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maryrosesatonapin

Pointe shoes - shapes, sizes and evolution

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54 minutes ago, Ivy Lin said:

 

Also @maryrosesatonapin if you go up to dancers and tell them that they have to wear "beautiful" shoes that do not suit their feet then you are telling them to endanger themselves. Dancers today have custom-designed pointe shoes to fit the specifics of their feet. 

As I already said, no dancer should risk their safety.

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Modern choreography does not have to be  "tossed out " but it would be rather nice to see dancers and their coaches approaching ballets made in different centuries by different choreographers as if there were stylistic differences between them much as musicians would if they were playing music by Mozart and Berg in the same programme. One of the complaints that Clement Crisp made at the turn of the century was that the company danced everything in exactly the same style regardless of who the choreographer was as if there was no difference between a nineteenth or mid twentieth century work. I am far from convinced that high legs are needed in MacMillan's Manon as I am pretty sure we would have noticed them in the mid and late 1970's if they had been there. My recollection is that neither of the ballerinas who played a part in the ballet's  creation raised their legs much higher in this ballet than they would have done in any of the other roles they danced. I suspect that our idea of what MacMillan's Manon should look like, or does look like in performance is the product of watching a generation of dancers heavily influenced by Guillem's performance style applying her aesthetics to pretty much everything they dance.

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Just to say that I trained at a "good" ballet school, and never, ever had any personal fitting of pointe shoes.  I can't remember much variation in vamps, widths or whatever.  We just tried a few pairs out, and bought the ones that were the right size. 

I have noticed that dancers seem to roll over more when on pointe these days, and surely that must mean far more pressure on the toes and ligaments of the feet.  And while I realise that pointe shoes are a tool, it is most distracting to see a glorious ballerina, kitted out in a splendid tutu, wearing shoes that are cut and mangled.  I can't remember which dancer slices the fronts of her shoes, but it is clearly visible from seats in the stalls and looks horrible.  (Sorry, whoever the dancer is!)

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I agree, Fonty - I also trained at a good amateur dance school and as far as I remember our choice was between Gambas and Freeds. There was no discussion about widths/platform size/profile/vamp lengths etc. So thank goodness for the developments in pointe shoes and the wide choice now available, with advice as to which features of which shoes would suit individual dancers, especially as ballet itself has developed and different kinds of choreography place different demands on dancers.

 

 

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It’s only on very few occasions I’ve suddenly been drawn to a dancers shoe because they looked so ragged ...so far not at the RB and I’m not naming her because she is a terrific dancer but agree probably more noticeable when in some glamorous tutu. 
Im glad am not the only one who remembers pointe shoe fittings as being fairly simple back then ....was beginning to think I was the only one naively out in the cold and not in on some inner circle of pointe shoe fittings! 

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And don't start me on glamorous tutus with pancaked pointe shoes ... :( 

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What do you all think of Alessandra Ferri? She had extremely over-arched feet and as the years went on wore bulkier shoes to support her feet.

 

roc-romeo-alessandra-ferri-ball_1000.jpg

 

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8 hours ago, alison said:

And don't start me on glamorous tutus with pancaked pointe shoes ... :( 

 

I mostly loathe pancaked pointe shoes but some directors/choreographers seem to prefer them!

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Alessandra Ferri never had much technique, and so acknowledges herself.  In the above photograph, one can see the tremendous tension in her head, neck and shoulders - anything but girlish.  In an attempt to shore up the unstable edifice.

 

The first question is whether one see things from the standpoint of the producer (the dancer), or the consumer (audience member). 

 

The producer, nowadays, is in considerable pain most of the time.  If one puts oneself into the shoes, so to speak, of David Hallberg, or Steven McRae .... or Nicolas LeRiche ... or Alina Cojocaru ... or the girls at NYCB ... there's a ballerina there who has had tendon transplants from CADAVERS!

 

Statistics :  85% of all "classical" dancers suffer at least one relatively serious injury a year.

 

The author of these lines is ancient.  In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, injuries were in the main, due to floorboards moving, splintering or breaking; lack of central heating and poor ventilation with huge temperature swings in studio and rehearsal room; wet and sweaty clothing made of primitive lycra and elastics leading to muscle tears; pointe shoes snapping and breaking in performance; extreme fatigue whilst on tour - "putting a foot wrong".  In other words, most injuries were to the foot, calf and ankle, due to dehydration, temperature swings and/or fatigue.

 

There was no physiotherapy, no massage, no osteopathy, and surgery was catch as catch can.  The fact that people managed to dance for 30 years, is because the technique was actually better, not worse, than it is today - from the PRODUCER's standpoint:  turnout was far less exaggerated; that great massive leg was not thrown up about the ears; elbows were not hyper-extended; female dancers though shorter, weighed up to a stone more than they do today, and therefore had greater energy-reserves and bone-density.

 

Today, we are getting stress fractures in the spine and foot of 16 year-old dancers; back and hip injuries of a horrific nature; iron rods inserted into dancer's necks (yes).  We have two dancers here at Paris aged about 26, who have already had hip operations: Bettencourt and Dayanova (public knowledge ... no breach of privacy involved). 

 

Double work, "thanks" to the Goleizovsky-stye partnering craze that came in with the Bolshoi tour to London in the 50s, has become extremely dangerous, and has led to injuries of a kind heretofore unknown.

 

From the Consumer standpoint, what one sees on stage is would appear to be glamorous,  "thrilling", "dare-devil" ... "Look - he's tossed her 15 foot into the air - will she survive?"

 

from the Producer standpoint, I say,  STOP.  Put the toothpaste back into the tube.

 

Get those legs down.  Stop pushing over the shoe.  Stop tossing the woman about like a sack of potatoes and save your back ... and hers.

 

The raison d'être of all art forms, is to convey IDEAS of a particularly elusive, mysterious kind. 

 

Not to join the thrill-seekers on Counter-Strike or in the Roman  Coliseum.

 

 

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You really can't put the toothpaste back in the tube though. Serious question: is all post-Petipa choreography going to be tossed out in this purification of ballet? Balanchine? Robbins? MacMillan? Anything post-war?

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Just getting back to square platforms, it is general knowledge that a square large platform to a pointe shoe which is at a 90 degree angle to the floor when on pointe is an enormous help to balance  in Rose Adagio or wherever.

 

The embroidering at outer ages which is sometimes done by female dancers is to give even more security to balance when on pointe.

 

Short vamps are usually favoured by those without extravagant arches, as they assist going up on pointe more easily.   Long vamps for those with big arches, as they give support and prevent the arch from buckling over the toes.

 

It is for some, difficult to hop on pointe wearing shoes with long vamps, as it is necessary to hold the arch back from the ankle, and with long vamps this can lead to dropping off pointe onto flat foot after a hop or two.

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7 hours ago, betterankles said:

Just getting back to square platforms, it is general knowledge that a square large platform to a pointe shoe which is at a 90 degree angle to the floor when on pointe is an enormous help to balance  in Rose Adagio or wherever.

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt that very large, square platforms on pointe shoes do look a bit clumpy.  Obviously, if a dancer has a bunion then the shoe has to be adapted to accommodate this, and this may necessitate a rather square end to the shoe, but if a dancer is relying on her shoes rather than her muscles to aid balances, then something has gone a bit wrong somewhere, surely?  I thought the whole point of pointe shoes was aesthetic; to make the ballerina appear more ethereal and weightless.  

 

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As « Fonty » says, yes, pointe work is supposed to look aethereal.  At the present time, it does not. 

 

Pointe work appeared at virtually the same period as Gardel and Vestris developped Grand Allegro technique, in other words, at the time of Beethoven.    And the technique of the jump is basically that of pointe work:  sudden, tremendous heel thrust beneath the line of aplomb so as to leave this earth.  I have no doubt that the shock created by Beethoven’s music (read what Bournonville has to say about hearing his 4th symphony at Paris) spurred both men and women quite literally to « leave this earth ».

Jumping does not mean splaying out into those dropped-crotch jetés we now call “jumping” with the legs higher than the XXXX (family website).  It means using heel-thrust to get off the ground.

The way one should feel on pointe is as though invisible strings were holding one so high above the ground, that one is as though being « lowered down » so that the toe-tips will virtually hover above the floor.  This is not an exaggeration – it’s what correct pointe technique actually feels like.

 

One way to strive for the correct sensation is in menées (bourrées) en arrière (en remontant).  Rather than thinking about moving « backwards », fix the people in front of you as though your “departing” glance were glued to theirs, taking leave of them as you float backwards.  This sensation only occurs when one is very high above the hip joint and the feet are ramrod straight on pointe (again, look at E. Krysanova’s feet in menées – it’s her feet straight as pokers on pointe that makes the movement so fluid and aethereal).  So DON’t look at her flippin’ feet – LOOK AT HER MOVEMENT.

 

We must train our minds off goggling at body parts – and going Cold Turkey on foot-fetishism would be great for starters.

 

As Bournonville and Carlo Blasis both insist, the foot and calf muscles must be relaxed, and the toes “like a paintbrush” (that’s a quote) in other words, NEVER curled under “like a parrot’s beak” (also a quote).  What this means is that the foot is pointed by leg, by ankle-action, and activated from its under-side, i.e. from the sole with its proprioceptive captors NOT by hard-pointing from the top-side of the foot.

That is the point, pointe, point this writer is trying to make – pointe work, like everything else in classical dance, is not SUPPOSED to be about displaying highly-arched, or whatever, body parts.  It’s about how to optimise the finest qualities of movement without doing oneself a mischief in the process. 

The infinite qualities of movement which the accomplished professional can call up act as metaphors flickering back and forth between the pre-conscious and the conscious mind, for thoughts and emotions of a different and more elusive nature than spoken utterance.  

Here, we have the lifelong partnership of Efremova and Dolgushin, two of the greatest dancers of the past half-century, in a little party-number composed by Dolgushin himself to er, not-unknown music.  A party number you might wish to refrain from trying in your living room.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc

By about 6 minutes, Efremova’s shoes are pretty much dead as a doornail, and they were no great shakes to begin with.  So she’s dancing in her back and on her aplomb, not on her feet.  As did Maria Taglioni.  (And doubtless on concrete floor in a Soviet television studio). If you can find anyone in the world today with that level of pointe technique, I’m a Monkey’s Uncle. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc

 

When we shewed the above film to master-class vocational students at Paris, some thought “the film had been sped up” (!) while others “had never imagined that such technique could exist”.

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Had forgotten to mention that this has all been explained rather better than the author of these lines ever could, in Roger Tully's book on technique, "The Song Sings the Bird", which one hopes someone will have the good sense to translate into the Russian one of these days.

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The great technicians noted for their balance, Toumanova, Alonso and Hightower had impeccable technique but also used square flat platforms on their pointe shoes, even in those days.

To balance on point wearing shoes that have uneven or curved platforms is almost impossible.   The larger the platform the easier to balance whether ‘dancing balances like pausing/hovering in pique arabesques, or balances off the hand of a partner, which incidentally also should emit a feeling of ‘hovering’ not making a Facebook photograph and standing immobile :).

 

While agreeing for the most part with what Katharine says, I think it is important to remember that different dancers have different assets,  physically, technically and artistically.  Alessandra Ferri is a truly great artist whose feet and footwork is exquisite, and it is understandable that she chose to show off her arches even by going ‘over’, which is not the correct way.   Her feet speak in a way that other dancers’ cannot - but their choice maybe to use shoes which permit them to display other assets such as their hovering balances, dazzling turns, speedy beats and or extraordinary elevation.   To each his own - as long as all are used for artistic purposes and not for circus displays.

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Katharine Kanter Mr. Tully is the teacher who I didn’t find till I was 25 ( mentioned above) who  had such a unique approach to teaching ballet and was really extremely helpful with pointe work.. . very different to anything I had been taught before ....And I love that book as well! 
Ulanova features strongly in it not specifically for her pointework skills but her artistry. 
A very interesting post Katharine Kanter. 

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Quote

 

 

Inserted into this excellent essay by Anapolskaya on Ratmansky's new 'Giselle', a photograph of Krysanova in attitude devant which illustrates the pointe point pointe.

 

And read her essay ... our Russian friends do not appear to be Asleep at the Wheel ...

 

http://www.forum-dansomanie.net/pagesdanso/critiques/cr0446_giselle_bolchoi_24_11_2019.html

 

Edited by katharine kanter
had forgotten to insert link
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Thanks to all the contributors to this very interesting discussion. I'm strictly a ballet watcher and all I can say is that I prefer a dancer to do/wear whatever is least likely to damage them in the long term. Especially if that means boureeing like Krysanova....

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On 01/12/2019 at 06:55, betterankles said:

To balance on point wearing shoes that have uneven or curved platforms is almost impossible.   The larger the platform the easier to balance whether ‘dancing balances like pausing/hovering in pique arabesques, or balances off the hand of a partner, which incidentally also should emit a feeling of ‘hovering’ not making a Facebook photograph and standing immobile :).

 

 

 

As far as I know, no pointe shoes have uneven or curved platforms, do they?  Isn't that the whole reason for creating them in the first place? So that the wearer has something flat to balance on? 

 

On 30/11/2019 at 21:12, katharine kanter said:

Here, we have the lifelong partnership of Efremova and Dolgushin, two of the greatest dancers of the past half-century, in a little party-number composed by Dolgushin himself to er, not-unknown music.  A party number you might wish to refrain from trying in your living room.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc

 

By about 6 minutes, Efremova’s shoes are pretty much dead as a doornail, and they were no great shakes to begin with.  So she’s dancing in her back and on her aplomb, not on her feet.  As did Maria Taglioni.  (And doubtless on concrete floor in a Soviet television studio). If you can find anyone in the world today with that level of pointe technique, I’m a Monkey’s Uncle. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UhahgoWywc

 

 

 

Katharine, looking at that clip, Efremova's shoes look really soft.  I found myself wondering if she had done the same thing I used to do.  I could never get shoes flexible enough, so I used to remove the arch support and rely on my own sturdy calf muscles.  I got well and truly told off when the teachers found out (someone told them, I never did find out who the sneaky person was.)   She wouldn't, would she........??

Edited by Fonty
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Here we have our guardian angel Toni Lander, on a very narrow platform shoe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMWL22g0ZB4

 

 

 

Toni was a big-boned girl and tall for the day.  How so light-footed then?  Look through the corset:  the gap between the floating ribs and the hip-joint.  And when she turns her back to our view, observe the rippling muscles on either side of the spine.  No weight on the foot and ankle at all.

 

Here, we have the opposite example (with apologies to Dansomanie for stealing the 3-day old link):  the Paris-Opera trained Chloé Révillon, alongside Elizaveta Petrova of the Maryinskii. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXeR3uQ8Sy8&feature=youtu.be

Of course Chloé is only about 19, and “danseur noble” whereas Elizaveta is a full-grown woman of about 30 and demi-caractère – nevertheless, Chloé has neither muscles in the dorsal section of the spine, nor épaulement – none whatsoever.  The impression of movement in her upper body is created by throwing the arms and head about – risky stuff, biomechanically.  On pointe, she will automatically be bearing down onto the ankle and toe-joints, although her extreme slenderness may belie the true state of affairs.

 

Also stolen from Dansomanie, the well-named VIKTORIA Tereshkina in an extremely difficult variation from Don Q that we do not, need one add, dance here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxjoGdG_xyM&feature=youtu.be

Personally, in terms of style, this writer is not overly partial to Conquering Tereshkina’s dancing and port de bras, but that is just an opinion not germane to the argument.  Watch her pointe work, and her back.  That is what is meant by the superiority of Russian training:  whatever one may think of style, Russia still knows how to get people off their feet and into their back. And watch how she uses the foot when not on pointe variously like a "suction cup", a tiger's foot, pawing, stroking, curling, stretching, right through the shoe.  While the very shape of her legs, despite 20 years on stage, without the slightest hypertrophy, shows that she is dancing in her back.

Francesca Hayward might want to study these dancers’ work, owing to flaws in her technique which at the moment, do not greatly show up as she is young, but with age, if not done away with, may hinder progress and limit her roles.  The gap between the floating ribs and hip-joint is too small, she is too “down” in the torso, which may explain why her ankles tend to shake (ever so slightly, but nonetheless), even in a piqué arabesque on pointe.  Given her strong, compact body, she could most likely turn things around rather quickly once she sets her mind to it. 


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3 hours ago, katharine kanter said:

 

...the very shape of her legs, despite 20 years on stage, without the slightest hypertrophy, shows that she is dancing in her back

Ah!  That explains what I have been noticing; that some, often older, dancers have shapely but slender legs without over-developed muscles (similar to Fonteyn's), and others (especially younger generation RB) have very noticeable calf-muscles.  I had imagined it to be some kind of exercise routine they were given in the gym but it must be the way they are dancing.  I do hope they correct any mistakes before it is too late :(

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Just to say that although I’m not fully understanding or seeing this space between the floating rib and the hip that clearly I really love that clip

from Giselle with the dancer Toni Lander ...she really does look like she’s almost hovering above the ground! And her bourrées are just so beautiful.

I understand the emphasis on the back more in Russian training ....in classes I’ve taken In the past with teachers trained in Russia the weight feels much more back almost towards the heel whereas there seems to be more of an emphasis on the body being forward and over the toes more in training say with RAD classes.

However won’t a dancers shape eg: whether slightly longer or shorter  waisted for example make a difference to if they look more up or down in the body? 

Edited by LinMM
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22 hours ago, Fonty said:

 

As far as I know, no pointe shoes have uneven or curved platforms, do they?  Isn't that the whole reason for creating them in the first place? So that the wearer has something flat to balance on? 


 

 

22 hours ago, Fonty said:

 

As far as I know, no pointe shoes have uneven or curved platforms, do they?  Isn't that the whole reason for creating them in the first place? So that the wearer has something flat to balance on? 

 

 

Every hand made pointe shoe is slightly different.  

Dancers spend a great deal of time choosing between their specially made pointe shoes for those which feel and look right for different roles they dance.

Platform of pointe shoes that are hand made, often end up with slightly crooked platforms, inclining either left or. Right, or more over the toes or under then 90 degrees to the floor which is the ideal.

Sometimes the darning is to try and correct the crookedness, otherwise to create a larger platform.

Old makes of pointe shoes particularly in Russia had very rounded/curved and tiny platforms, also the Italian Porselli as far as I remember.

Pointe shoes were not created specifically to balance on, but so that ballerinas could briefly go onto the tips of their toes creating an illusion of lightness and otherworldness!

Some pointe shoes make descending from pointe clunky, while others assist the beautiful descente de pointes which is a hallmark of the beautiful footwork of the best French School.

 

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1 hour ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Ah!  That explains what I have been noticing; that some, often older, dancers have shapely but slender legs without over-developed muscles (similar to Fonteyn's), and others (especially younger generation RB) have very noticeable calf-muscles.  I had imagined it to be some kind of exercise routine they were given in the gym but it must be the way they are dancing.  I do hope they correct any mistakes before it is too late :(

 

The cross training now in fashion tends to make for more muscle in the legs - well overall really...

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I can’t find the clip with Chloé Révillon dancing ...which ballet was it from?  

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Its Don Q.,  on 28th November at the Maryinskii.

 

LinMM has just written,

 

"1/ in classes I’ve taken In the past with teachers trained in Russia the weight feels much more back almost towards the heel whereas there seems to be more of an emphasis on the body being forward and over the toes more in training say with RAD classes.

2/ However won’t a dancers shape eg: whether slightly longer or shorter  waisted for example make a difference to if they look more up or down in the body? "

 

 

 

1/ Spot on remark.  Good Russian training (there is also BAD) and the "old" Cecchetti school, insist on the weight being over the heel, in order to maintain the line of aplomb running down the spine, through the hip-joint and between the two heels as one feels it in first position.  Classical dancing rests upon the Least-Action Principle, i.e. avoidance of all parasitical or superfluous movement.  It is therefore absurd to place the body-weight distally (farther) from the line of aplomb, by pitching it towards the forefoot.

 

The BAD NEWS is that the currently fashionable form of training, is Balanchine.  He wanted the weight pitched forward towards the metatarsals and phalanges - he imagined it made for speed.  It also makes for massive injury to the Achilles tendon and calf.  From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the reason that most male dancers in the USA have thick, chunky legs with hypertrophied quadriceps, is that they are trained to pitch forward.  And must dig the toes into the ground for stability rather than spreading the toes out like tree-roots from the heel.

 

For the Avoidance of Confusion:  Long strong bones are designed to carry the weight.  Mingy little bones to articulate.  

 

Any anatomist will tell you that body weight will normally rest at about 75% on the heel ... so why we have got it all bass-ackwards ... is a good question.

 

2/ For hundreds of years now, actors and dancers no matter how short or tall, have been expected to have more or less Golden Section proportions (5/8), in other words, short-bodied and long-legged.  It's the basic aesthetics of theatre.  Failing which, one looks as though one were walking on one's knees, seen from the auditorium. 

 

The floating-rib/hip-joint gap is however postural and muscular - either one is "sitting" on one's hip-joint, or fully pulled up and out of it.  You can feel it on yourself - put your hands on the last floating rib.  Get into a hang-dog slump with a retroverted pelvis, the way most of us sit, and then ante-vert the pelvis, arch slightly at L5-S1 and pull up and out of the hip.  That gap, critical to an easy unforced turnout, will automatically increase.

 

 

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This RB Insight on the Evolution of Pointe Work seems pertinent to the discussion on this thread. 

 

Edited by Richard LH
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7 hours ago, katharine kanter said:

Here, we have the opposite example (with apologies to Dansomanie for stealing the 3-day old link):  the Paris-Opera trained Chloé Révillon, alongside Elizaveta Petrova of the Maryinskii. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXeR3uQ8Sy8&feature=youtu.be

 

Of course Chloé is only about 19, and “danseur noble” whereas Elizaveta is a full-grown woman of about 30 and demi-caractère – nevertheless, Chloé has neither muscles in the dorsal section of the spine, nor épaulement – none whatsoever.  The impression of movement in her upper body is created by throwing the arms and head about – risky stuff, biomechanically.  On pointe, she will automatically be bearing down onto the ankle and toe-joints, although her extreme slenderness may belie the true state of affairs.

 

Pardon my ignorance Katharine (as a relative newbie to  ballet)  but which is Chloé Révillon and which Elizaveta Petrova? My inexpert eye cannot really discern the differences you describe and it might  help if I  was at least looking at the right dancer ! 

Edited by Richard LH

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