Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Pointe

There are some days a mom looks forward to more than others. This was one of them.

Today my oldest daughter got her first pair of pointe shoes. For any mom who ever danced, watching your daughter hit this milestone is huge. And when that mom danced on pointe, you reach a whole other level of proud altogether.

I was her age when I got my first pair of pointe shoes. They're hanging on a hook in my bedroom. Yes, it's that big of a deal.

But I didn't work as hard as she has worked to earn hers. Mine were a gimmie. My teacher didn't care about my physiological development or technique.

Earning hers has been anything but easy. She has worked hard in class, two and three times a week for the last ten years, strengthening her feet, ankles and legs. She has learned how to stand, how to spin, how to breathe, where her arms are supposed to be and when. She has trained hard to gain the muscle memory that will allow her to succeed in this next phase of her dance training.

For any of you that think pointe is just the next level of ballet, think again. Point is it's own animal. For one thing, you use the foot differently. Not only does the dancer literally stand on the tips of her toes, she has to balance there with tight ankles, calves, thighs, glutes, abs... you get the picture. Imagine knowing how to drive an automatic car but being thrown into a manual. Now imagine that difference times 10. Same end result--a beautiful dance--different mechanics.

On pointe your feet are squeezed into shoes that by all rights shouldn't fit your feet. Square at the toe, boxed past the ball of your foot, and a shank (sole) with no give. Pointe shoes could double as baseball bats. And this is what she will proudly torture herself with for the rest of her dancing career.

As soon as we got home she pulled her shoes out of the box and showed them off to her dad. Bright, shiny and pink, they'll last through one class that way. But right now they're pretty and new.

After showing off your new pointe shoes you must sew on the elastic and the ribbons. I made her do it herself. She wasn't happy. But sewing on elastic and ribbons is something every dancer must know how to do. Like I said, not a happy girl.

But then she was done, proud as could be, and ready to start the next shoe, she smiled at me and said, "It feels so good!" "What?" "Finishing that shoe!"

Her first class on pointe is Tuesday. She's not allowed to wear the shoes until class when the teacher shows her how to tie them correctly and can watch her carefully as she learns to releve on them. The girls already on pointe are taking bets about how long she'll be able to keep her shoes on that first class. Let the blisters and bleeding begin!

I had my camera with me today as she was trying shoes on. I'll have my camera with me at her first class.

I am one proud mamma!


  1. Pat - I know nothing about dance, but I am so proud of her for you. What a milestone!
    Richard Chamberlain

  2. I remember watching my friend Elizabeth levieux dance pointe but more than that recall her pained feet early on... what a juxtaposition to a beautiful art form.

  3. thanks, rich.

    yeah, Julie. it is a huge juxtaposition. (that's a really big word this late.) it's so beautiful when done right, and so not when it's not. i can't wait till tuesday!