Ode to the Pointe Shoe

"decorated pointe shoes" is licensed CC BY 2.0

“decorated pointe shoes” is licensed CC BY 2.0


Corina Chan - Adult dancerWe asked you to submit a poem of love for your pointe shoes and we weren’t disappointed! Thank you for your submissions. Our featured poet is Corina Chan.

Corina performs with Kathy Mata Ballet, a volunteer-based dance company. Their mission is to provide free shows at senior citizen facilities in San Francisco for seniors who may not otherwise have opportunities to enjoy dance performances. The motto of our company is “Dance is for Everyone.” This idea is true for both audiences and dancers, as Corina did not start her dance training until her mid 30s. In dance, as in all important matters in life, better late than never.

Without further ado, Corina’s Ode to the Pointe Shoe:


Ode to the Pointe ShoeOde to the Pointe Shoe


How do I love you?

Let me count the ways.


I love you out of the box, so shiny, pink, and new

I love you with every pique, pirouette, tendu


Second skin of my feet, keeper of my sole

Every step I take, your virtues I extol


The lines you draw, the patterns you trace

At the barre and in the center, you fill a sacred space


Adorned with ribbon like a satin-wrapped prize

Hiding within elegance the pain you disguise


I love you in class, in rehearsal, and on stage

Treasure beyond measure, my spirits you raise


My road to ballet is paved with blood, sweat and tears

You are my companion persistent through the years


Vertical suspension, the summit of my desire

You beneath me, the wings beneath my fire


From toil and struggle, the suffering for your sake

Comes dance so joyous, ever-worthy to create


Do you have dance poetry you’d like to share?

Leave a link or submit it to us. Your poem may be published, too!


An Old Guy Does Ballet

Today’s guest, Andrew Stone, has been a reader of Dance Advantage for some time. Though typically his thoughts are reserved for our comment section, he recently requested an opportunity to share a post with you. I think you’ll find his unique perspective of interest as he considers some universal truths about ballet and dance.

I’ve been doing partner dance for a while, but recently I took on my greatest challenge: ballet at 50+.

Andrew dances with his partner

Andrew dances with a partner

It doesn’t need to be said that there are not a lot of 50-something guys in a beginner ballet class, but there I was, among a group of women who ranged in age from teenagers to women in their 40’s. I was the oldest.

My first reaction (after a cringe of embarrassment), was to observe what a varied group they were. If you have done a lot of partner dance you can spot the ‘good ones’ without them telling you anything. The posture, and the habit of pointing the foot (yes, good partner dancers unconsciously do tendu as well) give it all away.

The serious dancer, in whatever form, is marked for life — the balance, the posture and the flexibility cannot be hidden.

Some of the dancers were very good indeed, but others were not so flexible, and some of the teenage girls had clearly never done any serious dance at all.

All this was taken in with a brief glance of the studio.

How was anyone going to manage a class like that? [Read more…]

Ten Tips for Adult Newbies Who Aren’t New to Ballet

I walked into my first “adult” ballet class after almost 10 years of no ballet, preceded by a childhood full of ballet, and I’ve come to wonder why I ever stopped.

I’m perplexed, even a little bit mad. How is it that I didn’t know then how much I would miss it, or how much effort it would take to start rebuilding all my carefully honed muscle memories? How inconsiderate of my younger, silly self!

Over the past seven or eight years of taking adult ballet classes and maturing, dare I say, from an open-class shy Newbie into an open-class debonair Sophisticate (watch me as I stride into the studio and know exactly where to drop my bag!), I’ve witnessed many class Newbies come and go.

One of the constants has been this:

Newbie approaches the teacher at the beginning of class, or the end (perhaps as a way to “explain” their “performance”), and says, “I’m [insert name] and I studied ballet when I was young, but this is the first class I’ve taken in over [insert multiple of 10] years.”

Newbie then apologizes for how “poorly” she did, or she might ask the teacher if there’s an easier class for her to try, or she might laugh about how “things aren’t what they used to be.”

Adult ballet students perform cambré at the barre.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Most teachers will respond to the Newbie with some combination of the following statements, delivered with extra pep for reassurance: “Welcome! You did great! I can tell that you’ve had formal training before. You should stay. There are all kinds of levels here. It’s an open class, so just do what you can. It always takes time to get used to a new studio and a new teacher. Don’t worry if you feel like you can’t keep up. Your muscles will remember over time.”

You know what? It may not feel true at the time – especially if you have the misfortune of picking a first class that happens to be extra-crowded, or a class full of leggy teenagers with no hips to speak of and banana feet by their ears who are stampeding by you in every center combination. But it’s all true.

For Newbies who aren’t exactly new to ballet, I offer ten tips and reflections below, in case my own experience can be of help to others:

1. I’m sorry to report that the dancewear you wore in high school probably doesn’t fit you anymore. [Read more…]

Writers Offer Dance Wardrobe Wisdom

In most locations, fall brings some serious style change to the studio.

It’s a time to break out the knit cover-ups, boots and mukluks, scarves and long-sleeve leotards. Not to mention we all start thinking about costuming for upcoming performances and competitions.

In October, I asked fellow bloggers to Join Our Circle and share their “Wardrobe Wisdom.” I love how varied the responses always are for these topics and this is no exception.

What Not To Wear: Teachers In Tutus

via Maria’s Movers

Maria responds to a job advertisement she saw for a teacher of young children by sharing her point of view on teacher’s wardrobes. She also discusses why what teachers wear should not be a substitute for teaching. Being a good teacher should stand alone!

Dance Fashion for the “Mature Dancer”

via Rori Roars

Rori responds to the needs of adult beginners by offering a thorough collection of tips on what to wear to class. Covering shoes, warmups, hair, support, and ways to save money, Rori has more to say on dance fashion than she thought she would!

Tangerine Ballerina


More Wardrobe Advice On The Web

Costume Time

“Costumes are so important to the overall tone and polish of your recitals.  And as I’ve said over and over again, your recital is your single most important marketing technique.” DeAnne Boegli discusses the importance of seeing costumes first-hand or reading descriptions carefully, and making recital time memorable.

Is a Dress Code Really Necessary?

The Healthy Dancer walks us through the psychological and physiological reasons attire matters in class.

No-Nonsense Series

Boys Do Ballet Too has a series of posts that offer no-nonsense tips for the guys on tights, dance belts, shoes, and more.

5 Ways To Beat The High Cost of Dancewear

Tights And Tiaras knows that dancers operate on slim budgets. Henrik gives a handful of options for cutting costs on dance couture.

Drama-Free Costuming: Yes, It’s Possible!

Right here at Dance Advantage, Suzanne Gerety speaks from experience, providing advice on how dance studio owners can reduce costume grievances and griping, and their own stress, at recital-time.

Flash of Yellow Dem Bones

Do you have thoughts on dance attire, dance fashion, or costumes?

Share them (or your link) in the comments!

And, if you want to participate in our monthly Circle, check out our upcoming topics HERE.

Adult Ballet’s Dark Side

Today’s article is by a guest author and dance teacher who, for what will probably be obvious reasons, would rather remain nameless. I know who this person is but my lips are sealed.

Besides, real names, faces, and places don’t really matter in this ultimately universal context and are withheld to protect the innocent… and the guilty!

Dealing with Adult Personalities in Ballet Class

Warning: This article is not for the faint-of-heart or for those who believe all ballet instructors are made of spun sugar and sprigs of lavender.  If you are a teacher, you will recognize some of these personalities.  If you are a student, you may be one.  You have been warned.

Let me begin with a caveat.  I adore all of my students.  I truly do. I teach newbies and pros alike, teens through adults.  I am proud of every single one of their achievements and am grateful for their hard work, dedication and generous spirits.  I have never had more fun in my life than when I am with my adult students.

That being said, I have to vent.  

We all do.  We teachers meet just about every type of personality in our classes. The vast majority of them are positive and fun, sincere and gracious,

…but then there are the more unusual ones, the quirky ones, and the downright nasty ones.

1. “Me, me, me. I have a question.”
IMAGE A young student raises hand in class IMAGE

Photo by Ta Duc

She always has a question.  You could have given her a tendu, en croix combination and she has a question. She never pays attention to the questions someone else asks – and then she repeats them as if you never answered. She always has a question after class.  Always.

Only answer if you have nothing else better to do.

2. “Don’t look at me.”

She hides behind everyone else.  She doesn’t mark a combination when you demonstrate.  She won’t apply a correction in front of you.  She’s afraid to have anyone look at her.  She actively cringes when you approach her during class.

Pet her gently and correct her when no one’s around.

3. “Don’t criticize me in front of Juliet.”

I have few adult men in class. Most are usually good sports who like to flirt and enjoy being surrounded by women.  Occasionally, these Romeos turn into bad sports, as I had one man do to me.

For over a year, he’d come to class religiously, worked hard, had a good time, participated in our shows – and then he fell in love with a much younger girl in class.  Suddenly I couldn’t correct him. He flipped out and caused a major ruckus. He and the girl stopped attending, much to the relief of the rest of the class and me. This was probably the only time I didn’t try to keep a student.

Sometimes, you gotta say good riddance to the bad apples.

4. “Why didn’t someone call me?”

She comes to class infrequently but on the one occasion when the teacher is sick and the class is canceled, she becomes indignant that the office personnel did not contact her.

She’s a very busy woman, you know.

5. “I want to buy your technique.”

You have talent and she has money and she wants to buy her childhood dream from you. She can’t be bothered to take class with the rest of the adults, who are not nearly serious enough for her.  Instead she wants to hire you for private lessons, two hours per day, six days per week, until she becomes a professional. If you somehow manage to arrange your schedule to accommodate her (this is not recommended), she will flake after two lessons – having found another ballet instructor who fits her ideal better.

6. “I should be much better than this/her/you.”

She’s so easily disillusioned. She used to dance when she was a kid, two or three decades ago.  Or she has taken a lesson or two and expects to succeed in an intermediate class.  She doesn’t see her progress, doesn’t understand that ballet is hard.  It requires discipline, consistency, and focus.

But she will get frustrated and never return, no matter how much you explain that if it were easy, everyone would be a ballerina in one lesson.

7. “I can’t do that.”

You asked him to do tombé, pas de bourrée, glissade, saut de chat. Everyone else can do it.  You’ve broken it down step by step for him even though this is an advanced beginner class and anyone taking it should know this.

You suggest he try a different class and he says…

7A. “But this class fits my schedule.”

Yeah, you can’t argue with that, can you?

8. “That’s my space.  And so is that.  And that.”

She stands in front, despite not knowing the combination.  She stands at the end of the barre despite not knowing the combination.  She jumps into the first group across the floor, despite not knowing the combination. And she gets in everyone’s way because she (all together now) doesn’t know the combination.

Zero spatial awareness, zero class etiquette – and she doesn’t see herself in your corrections.

9. “That’s not how I learned it.”

She took class years ago from a strict Russian-trained teacher who used to hit people with a stick and make them do grand plié from 5th position in the center into en dehors pirouettes. You’re not even giving her the correction at the barre but she has to offer her opinion.

When you suggest there are many ways to perform pirouettes, she replies…

9A. “I challenge you, sir, to a duel.”

Do NOT give in.  Do NOT waver.  Move on quickly.  Trust me, this sort of behavior infects the class like a fast-moving virus.  One person challenges your expertise and then soon, anyone else who’s having a bad day or feels the need for some attention, will jump on the bash-you bandwagon.

10. “I had a really bad day and I want all of you to know it.”

She swears under her breath.  She falls out of a turn and then stalks away with her fists clenched by her sides. She takes every tendu reeaally seriously.

Okay, we all have bad days. If this person is a regular student and this behavior is occasional, I will try to tease her out of it.

Or, ignore it.

11. “I loved it!  I’m coming to all of your classes!”

And then she…never…comes…back.

You gave her corrections at the barre. You praised her petit allegro.  You chatted after class about her past experience, how she found you, what her goals are for dance, and you gave her your card with your blog and email.  You answered all of her questions about getting the most out of her developpe a la seconde, your preferred epaulement for saut de chat, and what you thought of “Black Swan.” She swears she’ll be back. And then you never see her again.

Don’t kick yourself; it’ll happen again — and again — and again.

IMAGE A woman stands in darkness. Yellow light shines behind. IMAGE

Photo by Gisela Giardino

As teachers of adult students, we have to handle the negatives of our job in very different ways than we would if our students were teens or children.

For the most part, divas don’t last long in my class. If they’re too disruptive, they don’t come back because neither I nor my other students reward their bad behavior.

The baseline for all interactions is respect. Not deference, mind you — we are still the rulers of our tiny fiefdoms, but, let’s be honest, if we don’t treat our students (no matter their age or experience) with respect, we will soon lose our tiny fiefdoms.

Do your very best to make sure everyone has a good time, that they enjoy themselves but also grow as dancers.

My husband is amazed at how much fun I have and how upbeat I am when I teach. I smile and joke and laugh all the time when I’m in class. It’s the most rewarding job I have ever had and I consider myself pretty darn good at it.

Still, there are a few students who ruffle my feathers, either deliberately or merely incidentally. And for the ability to vent about them, I am truly grateful to Nichelle. Thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest.

I may be Anonymous but I’m not Alone.

Is that all of them?

No, no, no way.  I’m sure many of you have LOTS more personalities that you deal with or that I have somehow blocked out of my mind.

If so, let’s hear about them in the comments. Your email is not shared when you do so feel free to protect your identity with a pseudonym.