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Ouch! What about the toes?


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#1 ronny

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Posted 01 March 2002 - 09:50 AM

Dancing on the toes is lovely, but I always have the concern that the toes are not made to take the weight of the entire body.

Should I be concerned about those dancers that I see perfoming? Are they being good to their toes or are they enduring some pain for the sake of the art?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 01 March 2002 - 10:02 AM

Good question smile.gif I don't think you need to be concerned -- the dancers are adults and want to take care of themselves. But yes, it hurts! And I'm sure that at every performance you see, at least one dancer is dancing injured. (conservative estimate) The same could, of course, be said of skiiers and basketball players smile.gif

I put this up on another thread a few days ago -- Fonteyn was quoted as saying that if the audience knew how much pain was involved in a ballet performance, the only people who'd come were those who enjoyed bull fights.

(But it's not just the toes that hurt smile.gif )

[ March 01, 2002, 10:03 AM: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#3 katharine kanter

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Posted 01 March 2002 - 10:53 AM

There is far too much "toe-dancing" nowadays. Pointe work, as it is called, from the French term "sur les pointes", which means on the tips of your toes (!), was originally meant to be an accent, like a third-register note (high) in the singing voice.

Unfortunately, along with the current craving for the extreme and the sensational, even circus-like, that has taken over our art form in recent years, many steps that would, in actual fact, be more beautiful and fluent, if executed on the demi-pointe (half-toe), are now done on pointe.

Pointe work, in female dancers, has developed over the last half-century to the detriment of jumps and beats. Go to a shop, and ask the shop lady to shew you what the shoes look and feel like. You will note how terribly stiff, not just the pointe, or box, is, but how stiff the shank, or sole is. They have become increasingly hard, reinforced, in recent decades. One does not have the same feel for the floor, for extremely fast and brilliant foot-work, and for certain types of steps that I cannot explain here, in such clunky slippers.

If you would like to understand this concept more fully, try to find a film of a ballet by Auguste Bournonville, or perhaps "Giselle" which dates from the same period (1841-1842). The steps are so beautiful, you do not NEED pointework, to find the ballet exciting. There is some pointework (much has been added, incidentally, by modern performers), but it is not essential.

Lastly, but not leastly, orthopaedists are not happy about this trend in the ballet. They see the chronic injuries, the bunions, the stress factures, and so forth, and are the first to say - loudly - that there is too much pointework, and that it should be used but sparingly, as a rare and therefore notable, ray of light.

[ March 01, 2002, 10:56 AM: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 01 March 2002 - 11:40 AM

Interesting points. I wonder if this is another place, though, where the clock is unlikely to be turned back. There's a lot of soft shoe dancing today, but it's not ballet dancing (contemporary and modern), and unless there's another Fokine who wants to reform ballet from within instead of trying to turn it into something else, I wonder if we can get back to the using pointe appropriately. In pure dance works, one could make the case that it's always appropriate (not necessarily healthy, but appropriate smile.gif ) I do think one of the problems with so many modern dance choreographers working with ballet companies is that they often don't really understand pointe work and either become fascinated with it, but don't understand it, and so have the corps on pointe continuously for 20 minutes, or don't use it. I also think (and this is purely personal) that demi-pointe work looks awkward done in very stiff shoes.

Before we get too far into theory here, though, what do dancers think? smile.gif

#5 ronny

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Posted 02 March 2002 - 07:46 AM

Thanks for these very frank and honest answers. The same extreme trends seem to be going on in ice skating with the triple jumps and even quads that we saw during the olympics. I used to enjoy the skating but now that the programs are so difficult the grace of it seems to be gone.

At least the beauty of the ballet is still very much present in spite of the risk to the female dancers. Boy, the men really got off easy in ballet, no pointe work for them!!

#6 liliflower

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Posted 02 March 2002 - 11:49 AM

I was wondering, is there any ballet companies out there that don't use pointe?

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 02 March 2002 - 12:00 PM

liliflower, if there are, they aren't ballet companies smile.gif

#8 Guest_Ballay_4eva_*

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Posted 02 March 2002 - 02:27 PM

OK this is my opinion so like, don't get all mad @ me...

I don't really think its stupid or it hurts to go on pointe.. Pretty much the only way you'll be a succesful ballet dancer is if you can go on pointe, and if you can't do as much as go on your tiptoes, then I'd say you're pretty lazy, the only reason i would disagree with myself here is if you hav tried and tried and practiced and practiced and done everything possible to be ale to go up on pointe but your ankles STILL aren't strong enough. BUT if you have baely practiced and are whining, suit yerself, but no one wants a girl who does swan lake on demi althrough..

#9 Hal

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Posted 02 March 2002 - 06:17 PM

Ballet Tech (Elliot Feld) uses pointe sparingly but he certainly does use it in some of his works. Many of his ballets have no pointe work at all.

The thing that boggles my mind is to see dancers jumping on pointe. It just looks painful eek.gif Every time I see it I cringe. rolleyes.gif

[ March 02, 2002, 06:27 PM: Message edited by: hal ]

#10 choreo

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Posted 03 March 2002 - 03:21 AM

Perhaps I am simply strange, but jumping on pointe has never been painful for me, when done properly. I find it one of my favourite things to do. I can understand that it may seem painful but when one is pulled up and uses the shoe properly then jumping on pointe is not painful (I can only speak for myself as I can't say how someone else may feel in pointe shoes).
A different question: Has anyone done La Vivandiere for example? I personally found finding the right shoe a little difficult for that short gem of a ballet. Isn't finding the right shoe, for any ballet, always a challenge? Let alone Swan Lake for example where the shoe usually changes from Act to Act. Any comments?
smile.gif

#11 ScottieGDE13

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Posted 04 March 2002 - 03:41 PM

I am currently experiencing what choreo is describing! We are performing Cinderella with original choreography in, yikes, 3 weeks! I am the Spring fairy and the music goes from sounding like an annoying chihuahua (sp?) to a calmer more serene feeling. Anyway, the problem is I want a softer for all the jumping (grand jetes, pas de chats, tour jetes, etc.) but I also have this one killer turn that needs a very strong/harder shoe. So what I'd like to do is pause and change shoes in the middle of one dance! Oh well, I will overcome this difficulty! But to get back on topic...

Pointe work is certainly not what the podiatrist would call "good for you" but I don't think it should be avoided altogether, and I don't think its overused in classical ballets... in my mind if Im going to go to see a full-length classical ballet then all the females will be en pointe unless they are dancing character parts (ie the Mazurka in Coppelia) or it is a children's part. I do think, however, that sometimes modern choreographers tend to overuse it. Like if they choreograph a new work they should sincerely think "would pointe shoes benefit this piece?" the answer WILL vary depending on the dancers, the style, etc. Sometimes it is point(e)less to put dancers in a piece in pointe shoes. One thing I do not like about new classical ballets (newly choreographed that is) is that sometimes I think choreographers fill their classical works with show-offy elements, even for the corps dancers. Believe me, I am all for having a soloist, even a group perform things that the audience will know are very difficult (ex: fouette turn, multiple pirouettes, up-to-the-ear extensions) but I don't think it should be constant nor should it replace other more seemingly simple elements.

To clarify, sometimes, as I watch certain works, I feel as though the choreographer is constantly saying, "see how difficult all this is?" Once again, nothing wrong with these types of pieces (I actually enjoy them quite a bit) but doing things that are just as difficult but look easier to the typical audence member (ie, bourees, anything slow) doesn't seems to be a non-existent trend. Just because it looks easier doesn't mean it is any less beautiful (it also doesn't mean it is easier).

But I think that whole paragraph is more of an opinion about artistry than pointework.
Scottie

#12 Guest_pixiefueldancer_*

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Posted 09 April 2002 - 07:53 AM

Although I have only been doing pointe for a short while I have yet to notice much pain. I think that the only pain that I had was when my shoes were brand new and had yet to have any work done in them. Even that was very slight. Now It is quite comfortable for me, and with the jumps I only find it scary :)

#13 ronny

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Posted 11 April 2002 - 04:09 AM

Thanks to you all. I think I understand the thing much better now. And this also explains why important dancers leave stage and then come back later... I used to try to figure out if it was part of the story, but now I think that it may be just to change shoes for the next part of their performance. Its also good to hear that shoe technology is there to reduce the risk of injury due to too much pointe work. All very interesting.

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 April 2002 - 11:58 PM

one "modern" choreographer who seems to understnd pointe at least a little is Mark MOrris -- but hten he did ballet before he ever did "modern," and his company class for his "modern" company is a ballet class -- a "Healthy ballet class," Joanna Berman calls it ...

In his solo for her, "Later" (as in "see you later") which I htink is beautiful, he uses pointe steps sparingly -- almost like Bournonville, where many of hte pirouettes will be on half-toe, not pointe..... Morris uses lots of steps on half-toe-- piques in second travelling sideways; bourrees on half toe, in second and in fourth, chaines (a la Balanchine, who used a line of chaines on half toe finishing with a double-soutenu on pointe at the end o many bravura passages, where Petipa would have used a line of step=up turns ending in a double). Berman has extremely good feet, and can use low, middle, and high half-toe as well as pointe effortlessly, with imperceptible transitions....

So in Later, the steps on pointe have a finished, polished quality that gives a highlight to the phrase, emphasizes hte curve -- sometimes they're dramatic, like hte last releve in 3rd arabesque -- which would NOT be so dramatic if he'd used pointe indiscriminately. It's a subtle, subtle dance, the more I see it, the more I admire the way it's wrought....... It's not extraverted, it's not an attention grabber, but the more you look at it, the more you see things like this subtle use of pointe, and the gorgeous buttery softness of her footwork becomes a theme in itself.......

#15 Guest_Ange4567_*

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 06:10 PM

I have to say that ever since I was introduced to pointe work, I've had A LOT more fun dancing. True, it hurts sometimes.. But if you have a good fitting shoe and comfy padding.. Well sometimes it doesn't hurt at all.

I have tried four different styles of pointe shoes. Some are more comfy than others. Whereas one pair makes me feel as if I'm dancing on air, the other makes my feet burn like crazy. So its important to pick just the "right shoe"(sometimes hard to find) and you will find pointe work more enjoyable.

Honestly, if you love dance and focus more on grace and beauty, you'll learn to not feel the pain.. or at least I do.

Also, theres a wide variety of padding out there that help protect and sooth feet :D And I don't know about y'all.. But all the dancers I know are proud of their ugly funky feet(it shows all our hard work)


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