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Dancer Tips & Advice

When Am I Ready For Pointe? Insights From Capezio

Getting the first pair of pointe shoes for any dancer is a wonderful rite of passage. However, there are many factors that a student must consider when preparing for pointe work. Some of these factors are more technical such as strength, flexibility of feet and ankles, center of balance, posture, and alignment. Other factors include age, attitude, training, physique and proper pointe shoe fitting.

It is important to understand that pointe technique is the balance between the technical and artistic components of classical ballet. It involves body alignment, feet placement, weight distribution, and the transitions from demi-pointe to full pointe. Proper technique includes consistent application, mastery of leg rotation, alignment, aplomb (posture), placement, and épaulement (head and shoulders).

Strength

It is important for dancers to have the strength needed to be able to support themselves while en pointe. The muscles that need to be strong including the core muscle groups, back, rotators, quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, feet, arches and insteps. All of these muscles need to work together when en pointe to ensure that the dancer does not injure themselves.

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Center of Balance

Centre of balance is extremely important for pointe preparation. A student must have the ability to find their center of balance while maintaining proper technique both by the barre and during center combinations. The student should also have an ability to balance on demi-pointe in various ballet positions such as relevé in first position, and passé in fifth position.

Posture and Alignment

Posture and alignment are when the body is held properly while maintaining correct placement both while standing as well as moving. What does this look like? Well, the student should be in a proper stance with core muscles held, shoulders down, chest lifted, rib cage closed, and a straight pelvis.

Flexibility

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The flexibility of feet and ankles are an important factor when en pointe. Sickled or pronation and winged or supination feet are indications that a student requires more strengthening and/or flexibility of the muscles in the feet. A Theraband may be used to strengthen and stretch muscles and ligaments. Ankles should be flexible enough so that when the foot is pointed, the toe, instep, and knee are all in alignment.

A good exercise to stretch the ankles is to sit on the floor with feet and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Have a teacher or parent hold your ankles down in a parallel position while you attempt to gently straighten your legs while moving the buttocks and shifting the body back a little at a time. Overstretched ankles and high insteps require special attention to build foot strength. A Theraband will aid students to build this strength by flexing and pointing the foot with the elasticized band.

“There is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe, if she cannot do anything when she gets up there.”- George Balanchine

When to Start Pointe

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It is very important that a young dancer not begin pointe work too soon. Pointe work usually begins when the student is 10 to 12 years old. The only exception may be if a dance teacher or a physician has determined that the bones in the feet have sufficiently developed. The student should have an ability to receive and apply corrections and work diligently to master proper technique. Furthermore, two to three years of serious ballet training is essential. This is the minimum time and preparation needed to develop sufficient technique and strength to prepare for pointe work.

The student’s individual physique must be carefully evaluated. She should have strong abdominal, pelvic, buttock, and back muscles which hold the torso in proper alignment.

Proper Pointe Shoe Fitting

Pointe shoe fittings are an absolute necessity to ensure the dancer receives a proper fit. When considering a pointe shoe fitting, always remember shape, support, style, and shank. The shape of a shoe must match the shape of the foot being fit just like the style of the shoe should complement the aesthetics of the student’s line and the natural extension of her foot and leg. The shank should provide ample support to the instep and conform to the arch.

Demi-pointes are suggested for pointe work preparation. They help to strengthen feet, familiarize the student with proper shape and fit, and aid in the transition to traditional pointe shoes.

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The team at DanceWear Corner are all trained and experienced Pointe Shoe Fitters. With the huge range of pointe shoe brands and styles available at the Orlando Superstore, you will surely find the perfect pointe shoe for you or your dancer. Our Pointe Shoe fitters are dedicated to taking the time to ensure that you get the right shoe for your foot, but be prepared as first-time fittings can take time so it is recommended that you call ahead and make an appointment.

Criteria for Pointe Work

Here are some criteria for knowing if you are ready. If you are ready for pointe you should:

  • Be able to correctly hold turnout while dancing.
  • Have a straight, pulled-up back while dancing, especially the lower back.
  • Maintain correct placement (alignment) and stability (aplomb) on flat and in demi-pointe.
  • Keep the heels forward toward big toe (no sickling) while on demi-pointe.
  • Keep the weight evenly distributed over the balls of the feet.
  • Be able to do continuous relevés in center-work without losing one’s balance.
  • Be able to hold a passé balance on demi- pointe.
  • Execute piqué passé with a straight leg.
  • Possess flexible ankles so that the knee, instep, and toe are aligned when the foot is pointed.
  • Relevé on one leg while maintaining balance and pulling up in the legs.
  • Maintain proper technique while performing center combinations.
  • A firm understanding of intermediate ballet.

Checklist

Now that was a lot of information to take in. So here is a little checklist to make it a little easier.

  1. The student should be at least age 10-12 to begin pointe work.
  2. It is recommended that the student have at least two years of classical ballet training.
  3. It is recommended that the student is taking a minimum of three classes a week consistently.

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Moving to pointe is a huge step in any dancer’s career. The beauty and grace of a dancing en pointe is unsurpassed. You have to be ready though as it also places enormous strain on the feet and your body.

Because of this, we can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get the right shoe for you or your dancers’ feet.

Seek the expert help at DanceWear Corner and contact us today for assistance or to schedule your shoe fitting today.

 

*Information was provided by Capezio.

Secrets To Successful Auditions by Kimberly Falker

From the host of Balancing Pointe Podcast comes a book that will help to answer the six major questions every dancer must ask themselves when they are considering going to a Summer Intensive.

Kimberly Falker, the author of Secrets To Successful Auditions, has had the unique opportunity of interviewing those who are living and working in the world of professional dance. Over the course of two years she has interviewed over 150 top ballet experts. These experts have provided tips on a multitude of ballet and dance related topics such as: how to do well in auditions, how to have a successful Summer Intensive, and how to aim toward a career in ballet and dance. Falker knows that the audition process and Summer Intensives can be a difficult world to navigate. This is why she has chosen to taken everything that she has learned in her interviews and put them in a place that dancers and parents of dancers can access.

This book includes forwards from dancers Kathryn Morgan and Kaitlyn Gilliland as well as tips from many other principal dancers, soloists, directors, and choreographers.

The questions that this book helps to answer are the What? Why? Who? Where? How? And Which? Of the Summer Intensive world. Throughout the course of the book all of these questions get expanded on and you will leave with a better understanding of what Summer Intensives are,  why they are important, and how you can choose the best one for yourself or your dancer.

For more interviews and to get this book yourself you can click here.

How To Deal With Corrections and Criticisms

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The one thing that every dancer experiences is the feeling of getting corrected and criticized both in the classroom as well as in the professional world, the only thing that is different from dancer to dancer is how they handle these corrections and criticisms. Here are a few tips on dealing with the corrections and criticisms that you may face in the dance world.

Reframe Your Thinking

One must rethink corrections and criticisms that are given as just a simple piece of information that a person can use in order to get better. Remember that teachers provide corrections because they think that you can improve. So the next time a teacher gives you a correction remember that they are not trying to embarrass you in front of your friends in class they see potential in you and are trying to help you get even better. Likewise in a professional environment the choreographer wants the performance to look the best it can look on stage. This means that you can be corrected on everything from your walk from the wings to the steps choreographed, everything will be scrutinized and gone over with a fine toothed comb until show time so that you as the dancer will look the best you can look on stage.   

Remember why

You go to dance class in order to get better and in order to get better one needs to get feedback. It is important not to take this feedback personally especially if it is about your technique. Getting negative feedback does not mean that you are not talented and remember that even professionals get criticized. In class no matter if the teacher is correcting you personally listen to what the teacher is saying and pay attention to if you need to work on that as well. This goes along with reframing your mind when it comes to corrections and criticism.

Consider The Source

Teachers and choreographers give corrections and criticisms to make the dancer look the best they can. However, there are those teachers that seem to just criticize everything that a dancer does. When this happens listen to them and know that they are not criticizing you personally they want you to be the best you can be. So take everything they say as something that will make you better rather them something that tears you down.

Learn To Let Go

This maybe the hardest thing to do, but their are those teachers that no matter what you do you can never do it right. Still listen to what they have to say because it is vital but don’t carry that criticisms around with you outside of the classroom or practice. Don’t let the words and crisitism weigh on you because this is the easiest way to become defended when you leave the classroom or are not practicing shake off the crisitisms. However, do not completely forget them. When you are in the classroom or are practicing think back to what your teacher corrected in the last class.

I hope this has helped you in dealing with corrections and criticisms. Click here to check out what advice Kathryn Morgan has.  

 

How to Develop Your Artistry

Although technique is an important part of dance, it is not the only part a dancer must learn in order to become great. Developing artistry as a dancer is an important skill to master and also one of the hardest. There are many different areas of artistry. Some of them include musicality, acting ability, performance, movement quality,  creativity, and yes technical ability. Now what does all this mean? Basically this means that a dancer must develop a connection to the music while displaying the emotions of the story and making each movement smoothly transition into the next while also making the choreography their own. With all said and done though how does one develop their artistry?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are developing your artistry.

 

Tell a Story

Whether a part has a given story like Romeo and Juliet or if there is no story given, it is important to think about how you can convey a story in an interesting way that is unique to you. Now this may seem like it is only suited for pieces that have a given story already, but it is even more important to alway give a story to every performance that you dance. No one has to know the exact story you are planning on telling, but if you think about a story before hand people will feel more connected to the piece when they see it which will make the performance more memorable and meaningful to them. Remember that as you dance you are trying to convey a message or meaning because you can not speak. This meaning has to come from your whole body as you dance, so thinking about what that message entails will help you on the dance floor.   

 

Develop the character

This kinda goes along with telling the story. If you are playing the role of Juliet or the Sugar Plum Fairy you have to think about how that character will dance the choreography that was given and then think about how you as that character will dance. Not every person will perform a character exactly the same way and this is great. So you must think about how you can perform the character in a way that is unique to you.  

 

Listen to what the music says

Really listen to the music and try to pick out little things that you can use to emphasize the dance moves. This goes along with making the choreography your own. Every dancer will pick the notes in the music that stand out to them and perform the moves to the music is a different way. So even if all the steps are the same everyone will hear something different in the music that will lead them to dance the number slightly different from one another.   

 

It all starts in class

Like with most thing in dance all of this can be practiced in class. If you really want to develop your artistry try to take classes as different characters. Pick a character to take class as and go that whole dance class as that character. This is also something that you don’t have to tell people that you are doing. No one has to know that you are taking class as Juliet and well it’s just a fun exercise to do.

 

I hope you have found this useful in someway and if you want to learn more about developing artistry chick here to hear what Kathryn Morgan has to say.

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