Pointe taken

You guys, I never thought I’d get to take pointe.
You know- too late to the game, why would anyone bother teaching such a difficult and unnecessary thing to someone so much older, taller, heavier, less flexible and less career ambitious than your average twelve-year-old girl.
Really thought, here is something I’ve missed all hope of opportunity to try…
…and then bam! There I was, on the floor of the studio, wrapping my ankles in satin ribbon under the watchful eye of a classmate.
Got laced up, Smirnoff called me over to check my shoes, poked the spot between my ankle and Achilles tendon and said, “the knot must be here, in this hole. Feel this? Must be in this hole, there can be no pressure on the tendon or the bone.”
Walked awkwardly to the barre and re-tied, looked up, and Smirnoff was up! On both canes! Ski pole-ing straight at me! Gentle Reader, I have never seen this happen. It was alarming. At most, I’ve seen him stand, supported with both hands on his chair, and demonstrate a step, but never have I seen the man double-cane it across the room like that.
He arrived at the barre beside me, hooked his canes over, and said, “My Dears, let’s get to work now, come closer, both hands on the barre.”
We got closer, then closer still, until we were all lined up side by side facing the barre, and then, without music, he called out the exercises.
They were completely different from the ballet class barre.
Usually we practice technique at the barre. Pirouettes, pas de bourré, frappés, ronde de jambes. Usually I am feeling it by the time we reach the tendu glíssades, and I can watch as the leotard on the girl in front of me progresses from one dark spot at the small of her back to completely dark with sweat.
-and not in a bad way, not like that one yoga class where I would look back from downward facing dog and see sweat dripping off the giant honking gross door-knocker of a nipple ring on the guy behind me and I would instantly get the willies, no, Smirnoff’s ballet class has a long, hot, strenuous, intricate barre, sweaty in a good way and I was expecting the same, just en pointe, but no ma’am!
This barre was about warming up the feet and getting me to stand correctly.
Which is not where I thought I should stand! Seemed logical that one would stand en pointe on the flat of the platform, right? No, apparently one must always be pushing through the big toe. Several times the girl beside me reached down and tapped the big toe, or lightly pushed my heel forward and whole foot to rest more toward the big toe, before I started to get it. Meanwhile Smirnoff was on my other side, saying, “feel the toe!”, pushing me forward from the hip and tapping my knees.
Heres what we did, that I can remember: feet parallel, one stays flat, one points, bend the knee all the way to touch the wall. On pointe with both feet, bend knees to wall, straighten. Relevés, eschappes, pas de bourres.
Closing fifth en pointe is really fun, you guys! The shoes, like, fit together nicely? And hopping up en pointe is fun. Smirnoff is a hop-up not a roll-up kinda guy.
In fact, we did not do anything through the demi-pointe.
En pointe in second position involved a little scoot inward thing I will have to figure out, it was like, instead of being in second on flat, and then hoping directly up onto the pointe exactly where it was, the pointe lands where the middle of the foot had been? Maybe has to do with really arching the foot?
We did another exercise with kicking the legs back from the knee while en pointe, without letting the working knee move forward, which involved a lot of tapping and, “this knee is good. That knee must learn from this knee!” then we turned from the barre, still kicking back, and everyone walked away from the barre.
And I was like, holy crap!
Took a few steps away, and Gentle Reader, it was terrifying!
Omygawd! I mean, the Adult Beginner is over six feet tall in pointe shoes. Had this image of keeling over like a felled tree while Smirnoff yelled, “Timberrrrrr!” and ballerinas scattered in my wake.
Heels met the floor, I stepped back to the barre. Smirnoff said that was fine, I should stay with the barre as long as I need.
Class did some temps lié, which I love, and followed along at the barre, thinking, this is so cool how we close fifth! But how the hell am I gonna get out there on the floor?
Was amazed at how being en pointe made my body feel. Taut, like a bowstring. That whole, ‘imagine someone is pulling you up by one hair on the top of your head’ thing has never made sense because I always think, ‘wow, that would be annoying. I would swat at them and yell Quit It.’ but just then I felt pulled tight from the tip of the shoe to the top of my head.
Also, found myself wondering what the hell good does jogging do? Why do my thighs feel so trembly? Sheesh!
Not to long after the temps lié I started to get a kind of blister-y feeling along the outside of my left pinkie toe, and switched out to soft shoes.
But for the rest of the class I felt incredibly pulled up and placed forward. Really think this is going to improve me a crazymassiveton in ballet class.
And of course as soon as I took the shoes off I wanted to put them back on again.
But it’ll have to wait.
Although he did say I could practice the pahh cah-roo at home.

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in Ballerina Class, and other pointe-y stuff, Technique and Class, the Body and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Pointe taken

  1. Laura says:

    Hooray! So glad you enjoyed your first class. And WORD to being a giant redwood en pointe. I am 5’8″ in my stocking feet and I’ve read that pointe shoes can add 7″ to one’s height (maybe more, since my feet are big). So en pointe I’m 6’3″? Is that right? Gaah!

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll get away from the barre and still not understand how you were able to do so. That’s where having a good teacher comes in: they can see when you’re ready for the next challenge.

    Rock on!

  2. White Swan says:

    It’s crazy insane how excited the swans are for you!! Excited in a jealous, can’t-wait-to-be-where-you-are kinda way. Keep the posts coming!

  3. amy says:

    Wow, sounds fantastic! I haven’t taken a huge amount of pointe classes (yet), but I can totally say that they have improved my technique a huge amount. I think you are off to a great start and I hope you keep us posted – blow by blow, if possible!

  4. odile says:

    The weight is supposed to be concentrated right on the big toe, at most, in the space between the big and second toes. Any closer to the outboard side of the foot en pointe, and you’re sickling.

    The spring-up is a Russian technique; most US teachers teach the roll-up technique (which helps build foot strength in beginners.) When you’re dancing choreography, you use whatever works for the particular step and speed you’re working at. Both techniques are useful.

    Congratulations on your first class. I think the rubbing you were experiencing on your small toe is from the too-square box, and you won’t get that with a more tapered pair of shoes.

    • Sweet! I’m going to try paper-tape next time, a girl in class recommended it because it’s not textured like fabric tape, and it won’t shift like a bandaid.

      • An addendum: didn’t get paper tape in time for my second pointe class, just went same as first class: ouch pouch inside tights, and it felt much much better. Was able to keep pointes on entire class, no blisters.
        Don’t know why, maybe feet were more better placed inside shoe second go-’round.

  5. Johanna says:

    Wow. I am truly amazed. Echappés and bourres for your first class! I remember the feeling of my first time, excitement mixed with a little bit of panic. Then excitement. Then panic. Then excitement. ;)

    Although I am a little bit puzzled about the technique Mr. Smirnoff is teaching you guys. Of course I cannot claim to be any kind of expert with 8 months of pointe experience. But: we never ever hop onto pointe. Even if someone experienced (but new to our class) would try to hop, there would be a strict No jumping! from Madame. Every relevé is done rolling through demi-pointe. As is coming down. Rolling up through demi is killer work, but it gives you that amazing strength you´ll want to have. Just try to pull yourself up without the hopping bit and you´ll know what I mean.

    I dunno.. Maybe it´s a question of style or school? My pointe teachers both teach French school, and they are very strict about this. Madame, who was a principal with RDB until 2008, also teaches master classes – and I kind of trust her on this. But, like I said, I do not know anything else. I have never taken pointe classes Russian style.

    Anyway, whichever way you choose to dance and to pointe, I am rooting for you! And I love that you are sharing your experiences with the rest of us. Always looking forward to your posts. Hope you did not mind my meddling too much ;)

    • candice says:

      Easy distinction. Your Madame is French, Smirnoff is Russian. That’s the historical divide between the two styles. Sometimes you get to learn both; as Ms. Odile says it’s useful to use whichever suits the choreography.

      I now leave it to the rest of the internet to tell me I am completely wrong and start arguing about this. :)

      • Ha! You’re totally right, it’s a difference based on how ballet developed in different regions. I’m just coming across this in Apollo’s Angels. Maybe getting a little philosophical here but I think it reflects the feeling of manners and etiquette in French ballet as opposed to the boomPow of Russian ballet.
        And to be specific, it is like Odile says, more of a spring-up than a hop, we’re meant to really push into the floor and power off it.

        • Also, it’s pretty likely that I didn’t do anything correctly, Smirnoff repeated a few times that my big goal for the day was to work through the toe.

          • candice says:

            I’m sure you did stuff right!

            Getting onto the toes well is hard and him focusing on it so early is probably going to help. I needed that focus sooner than I found it and spent a bunch of time falling back into my shoes.

        • Nichelle says:

          Yes, power-spring! not a hop and land on the toes -ouch – (which lots of beginners d0). In addition to the push, a good sense of ‘lift’ from pelvic floor through the torso is needed to arrive with power, speed, and accuracy on those pointes. I’m a roll-through the foot kinda gal but had Russian technique in college (until I pretty much chucked those shoes altogether). As others have said, both are valuable! Glad you’re having fun!

      • Giovanna says:

        Actually, the “hopping” on pointe was introduced by Cecchetti – who brought it to Russia when he was ballet master there… :-)

  6. Acacia says:

    Sounds amazing! It is so cool to hear your stories and I’m so thrilled for you!

  7. Johanna says:

    Interesting to read about other ways of doing it. Thanks for enlightening me too! When I thought more about it, there is some stuff we do in a springy manner, like relevés on one leg, in arabesque and in the center in passé retiré, sous-sous, ballottés, and pirouettes (me still trying, not actually doing). I suppose echappés are also a kind of plié-slide-springy kind of movement?

    After being drilled in the roll-up manner, I thought some girls were “cheating” when I saw them jumping up to pointe instead. But like Nichelle said, there is a difference between jumping and power-springing. And then there´s also choreography and doing as you are told. Any dancer needs and wants to be able to dance in multiple ways!

  8. Sarah Dani says:

    You did such a great job your first class!!! Congratulations!!! I am so jealous of you!
    How many days a week do you take class? I’ve been wondering this for a while.

  9. Ruth says:

    When I did pointe, that’s when I felt in the best physical shape of my life. I made my own toe pads because nothing else worked to stop the pain of being on pointe. I could still use them-they’re practically indestructible. Wish you’d post some pictures!

  10. Ruth says:

    I’m partial to rolling up though. It feels more natural.

  11. poogleypie says:

    I really enjoy hearing about your adventures en pointe – how fantastic to know it’s actually possible. Perhaps one day I’ll stop being a spectator and try it out myself :) Till then, thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Suzanne says:

    Congrats! I went back en pointe last August and my first class they moved away from the barre. I WAS TERRIFIED! Last week I was doing double piques across the floor!

  13. Pingback: O hai pointe shoes | Adult Beginner

  14. Celeste says:

    Hi! How long have u been doing ballet? And how old are you? I’d love to be on pointe but I too feel like it’s too late for me.

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