Health & Body

Ask Deb: I'm Sinking Into My Pointe Shoes


Q: I'm sinking into my pointe shoes. I've tried different shoes and nothing is working. I used to have high arches, but they seem to be less flexible these days. Is this why I'm sinking?

A: I actually believe pronation could be the cause of your sinking. Pronation happens when dancers turn out their feet more than their hips. Ultimately, this weakens the arch muscles, and that's why your feet cramp when you work them. The fact that you've noticed your high arches have gotten lower is a good indicator of pronation.

I'd encourage you to practice pointing your feet without socks or shoes on, so you can observe your toes. Sit on a chair, straighten one leg and slowly extend the ankle, then stretch the toes away keeping them long and separate from each other. You may not be able to get to your regular point—that's OK. You need to first break the habit of crunching the toes under as you point. Don't be surprised if your arch muscles cramp while doing this. That just means you've found the muscles you need to strengthen. Simply reach down and gently massage your foot until the cramping is gone.

When standing, the golden rule is to keep your weight evenly on the three points of the feet: the pads of the big toe, the little toe and the heel. Try doing this barefoot, then in soft slippers and finally in pointe shoes.

It takes time to break a pronation habit, but don't give up. Have your teacher check how you're using your turnout to make sure the pronation isn't coming from working incorrectly.

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

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As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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