Thursday, June 1, 2017

Adults on Pointe

I had a conversation with one of the other students in my class Tuesday night. She was wearing pointe shoes and was getting advice from someone with more experience on the best way to tie her ribbons. I asked her how long she'd been on pointe and she answered that she'd just started.

I'd once asked the former director of this school whether they'd considered offering adult pointe classes. She'd rolled her eyes and answered sharply, "Not as long as I have any say in things here!" (This is pretty much the same answer I'd gotten when I asked if they'd considered offering adult partnering classes, but that's a different subject.)

I asked my fellow student where she was taking pointe classes. She indicated that she wasn't because she couldn't find any place that offered it. I'd heard that one of the schools in Bethesda offered it, but she replied that they'd dropped the class for fear of liability if someone got hurt.

So here we have a situation where adults want to get proper training in a technique where proper training is essential to avoiding injuries, but can't get the proper training because of a fear of injuries. Yeah, that's just great.

Because I've taken ballet classes in a lot of different places I'm on a number of schools' mailing lists. Most such emails aren't interesting unless I'm traveling, but one that arrived yesterday caught my eye: the announcement of a new adult pointe class! Such timing! For a moment I envisioned telling my fellow student about a class she could take, but then I realized that getting to this class might be a bit inconvenient, as it's in San Jose, California.


But at least some school somewhere in the country has the right idea.

(If you're in the San Jose area and are interested in this class, it's Mondays from 8:30 to 9pm at the New Ballet School Downtown San Jose starting June 5th. Please let me know if this helps anyone.)


  1. I don't understand why so many places have an issue with this. I'm a ballet instructor and am totally always onboard to teach adults any type of dance I'm qualified to teach - including pointe! But I'm in Hesperia, California! I'm in the same boat though. I want to get better at pointe (better at teaching than doing, ha) but I also can't find a place besides the jr college I take ballet classes at that teaches pointe to adults. The college I dance at only lets those of us en pointe take the intermediate ballet class with pointe shoes and I have but it's not a "pointe class." Ugh, I've been en pointe for six years and want to get better at it.

    1. Like you, I'm seeing individual instructors who may permit select students wear pointe shoes during regular adult classes, and they may (or may not) get some coaching in the process. But there are no classes around here where adults learn can pointe work specifically.

      I looked up Hesperia on a map (California geography not being my strong suit). I stopped off at the Apple Valley airport a couple of time while passing through (over?) the area. It looked like a nice place. But it doesn't seem like you're going to be dropping into those pointe classes in San Jose on a regular basis.

  2. For some reason, where I live (and that's on the other side of the Big Pond in Berlin, Germany) this doesn't seem to be too big of an issue. True, not every dance studio offers pointe classes for adult (pointe) beginner, even if they offer adult beginner "normal" ballet classes, but if you look you can find places to start pointe with no previous pointe experience as an adult beginner. I speak from experience as I set foot into a dance studio for the first time in my life at the tender age of 36 - and 3 years later I bought my first pair of pointe shoes and went en pointe. There's always the risk of injury, the aspiring ballerinas being in their teens or much older. Just for the record, my pointe-classmates and I did not sign anything liability-related - and I would have noticed as in real life I'm a lawyer.

    1. The liability situation in the USA is a wee bit different than it is in Germany and many other European nations.

      Here in the USA, the courts entertain all sorts of cases that would be laughed out of court elsewhere. That's why there are directions for use on shampoo bottles ("Lather, Rinse, Repeat"). That's why ladders are covered in warning labels. Even if you don't lose a liability lawsuit, the cost of defending yourself could easily bankrupt you.

      Let me give an example. A few years ago I signed up for a kayaking tour of the Ourthe River in Belgium. "Tour", to me, implied providing safety gear, a briefing on hazards and sights to look for, and probably a an experienced tour guide. What I got was a kayak, a paddle, and a ride on a truck a few kilometers upstream from the town. The truck driver carried the kayak to the riverbank, handed me the paddle, pointed downstream, and then drove away, leaving me there alone. I was not offered a flotation vest or helmet, nor briefed on the safe way to pass the low-head dam. I wasn't even aware there was a dam until I came upon it, and would not have known about the dangers it posed except that I spent several years as a rescue diver on our local underwater rescue team.

      In the USA, this situation would have had some lawyer salivating over the opportunity to empty the pockets of this "tour" operator and any company that had been foolish enough to insure it. There would have been ads in newspapers and TV saying, "Have you been injured on this tour? If so, call this number immediately!" And the lawsuits would have begun. In Belgium it was apparently considered totally normal and business went on.

      Personally, I think the correct balance is somewhere in the middle. But no one has appointed me king yet.

  3. I know, to us Europeans those (US) warning lables more often than not seem totally hilarious, but I do get your point. (Personally I think that your kayak-tour-experience is rather singular, even in a European legal context. But then, no one has appointed me queen, either.) I just think that people on both sides of the Atlantic should exercise some common sense, no matter the subject in question, be it ladders, kayak tours, or beginner pointe classes for adults. I don't think teenagers learning to go en pointe are in less danger of hurting themselves than adult dancers. Probably rather the other way round, at least the adults I dance with totally lack the care-free nothing-bad-will-happen attitude (no pun intended) many of the teenagers in the studio have.

  4. "So here we have a situation where adults want to get proper training in a technique where proper training is essential to avoiding injuries, but can't get the proper training because of a fear of injuries."

    I agree that this conundrum is so frustrating! I totally agree with the first sentence. If anyone knows a studio that offers adult pointe (beginner -- teaching proper pointe technique, not just slap on a pair and try to follow along in class) in the DC area, please post! I know and understand that years of training plus several times/week technique classes for maintenance are needed before a person goes on pointe.

    1. Oops - I meant I totally agree with the first part of the sentence because I am one of those adults who wants proper training in technique on pointe -- but never can find a studio that has a sustained and substantial curriculum for adult pointe.


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