Stecyk

Dancer's Walk & Morton's Toe

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I might be mixing two separate topics that would be better treated separately. They do seem somewhat related, so I will raise both in this one thread.

 

In some of the pre-show discussions held for a visiting dance company's performance, I have heard their artistic directors mention that they choose dancers based on their walks. Some of the dancers chosen had no prior dance experience and were instead molded by the current company. These dance companies that have mentioned this selection process have been modern dance companies as opposed to pure ballet companies. As an example, on Thursday I saw Life by BalletBoyz and one of the company's dancers had begun "raw." The artistic director, Michael Nunn,  is a former Royal Ballet dancer. My questions are, what is the artistic director looking for in a dancer's walk? Is there something specific, or will the artistic director know it when he sees it? I assume ballet companies have a much more rigorous process in selecting dancers. What are their typical processes?

 

My second topic, somewhat tangential, is Morton's Toe, a condition where the second toe is longer than the big toe. Because I have this condition, I am curious if Morton's Toe prevents a person from becoming a top-notch dancer? For female dancers dancing on pointe, I would imagine that having Morton's Toe would be more challenging and, perhaps, painful? Would this condition be a significant factor in selection process?

 

Although I have the condition, I played sports in my younger years and never thought anything of it. I never enjoyed running, though I enjoy training and playing sports.


 

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Morton's Toe isn't any more a hinderence than a big toe longer and all other toes tapering off. In both cases it is one toe that takes the primary contact with the platform of a pointe shoe and therefore steps are taken to help distribute weight to other toes as well. This is done by wearing more tapered shoes, for Morton's toe building up the big toe to be even with the 2nd toe, etc. I have very tapered toes and would sometimes use a makeup wedge that women use to apply foundation in order to help alleviate pressure on my big toe. Of course, dancers with the first 3 toes even have the easiest time with weight distribution in their shoes, but lack of it doesn't mean someone will not become a 'top-notch' ballerina :)

 

As far as a dancer's walk, when applied to ballet, I think it has to do with how one carries themselves. I was actually at a company audition where the AD asked each of us to walk across the floor on the diagonal and made cuts from there, before even a plie was danced. I've heard that has been repeated by other directors many times and recently. It can be quite unsettling to those cut trying to figure out why, as much as it was to those of us not cut, also trying to figure out why. Most AD's have in mind what they are looking for, even if it may not be easily expressed in words. The natural way someone carries themselves can help indicate how that person may or may not move when actually performing steps. For a female dancer, one of the HARDEST things to master is to simply walk and run in pointe shoes. It really is incredibly difficult! 

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Thank you Fraildove for replying. It's great to have your response because you are speaking with direct experience.

 

Intuitively, I would expect that having Morton's Toe poses more of a challenge than having a big toe followed by tapered toes because the big toe can or should be able to support more weight? Is it not the primary load bearing toe? Adding a wedge or something to the other toes to help distribute the weight seems easier when the dancer doesn't have Morton's Toe. In a Morton's Toe situation, I suspect that the second toe "buckles" so that its length matches that of the big toe? I am asking for clarification as I have no experience in this matter.

 

If we look at the x-ray in the Wikipedia link for Morton's Toe (enlarge to full screen size), we see that the bone structure for the big toe is significantly stronger than for the other toes. The diameter of the bone seems about double the size of the other bones. Stress is defined as force divided by area. Because the diameter is twice as large, the cross sectional area of the bone is four times greater. So, the big toe should be able to support four times the load of a smaller toe?

 

You mentioned makeup wedges. I am surprised that there aren't specific custom made molds that would specific to a dancer's individual feet to help distribute the weight amongst her toes. I know absolutely nothing about dancer's feet and pointe shoes. So I am curious.

 

You mention that some ADs ask dancers to walk across the floor in a diagonal and then make cuts. That seems absolutely brutal. My "normal" walk depends upon circumstance. Am I walking around in a mall waiting for a theater to open. Or, am I walking with purpose because I want buy something and get out? Or, am I walking to meet someone and make a positive first impression? Or any number of different situations. I suspect our walk changes depending on circumstance. So if dancers are to walk across the floor in a diagonal, what should he or she assume? What is a "normal" walk under those conditions? Do you want to show some personality and playfulness? Or, serious intent and assertiveness? Or, do ADs ask dancers to walk across the floor to judge their aesthetics or attractiveness? And, if so, is that fair or proper?

 

I hadn't realized that for female dancers, one of the hardest things to master is to simply walk or run in pointe shoes. That's interesting. Thank you!

 

Edited by Stecyk

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20 hours ago, Fraildove said:

 For a female dancer, one of the HARDEST things to master is to simply walk and run in pointe shoes. It really is incredibly difficult! 

 

This is often true for dances trained in modern/contemporary styles as well.

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For the benefit of others who might be reading this thread, I thought would add a few words.
 
A friend mentioned that Morton's Toe is more difficult to dance on. As mentioned in this thread, dancers will often build up the inside of the shoe to fill in space and provide more stability. She mentioned the following product: Totally Toes by Gaynor Minden. I suspect that there are other brands, too.
 
With respect to walking across the stage, she indicated that the ADs were likely looking for a sense of "lofty-ness." ADs are looking for how dancers hold their head up, chin up, and shoulders back.
 
She wrapped up by suggesting that I should purchase a pair of pointe shoes to get a better sense of what the dancers feel. I could also deconstruct the shoes once I am done to see how they are made. I am curious, though I am not sure that I am that curious. I will let the idea percolate for a while. Perhaps I'll change my mind later.
 
Edited by Stecyk

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My daughter is not quite twelve and people always ask her if she's a dancer. I'm not sure if it's just her posture or the way she somehow seems like she is being lifted up from the inside. I don't know if this will last through puberty and into adulthood, but she sure is hoping that it does. 

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I've also heard the ballet dancer's use of turnout during life outside the studio referred to as dancer's walk.

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On ‎2‎/‎27‎/‎2017 at 10:03 AM, AB'sMom said:

My daughter is not quite twelve and people always ask her if she's a dancer. I'm not sure if it's just her posture or the way she somehow seems like she is being lifted up from the inside. I don't know if this will last through puberty and into adulthood, but she sure is hoping that it does. 

 

@AB'sMom, thank you for your response. When I saw your response come through in the email, I had meant to reply. It obviously slipped my mind until now.

 

I like your description of "being lifted up from the inside." It certainly provides a good visual.

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