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Tag: pointe

First Pointe Shoes: How to Get Fitted

first pointe shoes

It’s finally time to get your first pointe shoes!! In this article, we’ll walk through the process of finding a fitter, buying the supplies you’ll need for pointe, and then a few things to think about as you start dancing in your new shoes.

Ask the Right Questions

If you’re headed to buy your first pointe shoes, that means that you’ve gotten approval from your teacher and are ready to take the next big step in your dance journey! First thing’s first: you’ll need to ask your teacher the right questions so you’re fully prepared for your shoe fitting.

These questions will cover your teacher’s preferences and school policies, and they’ll be really valuable when working with your fitter.

What kind of padding do I need?

There are a variety of padding options to cushion dancers’ feet in their pointe shoes: Ouch Pouches, other gel padding, lambswool: there are different options for different feet, and no one single magic solution. Ouch Pouches are an industry favorite, but it’s worth it to know about other options.

Your teacher may (or may not) have a preference for which padding works best, but may also let you know that your school requires a certain padding for its dancers. The reason you’ll need to ask about padding before your fitting is that you’ll need to use that padding at the actual fitting session.

You can choose to buy that padding ahead of time, or you can also buy it at the dance store when you arrive for your fitting. Either way, plan to be consistent. Whichever padding you use during your fitting for your first pointe shoes, you’ll to continue using in class and in performance. That consistency will maintain your shoe’s fit and will prevent injury.

What kind of shank do you prefer?

Whatever answer you get to this question needs to be taken with a grain of salt: every person is different, and every pair of feet will need different support for safe and healthy dancing. Typically the shank provides support for your foot’s arch (CPYB has some great diagrams outlining the parts of a pointe shoe) while dancing en pointe, and depending on your arch you’ll need a stronger or softer shank.

What does this have to do with your teacher?first pointe shoes Depending on your teacher’s preference, he or she may want you to lean towards a shank that supports your foot, but also ties into your progress as a dancer. Especially for dancers new to pointe, it’s important to remember that building additional foot strength will be a part of dancing en pointe.

It’s a balance of dancing safely and building good technique: a softer shank will offer less support for the foot, and will help dancers to build that greater foot strength over time. Some teachers prefer that foot development as part of your dance instruction, so it’s something to keep in mind and tell your fitter when at the dance store.

Do you have a dance store you can recommend?

It’s always good to have a recommendation for a professional service like a dance shoe fitting, and if anyone will know where to find your first pointe shoes locally, it’ll be your teacher. Your teacher will be able to say “I have a great relationship with Store A” or “I haven’t had very much luck with Store B.” They might even suggest you try a store in a different city, if there are few options locally.

How much should I expect to spend on my first pointe shoes?

The last thing you want is an unpleasant surprise when you go to buy your first pointe shoes. Pointe shoes are not cheap, but they’re a critical tool for your success and SAFETY. It’s worth it to spend the money to get a great pair that fits your feet well. You should know what you’re getting into, and have an idea of what the bill will look like.

Still have some questions about the shoes in general? Check out this video that explains the anatomy of a pointe shoe:

What to Wear

It’ll be very important for the fitter to see your whole line, from your feet to your hips. It’s also important to wear the clothes you’ll have on when dancing in your shoes. What is your studio’s policy on attire while dancing en pointe: tights required? Tights optional?

Consistency is key: if your studio requires students to wear tights while dancing in their pointe shoes, then be sure to wear tights to the fitting. If you’ll eventually be performing in tights in your pointe shoes, even if you aren’t always required to dance in tights, wear the tights! And change your practice routine to include tights. Even minor changes in your footwear (like an extra little layer of fabric) can make a big difference in your shoe’s fit.

Our recommendation? Wear tights, and tighter-fitting shorts or a shorter skirt. No baggy clothing! Again, the fitter will need to see your line from your feet to your hips.

Also, make sure your toenails are trimmed prior to going to your fitting! Not too short, but definitely not too long.

In The Store

You’ve made it through the front door! Be sure to have planned for a minimum of 1 hour for your fitting, and it’s not a bad idea to even plan for 2 or 3 hours depending on the store’s available inventory. You want to try on as many different shoes as possible while you’re here.

The fitter will get right to work observing your:

  • Foot size
  • Foot width
  • Toe shape
  • Toe length
  • Arch height

From there, the fitter will start pulling examples for you to try on. Since you’ve already prepared for the cost of the shoes, don’t hold back on trying on every kind you can. You want a perfect fit for your feet, so that your form develops effectively and safely.

What should that perfect fit feel like?

  • Your toes should NOT overlap each other in the shoes.
  • Your toes should not be scrunched for space in the shoes.
  • When you go up en pointe, your feet should not feel like they are sinking into the box.
  • When you go up en pointe, you should feel even distribution of weight across your toes (and not extra pressure on one toe, like your big toe)
  • The shoes should “fit like a glove,” as in there’s no real wiggle room for your feet. These shoes should be very snug, and are not meant to “grow into.”

Be honest and open with your fitter, so that they have as much information as they need to help you make an informed choice. Don’t hold back in mentioning anything that feels a little off! These shoes need to be as perfect as possible so that you can practice correctly and avoid injury.

Keeping that in mind, don’t settle for a pair of shoes that you think might be ok. Even if you’ve spent a good amount of time in the store, if haven’t found a pair that you feel really GREAT about, go somewhere else and try on a few other pairs. It’s worth it for your feet (and wallet) to buy the right pair the first time.

You Made It

You made it! You’ve found a pair of shoes that fit your feet so well that you can’t wait to get them on and start dancing. BUT WAIT!

Now that you have your shoes, you need to get them approved by your teacher. Don’t wear them at home, on the way to dance, maybe don’t even take them out of the box for now. Wait until you’re in class, and your teacher asks you to try them on.

If your teacher approves, you’re all set! You can move on with sewing on the elastic and ribbons that will help secure the shoes to your feet.

If your teacher doesn’t like the fit, or thinks some key aspect needs to be adjusted, put those shoes right back in the box until you can get back to the dance store. Most dance stores will exchange pointe shoes that haven’t fit, but only if they’re in LIKE NEW condition. Even then, be sure to check with your individual store before you make a purchase.

Hope this has been helpful!


What to Expect When You’re Starting Pointe Class

pointe class

Pointe classes are something that shouldn’t be started without the go ahead of an experienced teacher, and only when a dancer is developmentally ready, strong enough and well-versed in foundational technique. When you do get the go-ahead to enroll in pointe or pre-pointe class, you’ll likely be chomping at the bit to put on those silky pink shoes and start pirouetting like the pros. Starting pointe class is a big step for any aspiring ballerina, but it’s not something to be taken lightly. Being prepared both mentally and physically is key to making the most of your first pointe classes, so here are some things first-time students should keep in mind as their initial class approaches.

“Your pointe shoes must match the size and shape of your feet.”

Respect the Pointe Shoes

There’s a lot more to pointe shoes than meets the eye. Think about it this way: Every dancer’s feet are different, so pointe shoes need to be chosen carefully. When you’re dancing in them, you’ll be resting your whole body weight on your toes, so it’s essential that the shoes conform to the shape of your foot as closely as possible. When you go for your pointe shoe fitting, the salesperson will help you determine the best shoe type for your feet, whether it’s a square box, a tapered box or some variation in between.

The video below, from the New York City Ballet, shows just how specific pointe shoe measurements are for professional ballerinas – plus, it shows some great clips of Megan Fairchild in action.

Fit isn’t the only thing you need to think about when it comes to pointe shoes. You’ll also need to learn how to properly sew your shoes, and you’ll want to decide what supplementary materials you need to comfortable dance in them. For example, some ballerinas choose to tape their toes, while others prefer to use toe pads as cushioning. There’s no “wrong” or “right” way to wear your shoes – it’s all about how you’re most comfortable.

Your First Pointe Class

When it’s time for your first pointe class, you’ll probably want to immediately do chaînés and grand jetés across the floor. Not so fast, though! The first thing you’ll learn is how to properly don and tie your pointe shoes. Chances are that you’ve been prancing around your house in your shoes, but you should pay careful attention to your teacher’s instructions. You could cause serious damage to your body if you don’t wear your shoes properly.

You'll learn the basics of tying pointe shoes in your first class. You’ll learn the basics of tying pointe shoes in your first class.

You also won’t be set free to prance around the studio either. During your first class, you’ll likely work off-pointe to improve your foot strength and mobility. If you do get to try some exercises in your shoes, your teacher will have you start slowly at the barre. Be patient, as the instructor will likely need to give students individual attention to correct their posture, stance and foot position.

As you probably realize, dancing on pointe is a whole new challenge for your feet. It may be uncomfortable for the first few classes, and you’ll likely have some blisters or sore spots after your first few classes. Michele Wiles, former principle dancer with the American Ballet Theater, explained to Capezio that her biggest challenge when starting pointe was balancing out her skills on each leg.

“I remember really noticing differences in my right and left foot,” Wiles explained. “The left foot was strong and able to do fouette turns from the very first class, but it didn’t look as flexible as the right. My right foot wasn’t as strong. The hardest part was dealing with these differences and the blister pain.”

It just goes to show that no one is automatically a natural. Even some of the most talented dancers had to overcome the challenges of pointe before they excelled, so be patient with yourself and stick with it! The efforts will pay off in the end.


Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include more accurate ballet terminology.


The Dos and Don’ts of Advancing Dance Students

If your studio offers a variety of classes for dancers with different skill levels, you’ll often be faced with challenges on when it’s time to consider advancing dance students to the next level. One of the most notable decisions is advancing ballerinas to pointe, but moving students to a more advanced class in any genre can be tricky. After owning your studio for a few years, you’ll find a method that works best for you, but here are some general tips on advancing dance students.

Do: Set Specific Criteria

Creating a set criteria for student advancement will make your life and the lives of your instructors a whole lot easier. Write up evaluation sheets that outline the skills and techniques needed for each class level. You can even use point systems to evaluate whether a dancer is ready to move up. In addition to technical aspects, you should also consider evaluating the dancer’s attitude, practice schedule and response to instruction, as these all play a crucial role in more advanced classes. Having a structured criteria will make the process fair and logical, and it’ll be a lot easier to explain to dancers and their parents what needs to be done in order to advance.

Don’t: Make Advancement a ‘Right’

There are bound to be dancers who feel that because they’ve completed so many seasons at a lower level, they’re entitled to advancement. This shouldn’t be the case. Advancing dance students who aren’t ready can be dangerous for the student and frustrating for the rest of the class. The dancers who are ready for the challenge will often be held back as unprepared students struggle. Dance Advantage explained that a student becomes a better dancer through dedication and practice, not by completing a certain number of classes. Advanced classes, including pointe, should be reserved for students who take the craft seriously and are 100 percent ready for the challenge, both mentally and physically.

Do: Take Time to Explain Your Decisions

When you make tough decisions to hold students back, realize how hard it will be on the dancer. The best thing you can do in this situation is sit down and have a conversation about how you came to the decision. Be prepared for tears and bargaining, but stay firm with your choice. Dance World Takeover explained that the best dancers will take criticism and use it to their advantage. Give your students as much advice as possible and be clear about exactly what it will take to get to the next level. After such talks, it will become clear which students are serious about pursuing their dreams and unafraid of hard work.

Don’t: Advance Students to Be With Friends

One of the most common complaints you’ll hear is that a student is being left behind while his or her friends advance. When this happens, you’ll want to acknowledge how the dancer is feeling – disappointed, let down and maybe a little embarrassed. However, explain that it wouldn’t be safe or fair to advance students so they could remain with friends. Make it clear to your dancers that it’s possible to catch up with peers if they put in the time to practice and stay focused during class. You can use this opportunity to light little fires under your students and help them to reach their full potential. Chances are that once they start class next season, they’ll quickly make new friends and focus on their love of dance.