Dance

Pointe Shoe Chronicles – importance of a professional fitting

Recently, I went for a pointe shoe fitting, as my last ones were well and truly dead – RIP beautiful babies! There were a few things I wanted to ask, question some finer points, and wondered wether these would ultimately effect the brand and model I’d be fitted with this time. Michelle, at That’s Entertainment in Liverpool looked at my previous record, then at my feet. She then thoroughly inspected my old pointe shoes, the dirt marks, where they had worn, where the shanks had softened, even feeling inside of the shoe. To an experienced fitter, worn shoes give away so many clues as to wear and tear, how they have been stored, and any issues that may have arisen. After trying on a couple of different options, I came away with the same model, which I’m thrilled about, as I loved them! But I came away realising just how important an expert fitting is. It’s not to be taken lightly. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

Foot types

A fitter will first look at your bare feet. They look at length on toes, length of  the foot as a whole, width, height of the arch, and compression amongst other things. Looking at this information, they can start to narrow down the brands and models of shoes which might be suitable.

Padding

There are a range of different offing options available to help protect your tootsies. Now is the time to tell your fitter what your preferences are, as she will want to start fitting and trying out different shoes with your padding on. No point finding a perfect shoe only to find out after it’s too tight with your padding in!

Brands & models

There are so many different manufacturers of pointe shoes, each with a huge selection of models. Each different model will have a different shank strength, profile height, vamp height, width, box shape etc. An expert fitter such as the guys down at Thats Entertainment,  have years upon years of knowledge. They can easily look at a foot and  match it with a maker and model without a second though.

Trial & Error

Even with this knowledge, everyone’s feet respond differently. A good fitter will access each shoe on the feet, how they look on the flat, and up en pointe. They will also ask a lot of questions about how they feel on. Too much pressure on toes? Pinching or squeezing? They will be able to analyse what the issue is, and try out a different shoe.

Usage

You will be asked how often and for how long you wear your pointe shoes. If it’s often, they may recommend a harder shoe so you get a longer wear out of them. If it’s more than twice a week, they may even recommend 2 pairs of shoes, to use on rotation to prevent them breaking down too early.

All in all, pointe shoes are a specialised piece of equipment, and the damage that an incorrect fitting can cause, not only to the foot itself, but your technique, is not worth the risk. It’s also a costly mistake buying your own and only when you go to wear them, discover that something isn’t right. I understand that a reliable fitter may not be hugely accessible all of the time, but I’d rather travel an hour to receive such a high level of expertise and after care, than risk injury or irreparable damage.

Your body is your medium for dance, look after it.

Alicia 💗

Dance · Exercise · Self love

Leap of faith.

I have some exciting news!

On Wednesday evening, I shall be teaching my first class! Little old me, a teacher! Eeeeeek! The class in question is our adult Urban class, so it’s full of very familiar faces, my dance friends. Does this make me more nervous? Hell yes! But I know it shouldn’t. They are all hugely supportive, and kind and funny and enthusiastic. We really are like a little family. So how did this come about you may ask? Our teacher/friend is expecting her first child. She teaches dance and fitness classes throughout the day, and now the time has come for her to start scaling back in preparation. Urban is one of those classes. We do have a particular ‘style’  and we have had a substitute teacher on a trial basis, but unfortunately, it was not what we were used to. Humans are creatures of habit! So the dilemma being, if we had no one to take the class, the class would have to be cancelled until after the baby arrives. We were all a little sad at that prospect. So it was proposed that I trail taking the class this week, after all, I should definitely know our style by now! 

This past week, I’ve been listening to the radio and chose a track, “levels” by Nick Jonas, it has a great beat to it, and started doing some choreography. I’ve actually really enjoyed it! Which surprised me as in my younger days, ‘own choreography’ was the worst section for me, that and impromptu’ but that’s a whole other blog! I’ve enjoyed it that much, that I’ve now taken steps to become a certified teacher! I’m going to be doing my IDTA Level 4 Diploma in ballet, and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me! This means, I will always have dance in my life, no matter how old I am! It means I can to really get to grips with my passion, ballet, and hopefully share and spread that passion to children and young adults! It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s one that I feel I can do justice to. Because dance is not just about technique. Yes it plays a huge part in dance and to be able to execute it safely, but for me, the most important aspect of dance, is feeling. It’s being able to express and portray emotions using your body as the medium. To be able to create that atmosphere that the audience can physically feel and makes their hairs stand on end. That’s a dancer’s true job. “dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion” – Martha Graham.

And this is what I hope to instil in my future students. I feel like this maybe some sort of life calling, that I hadn’t realised until now. Life works in funny ways like that. Things will materialise for you at precisely the right time in your life, it’s no coincidence.  It’s doesn’t matter if your 16 finishing school and have no idea where you see yourself heading. It doesn’t matter if you’re middle aged, stuck in a continuous ground hog day with no fulfilment. When you are ready, something amazing will come along, shake your soul and lead you to the right path, you just have to trust in it. If you’d have told me 3 years ago when I first returned to dance class, that I’d now be teaching a class and studying ballet, I would have laughed in your face! “If someone offers you an opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes and learn how to do it later” – Richard Branson. 

There will always be self doubt, but life is about taking chances, learning from mistakes and bettering ourselves. Be your own cheerleader. Believe in your qualities and have the courage to seek out new opportunities in life, you won’t regret it.

Alicia 💗

Dance

Top 5 dance comp survival tips!


Last week, I was at a dance comp (or festival, same thing) with my 6 year old daughter. She came 4th with both her dances, and her comp team as a whole, collected a hefty bunch of medals, go Team Elite! When I was younger, I also competed in dance competitions, so I’m in the unique position of having been a competitor AND now a dance mum. (which is WAY harder by the way, I’d much rather be on the stage, than watching my baby on it). Having experience from both sides means I have a few little gems of knowledge I’m going to share with you that will make comps a whole lot easier, whether you’re a seasoned pro, comp novice or part of the entourage.

#1 – Prepare in advance.

You don’t want to be worrying and rushing round the morning of the comp, looking for your stuff and potentially being late, the vibes could effect your performance. Write a list the night before of all the things you need, music, costume, make up, props, and have it all ready by the door. That way you can wake up and have a peaceful mind knowing everything is ready, so you can concentrate 100% on your routine. If you’re doing multiple dances, make a list for each dance, so nothing is forgotten.

#2 – Arrive early.

Make sure you plan to arrive a good 45 mins to an hour before your section is due to start. Comps sometimes run behind, but they also run ahead of time, don’t let yourself be rushed. An hour means you can see the stage or area you’ll be performing on, and perhaps even having a run through on it if there is a break, so it’s familiar to you.  Spacing is essential, so assess what adjustments you may need to bare in mind to make the most of the space you’re dancing in. You will also be able to apply your make up, and dreaded liquid eyeliner, to perfection, because you won’t be rushing!

#3 – Warm up.

Use your time before the section wisely, and warm up fully. It’s so important not only for execution of your steps, but safety too. If you’re body is not fully warm and limbered up before throwing yourself into a routine, it can cause injury. Look after your body! This goes for cooling down too, especially if it’s colder outside. To go from being super warm after just performing, to rushing on out after you’ve finished, can cause your muscles to contract quickly, leaving them tighter. This can cause injury the next time you dance (speaking from experience, pulled hamstring – not good). Spend 5 mins or so just doing some gentle flowing stretches to let your body cool down slightly before being exposed to the elements.

#4 – Team spirit.

Team morale is so important, it can really give a dancer a much needed extra boost. If you’re dancing before or after one of your other team members, it’s really nice to watch and cheer them on. It’s vital for building camaraderie between you, and having that extra support in the audience can make confidence soar. Also, don’t forget your fellow competitors in your section. It doesn’t matter if you came first, or didn’t get placed, it’s correct etiquette to congratulate everyone. A small “well done” is all that’s needed. It will show you are graceful in defeat if you didn’t get placed, and not too big for your boots if you did win. No one wants a reputation for being the resident diva!

#5 – Have fun!

Don’t let nerves get the better of you. Did you know, that the hormones responsible for nerves and excitement are EXACTLY the same?! The only difference – breathing, the amount of oxygen getting in your body and up to your brain. Taking slow, deep breaths will really keep your brain and body on the right side of excitement. Remember why you are there. You obviously love to perform and thrive off it, so enjoy every chance of performance you get. You’ve put in hours of practice to get you to this moment, don’t waste it. Go out there and show the adjudicator exactly why you’re here and what you’re made of! That buzz you’ll feel when the audience applause is so worth it!
There we have it. They might seem like obvious things, or they may not, but they are so important. If you’re competing, I hope they are of help to you. Let me know if you have any tips I’ve not included, they may help someone else too!

Break a leg everyone!

Alicia 💗

Dance · Exercise

Ballet gear on a budget

IMG_2946

Last weekend I was shopping with my mum in London when in Miss Selfridge I spotted this gorgeous little top! The ballerina pink hue caught my eye first. Then I saw the back! A delicate ribbon interlaces all the way down and ties in a perfect bow at the bottom, echoing the crossing of ballet shoe ribbons. Sold! I have to say, the soft cotton and almost fleecy feel to the inside, make it increadibly comfortable to wear! And the slightly cropped and rolled hem is perfect for showing a little midriff, think peek-a-boo not Spice Girl! It’s perfect as a cutesy casual daywear top, but also would fit right in at the barre or warm up!

It got me thinking, what other little gems could I find in the high street that I could easily add to my ever growing dance wardrobe, spending a fraction of the price?! We all know how expensive proper dance attire can be, so what if we didn’t NEED to spend mega bucks on dance labels and instead could grande jeté our way to the till in some of our favourite high street shops with change to spare?! I’ve done the hard work for you and sourced some bargains that will have you feeling like a prima in the studio!

Let’s start with the basics, a Leo. Standard price around £30, going up to at least double for a top brand. I found this one in New Look, by Pink Vanilla. £14.  Super flattering black hides a multitude of sins. The v -neck plunge will lengthen the neck area and make the most of those collarbones, and the cap sleeves will widen the top half, making it perfect to even out the peachiest of derrières!FullSizeRender 3

Ballet tights are a must, especially if, like me, you have areas you wish to cover in a class full of young whipper snappers half your age! These are from Topshop. 80 denier just just right thickness wise, and a delicate shade of pink. £6. And if you like, you can easily transform them into convertibles by snipping a small hole in the sole. Job done!FullSizeRender

If you want to express your personality in class, add a splash of colour! These gorgeous striped wool joggers are a steal for Gap. Down from £34 to £14.99 in the sale! Ideal for warm up before class! And I’m loving the little drawstring detail at the waist!

IMG_2931

Every ballerina since time began, from babies to ladies in their eighties, absolutely needs a wrap over cardigan. It’s a ballet staple! This one is from Jane Norman and comes in an assortment of colours, but I like this pale grey one the best. Another v-neck, but it’s so flattering, so why not?! And the pretty tie side makes it quick and easy to take off once your’re ready, yet won’t get in your way if you keep it on during winter months. It’s the most expensive item at £29, but for something that you can wear to class AND double up as every day wear, basically means you’re getting 2 tops for the one price! Bargain!FullSizeRender 2

If you’d rather not stare at your derrière in the mirror all class, a skirt is another must. Not only will it skim over and lumps and bumps, but as soon as you put one on, you’ll feel as graceful as Giselle and won’t be able to resist doing a pirouette (or 2 or 3 if you’re feeling brave) to show it off. I found this one from New Look. I find by matching the colour of your skirt and your leotard, it will really lenghthen your whole appreance. It was £5 in the sale! Take my money!

FullSizeRender 4So there you have it, my top 5 ballet gear bargains. And the great thing is, they could all be worn outside of the studio too, transitional ballet wear! Let me know if you’ve found any little gems on the high street.

Much love,

Alicia