Dancer Health
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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?

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New Miami City Ballet corps member Itzkan Barbosa and her mother Miriam Barbosa pose atop a mountain of Itzkan's pointe shoes. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy of Miriam Barbosa

On the morning of May 1, Miriam Barbosa posted a photo of her daughter, Itzkan, on Facebook. The image itself is striking—Itzkan stands smiling on pointe in front of Miami City Ballet, where she has spent the last year as a pre-professional student, perched atop a mountain of old pointe shoes of all different sizes. But it's the story behind the picture that's inspired so many people to comment their congratulations and appreciation. The photo contains every single one of Itzkan's pointe shoes, from her very first pair up until the moment she got her first professional contract as a corps member with MCB last month. The image not only calls attention to the hard work and dedication necessary for young dancers to achieve their dreams, but to the sacrifices parents make to help them get there.

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Photo Matthew Henry via Burst

Your feet may not be the envy of your studio, but having inflexible feet and ankles isn't all bad. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee walks us through the pros and cons.

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(From left) Misty Copeland, Ebony Williams, and Ashley Murphy in pancaked shoes (photo by Nathan Sayers)

No two pairs of pointe shoes are the same, from their shanks to their boxes, their color to their shine. To make an array of shoes more uniform or to get them to a shade closer to your skin tone, dance teachers might ask that you "pancake" your pointe shoes before going onstage. But what does that entail, exactly? We're here to show you.

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Josephine Lee on the road. Photo Courtesy Lee


Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.

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Dancer Health
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Since getting my first pair of pointe shoes, I've noticed that my left ankle is much stronger than my right ankle, and my right knee is slightly bent when I'm on full pointe. Do you have any advice for how I can fix these problems?

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Dancer Health
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A well-fitting, properly laced shoe is integral to achieving correct technique and preventing injury on pointe. A shoe that is too short, too narrow, too long or too wide hampers a dancer's ability to get her body into alignment on pointe and can cause ailments ranging from blisters and tendonitis to a sprain or even stress fractures. Once they're professionals, dancers will make their own choices about how their shoes look and feel, but as teachers, you can guide students to prioritize safety over aesthetics, and to listen to the advice of experienced fitters.

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Dance News

A fitter for 25 years, Carpenter learned her craft under a Repetto master fitter.

In our November health column we share 3 pointe shoe safety tips from pro fitter Mary Carpenter. One of her best pointers is that a too-big shoe is just as bad as one that’s too small.

“I get asked a lot about growing room,” Carpenter says. Not a good idea. “It has to be fitted snug. For the parents who don’t quite understand, I say, ‘Like a cast fits a broken limb.’” That snug fit, she says, is around the metatarsal—not the toes. It keeps toes from collapsing down into the box.

Without that firm support from the shoe, most dancers will struggle to get properly up on pointe. “They can’t get their hips over their legs,” Carpenter says. “They can’t get into correct ballet alignment.

Other common problems with loose shoes are blisters and bruised toenails. Additionally, if the fit isn’t secure enough, a dancer will instinctively tense her feet to keep them from slipping around. That increased tension can cause tendonitis.

Photo courtesy of Carpenter; Thinkstock

For more pointe shoe safety tips, subscribe to Dance Teacher and get the November issue.

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