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glowlight

Research for a novel

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When I came back to this forum about a year ago, it was because I wanted to immerse myself in the dance world again because of a project I was embarking on.

 

The project is a novel about a girl starting at vocational school.

 

I wrote the first draft  many years ago... when I was 13 years old.  Last year I rediscovered it, written in pencil in 3 WHSmith exercise books.

 

Over the last year I've been playing around with it, updating it, and I'm now about to start editing my second draft, but I realise that there are lots of gaps in my knowledge which I think some of the wise folk on this forum may be able to help me with.  

 

So - first questions are about pointe work.

 

1)  How much pointe work do girls do in Year 7 at Vocational schools?  

2)  I know that girls shouldn't go on pointe too young, but what exactly is the risk?  What damage does it do?  Is the damage likely to manifest in the months after she starts pointe or is it something that will not be a problem until later life?  Could the damage stop a promising dancer pursuing a career in dance?

 

Many thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

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At my daughter's school the girls were fitted for pointe shoes in the January of Year 7.  All daily ballet classes were in flats, but they did RAD classes twice a week.  Those who had not passed IF before entering the school (most of them) began work on the IF syllabus which I believe is mainly a short pointe section at the barre with the few that had passed doing Intermediate.  In Year 8 they began to use soft blocks for daily classes alongside work on the Intermediate syllabus, with more pointework introduced in Year 9.

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Pointe work initiation was slightly different at DD’s school. Pointe was on the year 7 timetable from day one, and their first lesson consisted in a fitter from a dance shop seeing all the girls for shoes. Very exciting! Then they were handed ribbons and shown how to sew them and told they would need to have them ready for the following week’s lesson. Panic and tears, and some very kind help from the older girls later, and they all had ribbons in shoes on time! They took the lessons gradually, although some girls had done pointe before starting at vocational school. Knowing how to sew is such a useful skill for anyone starting in September, as that was one of the most stressful events of the entire year!

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My daughter wasn't even shown how to sew them!!!!!

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1 minute ago, Jewel said:

My daughter wasn't even shown how to sew them!!!!!

Oh my word! At least DD’s class were shown the angle of the ribbon in the shoe! It was so tempting to drive straight up to help (a 4 hour round trip) but it’s such a rite of passage for them. 

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Thankyou so much - this is just the sort of thing I was looking for.

 

My dd didn't go away until she was 16, so it was a very different experience for us, but I still remember the excitement and emotion of getting that first pair of pointe shoes.

 

Keep the stories coming - it is interesting to hear how different schools approach it differently.

 

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There is chat on this topic on this thread and in dance mags

 

https://www.balletcoforum.com/topic/13455-risk-of-going-en-pointe-too-early/page/2/

https://www.dancemagazine.com/pointe-shoes-2622511309.html

 

The RAD Int. Found exam had a min. age of 11 when my DD did it, I seem to recall.  The concern at my DD's studio was around bone development and  also foot/ankle  strength.  Our students had to go to a dance physio for a pre-pointe assessment to get the ok to progress to training.

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There's a YouTube video floating around on this forum somewhere, with Natalia Osipova talking about ballet training as a child and starting on pointe at 6 - and she seems fine right? I'm not saying it's a great idea - I have absolutely zero ballet knowledge and am just a curious outsider, just to be clear - but how did she get away with it and what would have happened had it gone wrong? Hope I'm not hijacking your thread and that answers to this will be useful to you glowlight? And good luck with the novel! How exciting!

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You're not hijacking my thread @worsethanclueless - you are asking the same thing.  What can go wrong?   I remember my mother telling me about a friend of hers who had been offered a place to train at Saddlers Wells (back in the 50s) but her  'foot collapsed' because she had gone on pointe too young, and she had to stop dancing.  As a young hobby dancer this put me in great fear of going on pointe!  I don't know what she meant by her 'foot collapsed' though.  

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I'm no expert, and there will be others who are far more knowledgeable along later I'm sure. But as I understand it, the dangers of early pointe work are two fold.

First there is the risk of an acute injury ie the child is not physically or technically strong enough to do what is being asked of them and they get hurt due to falling or twisting or something.

Then secondly, the risk of longer term damage to the feet. Even with correct technique, obviously dancing en pointe is not natural for the human foot and large loads are put through the bones, ligaments and joints. Children's bones are relatively "soft" and don't become fully ossified until beyond puberty. Some of the growth plates in bones don't close until the late teens or even early 20s in some cases. So they are more susceptible to damage. I think one of the commoner problems is the dancer developing hallux valgus, or bunions, where the big toes become deformed. Also, as already mentioned, younger children may not be capable of performing the techniques correctly so develop bad habits or "cheats" to enable them to do things that are actually technically beyond them. That can also lead to additional strain on the body. The effects may be immediate relatively early or not until later in life when the dancer develops arthritis in the feet  and ankles etc.

As to why some people are  badly affected and others aren't, well I guess that is just down to human variation. My DD has friends who didn't start pointe work til relatively late and have developed foot problems whereas she, with hindsight, started too early (about 10/11) but so far, has had no foot issues at all. Different foot shapes, relative strength vs flexibility, technique, shoe fit, bone age/age of onset of puberty all probably contribute as well as lots of other factors that I have no clue about. Its definitely not the case that if you start pointe below a certain age there will be issues and if you wait til later you will be fine. But as a general rule, starting very young increases the likelihood of injury or long term foot problems. I think Natalia Osipova is only in her early 30s so  unfortunately she may yet develop bone and joint problems consequent to her childhood training.

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38 minutes ago, glowlight said:

Does anyone darn pointe shoes these days?

 

Yup! In theory the lovely floors at DD’s vocational school mean you don’t need to from a traction point of view, but she likes the pronounced edge that it gives the platform and it extends the life of the shoe too, so I help DD darn hers (she can do it, but it takes her ages, so she does ribbons and I do darning).

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Just to add my experience of my dd going on pointe... her ballet school wanted her to start pointe at 9 years old . I took her out of the school believing that was such dangerous advice even though I knew nothing about pointe. Fast forward a year and I had her associate teachers and new school demanding to know why she hadn’t started pointe yet.. so we bowed to pressure....at just 10 she started.... she is at voc school has had no problems - yet- but I still feel very uneasy with tHe decision ... 

Incidentally she doesn’t bother darning her shoes now as she can go through a pair in one lesson- her school insists on only allowing one brand which she isn’t suited to.

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5 hours ago, glowlight said:

Does anyone darn pointe shoes these days?

 

yep  some people do  and swear by it , mainly  it seems it; tends to be around the edge of the platoform rather than the whole platform 

 

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There's a thread with a couple of videos about professional dancers' pointe shoe hacks.  It may be worth a look:

 

 

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17 hours ago, Katniss said:

Incidentally she doesn’t bother darning her shoes now as she can go through a pair in one lesson- her school insists on only allowing one brand which she isn’t suited to.

That's crackers. 

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On 04/07/2020 at 14:52, taxi4ballet said:

That's crackers. 

Why on earth would a school insist on only one brand of shoe to be worn??? 
the mind boggles at the costs involved with having to replace dead pointes each lesson! 

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This has been so for many years and in more than one school.  Some have now eased up and do allow different brands.  It does seem like a rather cosy monopoly at times.  Personally I feel for the poor dancers, all that sewing of elastics and ribbons.  

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I may be wrong but I think a certain prestigious school insist on one particular brand....but then I believe (again, might be wrong!) thatvthrg get I fividusljt fitted & if needed bespoke shoes made to fit/suit each individual wearer....& (agsin, I might be wrong!) they are free to the wearer!!! 

My DD would be doing pointe in Dr Martens if they were free 🤣🤣🤣

Edited by Peanut68
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36 minutes ago, Peanut68 said:

thatvthrg get I fividusljt fitted &

 

??!!

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Oh dear....what was that???? Can I blame typing on an iPhone late st night???? I promise no 🍷🍷🍷involved!!! Will go back to my messsage to see what I’d INTENDED to type & re-write!!

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Should have been words along the line of

“.....and I believe they get visits from very experienced fitters (& shoe makers?) & get a completely individual ‘prescription’ if you like for the best shoe for them” If they need a longer this or that it a firmer section on one foot - they get it with chance to tweak & redo their ‘prescription’ as they grow/develop as dancers. With that level of personalisation I expect even within just one brand all could happily get the ‘dream shoe’ with the school benefitting from more standardisation of colour/look & knowledge of level of expertise in fitting & steady supply!

All that from my line of gobbledeegoop!!

😁

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2 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

Should have been words along the line of

“.....and I believe they get visits from very experienced fitters (& shoe makers?) & get a completely individual ‘prescription’ if you like for the best shoe for them” If they need a longer this or that it a firmer section on one foot - they get it with chance to tweak & redo their ‘prescription’ as they grow/develop as dancers. With that level of personalisation I expect even within just one brand all could happily get the ‘dream shoe’ with the school benefitting from more standardisation of colour/look & knowledge of level of expertise in fitting & steady supply!

Trust me the level of bespoke depends simply on what’s available in stock as they have a real problem with supply and demand  ( my dd has had to wait up to 12 weeks for shoes during term time and often has to simply go with me into the shop like any one else to get a pair of shoes. Even then the shoe does not suit... well only if you think that a pointe shoe bill of £500 every half term is acceptable- oh boy I wish they were free to the wearer!!

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Wow, that’s a lot of shoes....so RBS shoes not free to all then? Another one of those ballet myths? 

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🤣 Definitely definitely not!! The reality is very different from the myth ...even the wee ribbon for the hair is charged at 50p...& we will never forgot the error on our first bill in which they had charged £50 for it instead😂! Anyway I expect dd was just very unlucky having very strong feet which do not suit the quiet’ performance’ brand insisted upon. 

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Are pointe shoes not covered by the MDS funding? At sone schools there is a uniform allowance that covers a generous chunk of the expense...

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Yes you do get shoes covered by MDS funding at our school but we just fall out of the uniform allowance . It’s a real struggle. 

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Never really thought about it but actually the MDS dance kit allowance probably ought to increase by age (& dare I say gender?) to reflect extra costs when numerous pairs of pointe shoes are used 0

per term plus dance uniform requires tutus & skirts....maybe reduce the early years (sorry - that will make me unpopular!! ) & make kit allowances to up the pointe shoe years....????

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18 minutes ago, Peanut68 said:

Never really thought about it but actually the MDS dance kit allowance probably ought to increase by age (& dare I say gender?) to reflect extra costs when numerous pairs of pointe shoes are used 0

per term plus dance uniform requires tutus & skirts....maybe reduce the early years (sorry - that will make me unpopular!! ) & make kit allowances to up the pointe shoe years....????

I think the allowance is attached to the child rather than being a pot of money available to the school... we use up any left-over annual budget to buy bigger sized dance uniform (ie trackies, tights etc) to use in later years, as DD is still young and doing limited pointe, which then frees up future allowance for pointe shoes, if that makes sense?! 

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