Monday, October 8, 2012

introduction to pointe work, by Mae

Dear Marme,

Pointe work is an extremely fascinating subject. Don’t you think? There are many different interesting aspects to it. Because of the nature of standing on the tips of one’s toes, there are occasional injuries to try to prevent and care for. Obviously, the history of pointe work is also very important because it can supply a dancer with a greater understanding of pointe. While, the pointe shoe is possibly the most important, except for the foot itself, to understand and know about it is also the easiest to learn about. Pointe is interesting.

The foot is a complex structure which is made of 26 bones. They are joined by many ligaments and tendons. While Ligaments join bone to bone, tendons join bone to muscle. The Achilles tendon connects the calcaneus, which is also known as the heel bone, to the calf muscle while the talus, which is also known as the ankle bone, transfers weight from the tibia to the calcaneus. The bones in the toes are called the phalanges. There are three phalanges in each toe, except for the big toe, which only has two. There are four tendons on each side of the foot. The outer ligaments are more easily injured than the inner ones because it is easier to sickle the foot than to bend it outwards. The foot is very complicated.

Injuries are very easy to get in pointe work, but do not have to be a problem for dancers. One of the most important elements to preventing injuries is making sure that one’s pointe shoe fits well, an improperly fitting shoe, whether too large or too small can cause many injuries that could easily have been prevented. Some injuries though, can happen even if your shoe fits perfectly. Blisters are caused when one’s foot rubs against the inside of the shoe and causes friction. A couple of ways to prevent blisters, besides making sure one’s shoe fits well is to sprinkle powder inside the shoe, which will absorb moisture and cut down on friction and to wrap the problem toes with tape To care for an unpopped blister filled with clear fluid one should sterilize the blister and the skin around it with alcohol and a sewing needle with alcohol or flame, poke the blister around the edge several times and then gently squeeze the fluid out. When at home, the blister should be left open to the air to heal, but when, outside or leaving the house it should be protected by a band aid. Injuries are common in pointe work, but not unavoidable.

The history of ballet is also very interesting. The first known ballet was commissioned by Catherine De Medicis in 1581 and the first pointe ballet was La Sylphide in 1832. Interestingly, there have been many key women to ballet by the name Marie. Marie Camargo introduced the entrechat and to display her quickly moving feet she shortened the skirts that women wore when dancing. She also invented tights and used a flatter shoe so that she had a better platform for her jumps. Marie Taglioni was a famous ballerina who performed in La Sylphide. Interestingly her father, who was also her teacher and choreographer, thought that her arms were too long, because of this he invented the idea of rounded arms to shorten the look of her arms. In the 1700s a man named Charles Didelot invented a flying machine which, through a system of wires and pulleys, allowed a ballerina to stand briefly on her pointes before being lifted into the air.  Because of the emphatic reception, this invention led choreographers to search for other ways for their stars to dance en pointe. At first, the pointe shoes were only narrow tubes of satin with no box that were heavily darned at the tips to give minimal support. As pointe shoes evolved, they became more supportive. In the 1900s a showbiz approach to pointe work became increasingly popular and dancers wore shoes with steel shanks to allow them to perform incredible feats en pointe. Ballet’s history is very fascinating.

The pointe shoe itself is merely supporting the foot. The shoe must be strong and yet supple enough for the foot to be able to feel the floor and have contact with it. It is important to understand the anatomy of the pointe shoe so one can communicate well when at a fitting and when trying to fix a problem with the shoe. The shank of the shoe is an inner sole, which is made of a very tough material, such as hard leather, supports the arch of the foot. The box is the stiffened part at the end of the pointe shoe and is made of many layers of muslin and burlap soaked in paste. The tip of the box, where the ballerina stands when en pointe, must be perfectly flat so that she has a stable platform on which to stand. The top of the box is called the vamp. The sides, where it is softer to allow the foot to roll through demi-pointe, are called the wings. Underneath the box there are the pleats or feathers which must be flat enough that they don’t cause the feet to lose contact with the floor. Ribbons on the pointe shoe are sewn right above the arch so that they pull the shoe up from the arch so that the heel does not slip off of the foot. The pointe shoe is a very important element in supporting the feet. 

Pointe work is a very large part of ballet and there are many essential elements to it. The history is rich and interesting. The anatomy of the pointe shoe is also important for good communication. While history and the anatomy of the pointe shoe are both very important the most important part is to understand the foot itself and preventing injuries. If one does not have a good understanding of the anatomy of the foot and how to take care of any injuries it might get before they become serious, the foot can become very painful and it can take a long time to heal properly. Pointe work is very exciting and important to ballet.

with Caitlin Hoffman at the Ballerina Boutique



1 comment:

Welcome! So glad you stopped by.