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.

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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