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Uncaging Secrets

Okay, so upon thinking about it overnight I realise that this isn’t really that deep or dark a secret. And I may have even mentioned it here before, but I am admitting it super duperly, no-turning-back, loud and clear now…

I wanna know want it feels like to dance en pointe.

In other words…

I WANT TO DANCE EN POINTE!

In other, other words: I want to slide my feet into pointe shoes, strap those baby’s on and take a tour of the dance floor.

There. I said it.

I mean, it’s obviously not really that much of a secret, but I haven’t gone all out with it before because I feel like such a dick when I say it. Like, I want to crawl under a table when I say it. I may, or may not be crawling under a table right now.

I still have people in my real life finding out that I do ballet from my deck in the bush, and some are overwhelmingly positive about it and others don’t get it. Although I still feel very uncomfortable when people want to talk about it (especially when they don’t get it but want to keep talking about it), I have learned to remind myself that it may seem silly to other people, but to me it was either ballet or a therapist, medication and some pretty dark shit. So to choose ballet seems like the most un-silly thing in the world — to me. My point is that I’m getting better at not crawling under the table when people say they heard about my ballet (I think about the table but I don’t go there) 😉

But if I think about allowing myself to want pointe work? ….. Damn the underside of this table is cosy. 😉

Okay, so I have been thinking hypothetically for a while about this and I want to start thinking literally.

Could I literally do this?

I feel like there are so many factors involved. Like how do you learn pointe work if you can only get to an in person class every few months? How do you know you’re ready? How do you even know you have the right shoes without your teacher seeing you dance in them again and again? How do remain safe? What if you snap your ankle? Why am I thinking about crazy things like pointe shoes? Where has my table gone?

But hang on a sec. Take a breath and calm a little down. Okay, calm a lot down!

Is it possible that a sensible person could do an absolute beginner pointe class, or record a private absolute beginner pointe class, and then just keep repeating that at home? And then learn more at their next class, and go home and repeat and practice that — and just repeat that again and again?

And I’m not talking about starting turns en pointe. I’ve seen how intense pointe classes are, I ain’t stupid. I’m just thinking about starting with the prep work and then the barre work.

Is it possible?

So, here’s the thing, I don’t know if it’s possible or not, but it is a desire that is growing inside me. It’s getting closer and closer to the surface. I’m sure you all remember taking your first ballet class as an adult? I’m sure you remember the build up to that class, the moment you decided it had to stop being an idea and start being real? That’s what this feels like. I am terrified that I will be terrible at it, my feet will break and I will be mortified by the whole experience — but despite all those fears, I am feeling more and more pull towards having a go. I want to add that experience to my ballet journey. I would love to know when I would be ready for it.

In any case, it’s a huge thing for me to be letting this secret out of the vault. So I’m gonna just let it hang around with me. Let it be present with me and allow it to exist and breathe for a while.

And in the meantime, while I ruminate on whether it is actually something I can arrange at some point, I would like to know when you all started to learn pointe work. I know we have discussed this a little before but if you’d humour me, that’d be great!

So stuff like…

1) how long into ballet classes did you start pointe work?

2) did you need to be able to achieve a certain move like extended rise or strong releve before you could move into pointe?

3) were your early pointe classes particularly tricky, technically? Or just hard work?

4) did you have great balance when you started pointe work?

Anything else you would like to add? 🙂

Well, thanks for listening. Here’s to uncaging secrets. Here’s to these feet possibly being in pointe shoes some day!

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Zoë

23 thoughts on “Uncaging Secrets”

  1. I feel the same way! I drool over pointe shoes and watch pointe numbers online all the time!

    Your ankles are strong enough to go en pointe at around 11 years old, so your ankles won’t snap.

    Pointe shoes MUST be fitted by a professional, if your teacher goes along that’s cool, but not necessary.

    Do not try to teach yourself pointe. You’ll hurt something. You’d be best going to a class and learning a few things and how to do them correctly, then practice that at home.

    I recently went to a dance school asking about ballet. They said because of my age (22) that they’d get me straight into pointe class. Not saying I’d be going straight en pointe, but I’d start the prep, maybe begin in demi pointe shoes.

    I’d say you should call your teacher and express your passion for pointe and ask how you can start down that path. She will tell you which shoes you’ll need etc. She might even say, come down when you can, we’ll go through some prep, take that away until you’re back in the area, then we’ll start looking at pointe.

    Don’t be embarrassed. I’m exactly the same as you, I think pointe is incredible and I can’t wait for my toes to start aching from all my pointe work! I would suggest mentioning it to your doctor. I don’t know how pointe might effect your condition. A bummer I know, but I care about your health before your ballet, can’t help it 🙂

    Hope this kinda helped. Now get out from under that table and get ready to fulfill a dream!

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  2. 1) I went en pointe after 1.5 years of adult ballet. Although my studio generally asks for 2+ years before joining the pointe class, they do take it on a case-by-case basis. My class was the first pointe class they had run.

    2) None that I was actually told about but that doesn’t mean my teacher didn’t notice that I had achieved certain things before giving the OK.

    3) Barre, barre, barre! They were technical in that you need to learn all the small muscle work that goes into achieving full pointe. Also making sure that we’re over the right way, not bending at the ankle, etc. This is why you really need a teacher for pointe work – they can the small details that can make a big injury difference later.

    And yes, hard work. Much ouch. But to be honest, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Maybe because I had psyched myself up for epic pain and it was therefore low in comparison. The best way to describe it is that it’s like how your fingers feel after playing lots of guitar.

    4) My balance was terrible when I first went en pointe!

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    1. Thanks, Bethany. A very helpful reply! 🙂 I’m getting the feeling that these things vary a lot from teacher to teacher, so it’s really interesting to hear the different opinions.

      Again, thanks. Very helpful. 🙂

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  3. Wow, such feet!
    I guess every dancer sooner or later wants to know what it feels like… I got my first pair when I was 12 and trained in them by myself a bit. This year though I got new ones (that fit, since my feet have been growing) and I’ve had about 15 minutes of pointe work every week.
    Which is not much at all.
    But, you know, everyone says you shouldn’t try it out without a teacher… And I feel like the living proof that it’s all okay. Just make sure to get professional advice when getting them. Watch videos on YouTube on how you should use them, what exercices you should do. Read about it. Make sure you don’t go too fast at once.

    But you know, if you want it, do it. It’s not very comfortable but I think that pointes add something to dancing… Your toes don’t break your line and that is nice. And you feel tall. (Not like I need that, but still 😉 ) Good luck with it and let us know how things go!

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  4. I found reading all the advice very informative. I share your desire (and it really is a secret for me, because people would outright laugh if I said it out loud, and even semi-seriously), but for me it is probably not going to happen. However, I am not above asking my instructor if, one day, I might be able to try an old pair of her pointe shoes, and just “stand up” once! I missed my chance for a “pre pointe” class decades ago, and now things just aren’t working out.

    You have a lovely line in the foot! I hope you do reach this portion of your dream, and safely or course! 🙂

    Decades ago in adult class it was required that you took at least two classes per week – more if possible. At least one had to be pre-pointe work at barre. I understood (only from my friend who had taken it) that there was a lot of specific work designed to ensure the feet were working through properly, and the ankles were straight, etc. That’s all I know. Not much!

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  5. Hello Zoë,
    I have not yet danced en pointe myself and have no real advice to give other than to check out Finis Jhung ‘s pointe work dvd series (also offered in streaming). I have heard many great things about Finis and secretly dream about flying to NYC just to take one of his Sunday intensives *sigh*

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  6. I was doing classes again for 4 years until I started doing pointe work. That wasn’t because my feet weren’t strong enough or my technique wasn’t good enough but our teacher really wanted to be sure about all of us being ready.
    I think you should really consider the fact that teaching yourself pointe work is nearly impossible. You really have to have someone to constantly be on guard to see if your tecnique is correct, your alignment is correct and whether you’re not teaching yourself the wrong things.
    However, I do think that if you have face to face classes and you just want to try it you should really do it.. You have gorgeous feet that look like they were made to be in pointe shoes so we all know you have the right range of motion in your ankles. Also, your turnout is sufficient to keep a nice second position en pointe.

    It’s just a question of; you shoulnd’t do this on your own. It’s one thing to be able to learn ballet on your own like you do, but pointe shoes are a whole different matter. I’m not trying to discourage you in any way shape or form, but if you really want this; just make sure you do it right! 🙂

    To answer the rest of your questions: Pointe work is just hard work, haha! It’s really tough the first couple of times, especially to feel comfortable in those weird ass shoes. But once you do, it’s just a question of getting more confident and then just DOING stuff!
    My balance wasn’t particularly great when I started pointed work but I have improved a lot! 🙂

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      1. It is honest indeed. I don’t want to discourage you or burst your bubble or crush dreams or whatever, but I just think you should be careful with what you do. You only have one body (as you are well aware of!) and doing stuff like pointe isn’t to be taken lightly. Lots of people do it themselves but the risk of injury or developing bad habits is so big.. Couldn’t you ask Tibor to get you in some pointe shoes and let him supervise a few exercises in them??

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      2. Thanks, RO.

        Just to be clear, I didn’t actually say I was going to teach myself pointe work. I said maybe it would be possible to have a private pointe class (with Tibor) and then practice those same exercises at home.

        I realise that your point of view is that that would be too dangerous to do.

        I’m not sure yet. That’s why I asked my blogger friends. I am also asking professionals what they think too.

        To be honest, I am incredibly aware of my own body and what shapes are the correct and safe shapes for my body to be making. And, to be really really honest, there are a LOT of people learning pointe work out there from teachers who aren’t great and are not correcting them properly.

        My point is that taking pointe classes in person doesn’t even promise that you learn correctly or safely. Perhaps learning from a really great professional and then practising at home might actually be a safer route than some people who are going to in person classes but learning incorrect placement?

        I really appreciate you idea of trying pointe for a day. I understand and love that you’re trying to think of other ways I might experience pointe work. But I wouldn’t slip my feet into pointe shoes to do some exercises if I were not able to do anything more en pointe. I think that would be incredibly frustrating and depressing. Like tasting the cake but not being able to eat it! LOL 🙂

        Like I said, I’m really just putting it out there. It was a secret desire that I decided to let out into the world. I am just gathering information.

        It may turn out to be impossible. This is true.

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      3. I think your idea of going to Tibor to learn some exercises and then learning them at home is the best option! You then have someone to guide you through the first steps and you can perfect them at home.

        You have to do what you think is best, I’m not here to comment on that, I just wanted to share my experience as someone who dances en pointe; it’s not easy. Not with guidance and I expect it might be a lot harder without constant guidance.

        You should do what you want! Like I said before, your feet are perfect for it, your turnout is good, your technique looks wonderful and if you can arrange someone to guide you through at least the beginning phases of pointe work, it is a certain opportunity for you!

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      4. Thanks, lovely. As I said, I really appreciate your thoughts and knowledge. Definitely no point doing anything with blinders on, and your opinion is a great one to learn from. 🙂 Thanks!

        You know I’ve looked back over your gorgeous photos several times. They are just so beautiful! I love your movements and shapes! 🙂

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      5. Thanks so much!
        I really hope that my honest opinion didn’t come across as degrading or in any way discouraging because there is nothing further from the truth! I applaud your ambitions and I can only wish that we may one day see a picture of you in pointe shoes!! Those feet of yours deserve it… 😉

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  7. I had a similar reaction when I finally worked up the nerve tell another person I wanted to work toward pointe; instead of ducking under a table as you describe, I literally ducked my head under my arms like I was avoiding gunshots (more like hysterical guffaws of disbelief). Then I discovered that wanting to work toward pointe is not such an unusual desire of adult dancers. Most adult dancers can commit themselves to 2-3+ technique classes per week to prepare themselves and keep themselves in shape for pointe because of work, family, health, etc. I was so nervous for my first pointe fitting; see http://adultballerinaproject.com/author/helenmao/page/2/

    I returned to ballet but was too scared to even voice a desire to work toward pointe until after 2 years … and then it took another year until I actually found a teacher of adult pointe to evaluate my readiness. I am on hiatus from pointe because my technique classes are no more than once week at best with work, kids’ activities and summer vacations, etc.

    In answer to your questions:

    1) I went en pointe after 3+ years of adult ballet.
    2) My teacher checked for 3/4 pointe reliever en balance among overall proper technique to show enough strength.
    3) My first pointe class was depressing b/c I couldn’t get completely on the box on my right foot. My feet hurt but by the second class a week later (plus breaking in my shoes a little), my feet felt fine. Pointe is hard work but fun!
    4) My balance is not good but I do find that balancing when properly placed over the box is easier than balancing in flat shoes in demi-to-3/4 pointe. The strength to stay en balance is another question :).

    Your feet are gorgeous and your spirit and self-discipline are inspiring!

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      1. Thanks and I used the word “hiatus” as a hopeful term. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to start back up in the fall but who knows if the stars will align? In the meantime, I’m trying to be self-disciplined and continue daily foot and ankle-strengthening and core exercises while squeezing in regular technique classes around kids’ summer activities. I could use any advice in self-discipline and self-motivation. You are a star in these areas!

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  8. Oops — I meant “Most adult dancers CAN’T commit themselves to 2-3+ technique classes per week to prepare themselves and keep themselves in shape for pointe because of work, family, health, etc. ” — so finding adult pointe classes are very difficult.

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