What should I teach dancers and parents about pointe shoes and fitting?
For a first fitting, the dancers and her parents need explanation of almost every aspect of pointe shoes and the fitting process. As the dancer advances, she will understand much more about how pointe shoes work, and what to expect in a fitting. Keep in mind, however, that some dancers may have danced on pointe for years without having a truly professional pointe fitting. Cover these guidelines thoroughly for the first fitting. For later fittings, use your judgment as to how much information and explanation the dancer and her parents need. At all times, remember that your expertise is essential for the dancer’s safety and success on pointe.
Time and patience Make sure dancers and parents understand from the beginning that proper pointe fitting takes time and patience, and that the dancer may try many pairs of shoes before finding the perfect fit. Explain that this process is typically longer for the first pair. As the dancer advances and her feet change, she will need regular fittings. Later fittings, though, are likely to be less lengthy and involved.
About pointe shoes Be ready to answer questions and correct any misconceptions dancers and parents may have about pointe shoe construction and fitting. At an appropriate time, offer parents a copy of Russian Pointe's Parents' Guide to Beginning Pointe.
Define all the terms you use. Identify the parts of a pointe shoe and explain how each part works with the dancer’s foot. As you select shoes for her, explain why you are choosing a particular model, size, width, vamp and shank, relating each choice to her foot shape and technical needs.
About fitting Explain how pointe shoes should fit, and demonstrate by holding the dancer’s and parents’ hands with the correct amount of pressure to represent a snug, but not painfully tight, fit. Using the hand as a model in this way can help the parents desire the desirable snugness of pointe shoes, which will help them monitor their daughter’s fit as she grows and advances. For the dancer, it helps her understand what you mean when you ask her if her toes are overlapping, curling or crunching, and how it feels when the foot is properly supported and placed in the shoe.
Ask if the teacher has a preference for padding. If not, start the fitting with the thinnest toe pads available. Explain to the dancer and her parent that thinner toe pads allow the dancer to feel the floor, which is essential for good technique and control. When pointe shoes are properly fit, pain is minimized, and thicker toe pads are usually unnecessary for eliminating pain on pointe.