Tutorial: Making a pointe

This article was written by Dragonrider cosplay, who has trained professionally for 10+ Years and worked for 5 Years.

There are a lot of misconceptions about professional ballet, and it’s no surprise – becoming an expert on the subject matter requires years, with a lot of professional dancers training for over a decade before they join a company. Personally, I joined a local dance class when I was 3 years old, moving to a vocational ballet school when I was 10. I then spent 7 years training at Riga Choreography School in Latvia before getting accepted to Central School of Ballet in London, where I got my degree. Once I had graduated, I worked with various touring companies, including Vienna Festival Ballet, Neoballet and Let’s All Dance, as well as working on freelance projects.

Now that I’ve told you about my experience, let’s get to the pointe (I’m sorry, that pun just doesn’t get old).

Photo by Pete Bartlett

Why bad pointe work is bad

There are people out there who know next to nothing about dance; there are the dance enthusiasts; then there are professional dancers, and only a fraction of those are trained in pointe work. By the way, pointe work is the name for dancing on top of your toes using the special shoes – pointe shoes – which gives your legs that elongated look every one associates with ballerinas. Pointe shoe tips – the box – are generally made of layers of fabric, cardboard and paper hardened by glue (note the lack of pixie dust) which provides more stability than trying to balance on your bare toes, but in no way does it make putting your entire body weight on to just your big toe easy or safe. You might ask “if it’s so unsafe, how come the ballerinas don’t get injured?” The answer is, they do, and a lot, with ankle and foot injuries accounting for up to 57% of all dance injuries*. And the reason is, the human body is not naturally built to withstand such strain, so the only way of supporting the bones in the feet bearing a lot more weight than they are designed to train the soft tissues sufficiently to tether the bones, controlling their positions and minimising the occurrence of injury. The training for pointe focuses on muscle strength, alignment and control – sounds like pretty important stuff for spending a considerable amount of time balancing on just your big toes, right? Right. So, when singers, models, cosplayers or even dancers who are not trained to the needed level throw on a pair of pointe shoes (which, for professionals, are individually fitted to further decrease the risk of injuries) and pose on pointe without any of the above knowledge, it is bad. Not only is it frequently a problem aesthetically, with the untrained feet breaking some of the most basic rules of correct alignment; but furthermore, it is dangerous and can lead to countless injuries from a sprain to broken bones.

But I just want to try it, I’ll be careful

Look, I do not in any way recommend for anyone not specifically training for pointe work to wear pointe shoes. If you are doing it for that ethereal elegant ballerina aesthetic, you can achieve a very similar look by wearing soft ballet shoes with ribbons. Yes, you aren’t going to be posing on your tiptoes, but also chances are you aren’t going to injure yourself – seems like a pretty good deal to me. What will make a big difference, is tying the ribbons like a pro. I have seen a lot of people out there just wrapping the ribbons a few times around their feet and putting a big bow in the front – that is not how a ballerina would ever wear her shoes. So here’s a quick tutorial on how to tie the ribbons.

How to tie your ballet shoe ribbons

  1. If they aren’t already, sew the ribbons to either side of your shoes. These should be placed just in front of your ankle bones
  2. Take the ribbon on the outer side of your foot and cross it over your ankle
  3. Take the other ribbon and cross it over the first ribbon
  4. Wrap these around your ankle, overlapping the ribbons (not too tightly) until both ends meet on the outer side of your ankle
  5. Tie the ribbons into a bow and tuck it flat under the wraparound ribbons, just behind your ankle bone
  6. Done! You can spray your ribbons with hairspray to make sure the bow doesn’t slip out from under the ribbons later.
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Spider-Gwen shoes progress! 🕷️💙 Painted an old pair of shoes as soon as I got back from the cinema today – Into the Spider-Verse was AWESOME! I used a mix of 3 tester emulsion pots from Wilko as that's what I already had at home, while stuffing the shoes with paper so they don't go completely out of shape. Paint will still need a few touch ups. It's not the ideal way of colouring pointe shoes but it will definitely do at least for photoshoots (fun fact, this is the paint I used for the shield of my Lagertha cosplay). Now, serious talk for fellow Gwens. I am a trained ballet dancer, spent 10 years in full time dance schools and another 5 working for ballet companies – so I have spent years developing the muscles required to do pointe work. Please, if you are not in ballet training DO NOT try and jump onto your toes or dance in pointe shoes unless you want to seriously injure yourself. Without the required muscular support, you can seriously damage the bones in your feet. If you absolutely must wear pointe shoes for cosplay and want to pose on your toes, please at the very least do some training before you go on pointe and consult with a professional. I am happy to give advice to anyone seeking this. Similarly, if you wear pointe shoes, please learn to tie your ribbons correctly – again happy to help, so just ask! Roll on 2019 cosplays! #spidergwen #spidergwencosplay #spiderman #spidermancosplay #intothespiderverse #intothespiderversecosplay #marvel #marvelcosplay #bluepointeshoes #pointe #enpointe #custompointeshoes #cosplaywip #ballet #ballerina #girlswhocosplay #thisgirlcan #badassery

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If you are looking to do more than one cross for a specific design, I recommend adding some thread loops on to your socks or tights so they don’t slip down.

Ballet posing

Similar to pointe work, there isn’t really a way to fake looking like a dancer without intense training. However, there are a few pointers everyone dressing as a ballerina should follow.

  1. Tuck your pelvis and engage your core – you want to aim for your spine to be almost a straight line from your head to your coccyx
  2. Open your shoulders and pull them down – imagine you are wearing the most gorgeous necklace and want to show off your neck and chest
  3. Be aware of your arm position – you can look up the basic ballet arm positions online
  4. Engage your glutes and turn your legs out from the top of your hip, not just at your knees or feet – there should be an imaginary straight line from the top of your hip, through the middle of your knee, ankle and through your middle toe at all times
  5. When standing up, make sure you elongate your legs so your knees are as straight as possible (try thinking about pushing the floor away with your feet); and when you stretch a leg out remember to point your toes, but make sure the line of the foot in relation to the ankle is still straight
Photo by Photography by ASH

Conclusion

Overall, hopefully you see that there is a lot more to being on pointe than just standing on your tippy toes. I hope that if you are here because you want to wear ballet shoes for a photoshoot or a costume, you find this article helpful and informative. In no way do I want to discourage people’s interest in ballet, but it is important to know about the process and the technique if you do dress as a ballerina – in the same way you would research handling weapons if you are posing with a bow or a sword. If you have any other questions or want to know more tips or ballet poses, shoe preparation or strengthening exercises, please let me know in the comments below or on my page Dragonrider Cosplay

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