

 

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To prepare them I used this video, recommended by a teacher:

Because of the skived shanks the shank prep was very straight-foward. However the demi-pointe prep was really difficult. I just couldn’t massage them as shown in the video. I’ve taken to wearing them in the house (just on flat, of course) and putting on my foot duvet slippers to warm them up, then stretching through demi-pointe. Side-note: you need foot duvets in your life, believe me.

Sewing: you’ll need a thimble. I use soft-pink Nymo, it’s very nice to work with. I stitched my ribbons using the Grishko method as demonstrated here:

It made sense to me that an uncut ribbon would be stronger than a cut one. Also, using the inside heel of the shoe as you sew the ribbon is supposed to help your shoe stay on your heel. This made absolutely no difference to me whatsoever, my shoes just popped straight off anyway! Maybe if you need minimal help with heel movement the Grishko method would make a difference?

I didn’t stitch my elastics on for my first class. Some feet just don’t need elastics and it’s better to dance without if you are able to. However my heels will not stay in my shoes AT ALL without, so I went straight for the cross-over elastic. I’ve secured the ends right down in the heel, and crossed over. An important point here: watch where you stitch the end of the elastics nearest the box. Initially I put them forward of the seam, as it looked neater:

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No! Don’t hold yourself back, girl!

This isn’t good practice! The more forward the elastics sit, the more they will hold you back from “going over”.

I re-stitched, aiming for behind the seam: actually they are over the seam to sit flush with the ribbon.

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Lovely!

I haven’t done anything to the platform. The little crafty crafter in me was secretly disappointed not to darn them, but as we’re beginners and not dancing in the centre yet we’re advised not to fiddle with the platform. We have been advised, however, that when the time comes, to dispense with darning or suede caps and just get a craft knife to the platform and just cut the satin straight off. Eek!

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Finis.

 

Adventures En Pointe #2

You may remember I had a bit of a moan about feeling overwhelmed in my first pointe class.

I kind of psyched myself out of returning to that particular class, and instead waited for my usual, fabulous, teacher to start a pointe course for absolute beginners. Which started today.

I feel wonderful! I feel like I own my shoes, they don’t own me.

We were very lucky to have a ballerina from the Northern Ballet come in to chat to us about pointe shoes. Although I had already sewn my ribbons and laccys, it was great to have a pro there and be able to just chat and ask questions about everything related to pointe. I learned that my elastics actually should be moved slightly, and I asked all about darning and demi-pointes and all the stuff I wonder about on here. I will post a pointe pics and walkthrough up here soon I reckon.

And then we tried it out, just getting up there, seeing what it feels like. This was incredible. I can’t tell you how great  it is just to know what your feet in the correct position actually feel like. The problem with being shoved straight up onto pointe and trying to do combinations is that you have no idea what correct positioning feels like, you’re kind of flailing around trying to get through the combination whilst never coming a safe and correct “home” position. So Fab Teacher came round, shoved my demi-pointe over for me a bit, and said – fab!

I’ve got it!

Next week, the real hard work begins…

 

What’s the point of demi-pointes?

I mean, I know why people wear ’em. To work the ankle and calf, right? And to improve balance? There’s probably more reasons. And they sure do look pretty.

Because they look pretty I would obviously love to own a pair. But I’m really not sure if there’d be any point for me. I’ve started pointe class (ha! see here) and so maybe wearing demis to regular class would help me build up ankle strength for pointe? However nothing, BUT NOTHING is going to work my ankles as hard as actual pointe. And, plus, if I wore demis to class I wouldn’t get the same feel dancing. I’ve loved really working the floor ever since my very first class. Brush brush brush. There’s great value in feeling the floor just naturally with your own feet isn’t there? And real dancers wear their soft shoes at the barre – as far as I’ve seen, which is watching the whole Royal Ballet class on Youtube more times than I’d care to say.

I know what you’re all thinking – ask your teacher! Well, maybe I might. Probably after I’ve written a post about The Thing About Talking To Your Teacher…

Adventures En Pointe

I took my first ever pointe class the other week. Let me tell you, it was pretty scary.

I didn’t really think that pointe would be a possibility for me as an adult beginner – although that’s the question everyone asks when they hear you do ballet, right? Are you en pointe? NO. I used to say: imagine having a big toe as flexible as your thumb. That’s what you need for pointe. Disgusted looks, peace and quiet.

However as my practice has grown, I’ve taken to picking up extra classes now and again at different studios when I feel like it. I saw there was a beginner/general pointe class, and that the teacher recommended at least a year of practice – tick!!

I didn’t rush into things – I took my time reading up, getting my shoes fitted. I took that teacher’s beginners class, and then intermediate, to get a feel for her style and see if I liked it and the class atmosphere.

(I’ll call her Stern Teacher. Firm, but fair. And when she cracks a joke, you don’t know…if it’s actually….a joke?)

Intermediate was hard work at the centre but a good challenge. So the next week I took intermediate and stayed on for pointe…

Well, the main thing to remember is that I stuck it out. I stayed and tried my darndest for the whole hour. For those of you who’ve not tried pointe – its not all that painful. Really not as painful as I expected it to be at any rate. What it is like, is  lifting weights. On your feet. Extremely hard work.

(And it was wonderful watching the girls in the centre who really were dancers and very graceful and accomplished. That really did make me smile.)

The thing is, when you’re in a class you’re not used to it can be quite difficult to find your feet and fit in. And when you’re  feeling super self-conscious in this way it can be all too easy to take things quite emotionally. So, bumping up against some off-colour barre etiquette and being told icily that “There’s someone there” (and then not registering, and then being told exactly the same thing in exactly the  same tone) can feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you in class and a definite omen that this is not the group for you.

Another thing I’m not sure about is the style in which this particular class is taught. Although I really appreciate Stern Teacher’s methods in other classes and workshops, being dropped in at the deep end and just being shoved up en pointe meant that I was completely bewildered. This meant that the inevitable corrections didn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. I know my ankles are weak, and I’m really not sure what being up on pointe correctly is supposed to look and feel like. Reviewing my experience in my dance journal, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d learned . Although, on the other hand, putting your feet into that position is so unnatural and bizarre that maybe bewilderment is just an inevitable part of the process?

Another thing that really hampered me was insufficient prep of my shoes – although I couldn’t have known about this before trying the shoes in a class setting. I’d prepped the shank, which was fairly easy because of my shoes’ skived shank, but my attempt to soften the demi-pointe wasn’t enough. The greatest drawback however was lack of  elastics. I’d followed the lovely lady in Capezio’s advice (She’s great! London/nearby dancers do go and get fitted by her!) and not sewn elastics on straight away. Her reasoning was that common use of elastics is a fairly recent thing, and a fair few dancers sew them on straight away without assessing if and how their feet need them. She recommended taking a couple of classes and then reviewing. Makes loads of sense. Until I get into class and after the first few horsey trot-trot preparation steps (you know what I mean) my heels go POP! straight out. I rubbed my heels in rosin to try and stick them, but no. Elastics, essential for these plates of meat.

So, I’ve finally got my covert elastics, replaced the Nymo my cat stole, and sewn them securely right into the heel and criss-crossed over. They feel completely different on my feet now and I feel more secure going “over”. However I haven’t yet returned to class.

I have some decisions to make about whether I want to try this class again, or perhaps try another pointe class. My usual teacher, who I feel very comfortable with, will be starting an absolute beginner’s pointe class in about a month, which I definitely want to do. I think the combination of a fab teacher and a complete beginners, as opposed to wildly mixed level, class will be great. We’re also going to have a guest female dancer come in to talk to us, which is very exciting.

So – do I wait or keep battling on until then? Is an uncomfortable class atmosphere (through classmates, not the teacher) a valid reason for not sticking with a particular challenge? Have I let my pointe shoes intimidate me a bit too much?