Parents & Teachers
What is the right age to begin pointework?
This is discussed in more detail in When To Start Pointework. Most students should not begin before age 10 or 12. Dancers must train for several years in soft slippers, rising only to half-toe (demi-pointe) before attempting to use pointe shoes. They must learn how to "pull up" out of the shoe, never allowing their full weight to sink into it, and always maintaining the correct alignment of spine, hips, knees and ankles. A dancer who attempts pointework before she has developed sufficient strength and technique and before bones have fully formed could cause herself serious injury and lifelong problems. Everyone develops differently; this is a decision to be made by parents, teachers and doctors.
Should pointe shoes be fitted with room to grow?
Never! A shoe that is too big, especially a shoe that is too wide at the ball of the foot, cannot provide proper support. Inadequate support could cause severe pain and serious injury. Please note: Gaynor Mindens are fitted differently from other brands because our elastomeric boxes do not deteriorate and our satin stretches only slightly. It is important to be able to pinch 1/4" at the heel of a Gaynor Minden when en pointe for these reasons. However, the fit around the ball of the foot should be snug.
Why are Gaynor Mindens more expensive?
Actually, Gaynor Mindens cost less to use than other brands because they last an average of 3 to 5 times longer. If you protect the satin tips, you can expect even more durability.
How? Gaynor Minden is the only pointe shoe with resilient elastomerics in the parts of the shoe that provide support: the shank and the box. Most other pointe shoes have a paste and paper construction for the shank and box, as they have since the 19th Century. You can break such a shank in your bare hands; you cannot break or weaken a Gaynor Minden no matter how much you bend it - go ahead and try!
Elastomerics are more costly than paper and paste. Also, Gaynor Minden is the only pointe shoe with high performance impact-absorbing urethane foam built right into the shoe - the same kind of cushioning found in the very finest athletic shoes. Our design is patented; only Gaynor Minden offers the durability of elastomerics and the comfort and quietness of high-tech shock absorbing foams.
Finally, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are hand made in the United States. If you examine the stitching and workmanship we think you will agree that our quality and consistency are unequaled. It is more expensive to manufacture in America, but the result is a superior product.
Why is an elastomeric box better?
In addition to being more economical to use, Gaynor Minden is superior in promoting correct alignment. A 1997 study at the Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst reported that even highly trained dancers were better aligned in Gaynor Mindens than in traditionally made pointe shoes. Proper alignment is essential for good technique, correct muscular development and for protecting the joints from injury.
Why is an elastomeric shank better?
It never breaks or weakens. Many dancers must use a hard shank in the traditional cardboard/paste pointe shoes because they break down more rapidly. With Gaynor Minden they can wear a more supple shank and enjoy the benefits of a lighter, more flexible shoe without compromising support.
Why is shock absorption important?
Many dancers' woes, whether mild aches or serious stress fractures, are caused by the traumatic impact of jumping on hard surfaces. Many dance floors are not resilient. Many are made from wood or linoleum laid directly on top of concrete. Also, most theaters in the world were built for opera or drama, not dance.
No pointe shoe can make ballet easy, painless or risk free, but Gaynor Minden is the only pointe shoe with high-quality urethane shock absorbing foam built into the shoe (not cheap latex cushioning). Our cushions are made from Rogers Corporation's Poron 4000® which carries the American Podiatric Association's Seal of Acceptance.
How do I find a good teacher/school?
This question is discussed in depth in "How Do I Select A Good School For My Child?". Briefly, a good teacher inspires her student; she nurtures self confidence as well as technique. She may or may not have had extensive performing experience; she may or may not have certification such as that offered by the Royal Academy of Dancing, the Cecchetti Council of America and various colleges. While these do provide a "certain guarantee" that the teacher knows her stuff, they alone do not insure a positive experience for your child.
A good school has happy, eager, bright-eyed students with lean, healthy bodies. A good teacher is mindful of health and safety. She emphasizes progressive technique. Attempting too much too soon, for example forcing turnout, insisting on extreme thinness, putting girls en pointe too young, or abandoning progressive training in favor of rehearsing for performances all the time can be injurious.
Ideally the school is in a safe part of town, has light, airy studios with appropriate floors and clean dressing rooms.
Why do doctors recommend Gaynor Minden?
Doctors recommend Gaynor Minden for the following reasons: It is the only pointe shoe with an elastomeric toe box. This box will not deform with use; it therefore promotes correct and safer alignment. It is the only pointe shoe with built-in shock absorption made from the most advanced cellular urethane foam. It is the only pointe shoe with an unbreakable shank insuring consistent, reliable support.
Advanced and professional dancers frequently suffer ankle injuries, stress fractures and tendinitis. Gaynor Minden is attempting to minimize such injuries by using the most advanced materials and design concepts with the guidance of dance medicine experts.
Are Gaynor Mindens suitable for beginners?
Definitely. What's important is that the shoe fit very well and that the stiffness of the shank and box be appropriate for the dancer's strength and size. Gaynor Mindens come in five different stiffnesses.
Gaynor Mindens are especially beneficial for beginners because they promote proper alignment and correct technique. They minimize "sickling" and "winging", bad habits that can lead to injury. (See Question #2)
Finally, Gaynor Mindens are lined with soft, cushy materials. They are very comfortable. Painful pointe shoes can be so discouraging that many girls stop enjoying ballet class and give it up altogether. Yes, ballet is hard and sometimes painful but a great deal of the discomfort associated with pointework is preventable.
Are they suitable for professionals?
Yes. Most professionals who use Gaynor Mindens prefer the supple Feather Flex or Pianissimo shanks for maximum responsiveness. Gaynor Minden will adjust the sides, vamp or heel by special order if necessary. Dancers wear Gaynor Minden at major companies such as The Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Houston Ballet, Ohio Ballet, Hartford Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Den Norske Opera Ballet, Les Grand Ballet Canadiens to name just a few.
What is a good first ballet to see with my child?
Every dance lover fondly remembers that first ballet, the performance that made her a balletomane for life.
For many that ballet is The Nutcracker because almost any town in America offers a version of this holiday classic. It is surely the most well-attended of all ballets. It has a lot going for it; gorgeous music, charming plot, delightful scenery, a celebration of gastronomic sweets, and a big party that gives even non-dancing members of the family an opportunity to have a role. Whether participant or spectator The Nutcracker is a family treat. New York City Ballet's production is truly spectacular.
Many young girls are serious enough to enjoy their ballet without sugarcoating. The exquisite formal beauty of the corps de ballet in Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadère can touch even a child, and if the leading dancers have any charisma at all, your daughter will be begging to go backstage for an autograph.
It is probably best to start with a story ballet; most of the classics have fairy tale plots. A particularly delightful one is Coppélia, a good choice if you would rather start with a comedy.
The ballet will be especially meaningful if it also a special event - one that requires dressing very nicely and perhaps a special meal before or after.
Our use of "she" and "daughter" is not just feminism. We have found that, in general, boys often squirm at the ballet. But surely there must be ballets that appeal to boys. Will our readers, especially you gentleman, please let us know what your experiences have been with boys at the ballet so that we can augment this section?