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Photo: Nicole Jahns
When I was 10, my ballet master decided that I was ready to start learning Pointe. He had watched my progress with technique, strength, and turnout, and he invited me to add the next level of ballet class and the pre-pointe class to my schedule. That meant, in addition to studying tap, jazz, contemporary, Latin jazz, and acrobatics, I would now be taking 6.5 hours of ballet a week. Taking your regular technique class is very important to keep up when you are preparing to go en pointe.
The next thing I did was I went to my physical therapist. He makes sure that I am keeping up the strength in my arches, and all my leg muscles up through my glutes and my abs as well. He makes sure that I am not compromising my movements by favoring a certain side or body part. At my appointment, he said that I was doing a good job with my exercises for my arches and hamstrings, and he thought I had made enough improvement.
Then my mom made an appointment with a podiatrist who specializes in sports and dance medicine. His own daughter had been a ballerina, and he had studied “ballet feet” both before and after pointe. When he reviewed my x-rays, he said that my bone development looked very ready, and that my feet seemed especially suited to dance (footwork , leaps and landings), and quite ready to begin some pointe work. This was a very, very exciting day for me, because my parents wanted that detailed assessment before I started pointe.
Being cleared by the podiatrist meant that I could now be fitted for pointe shoes! We went to a professional fitter who works with ballet students and professionals all over the San Francisco Bay Area. She watched me plie and releve´ with no shoes, to watch how my foot bends, and she measured both feet. Then she went into her stock room and brought back 3 different pointe shoe styles in different lengths and widths. I tried each one on and did another round of plie and releve, this time in both demi pointe and pointe. When we found the shoes that fit and moved with me the best, I finally had my pointe shoes!! The fitter gave me some “homework” too, to do some stretching in full splits, full rotation, every night, because the safest way to support yourself en pointe, is to have strong leg muscles and a well-turned out leg, all the way through the hip. Because you should not force that, you need to do daily work to improve your strength and flexibility.
After that, I had to learn how to sew on my ribbons and elastics, and I was finally ready to take class. I loved my first class, and I love taking Pointe now. In the end, I know that the long preparations have helped make it a safe experience for me.
Keep Working Hard,