The rich history of ballet traditions have taken a huge leap when it comes to making pointe work easier and more aesthetically pleasing for the dance student. Not only are there more high-tech pointe shoe brands to choose from, there are also many products available that promise to stretch and build up the arch of the foot so a dancer can look beautiful on pointe. The problem now is that many ballet students want to create curves on their insteps by artifice. This is great for the product manufacturer, but is it so great for a ballet student? Like anything else that goes against the grain of a long-standing tradition, false arch products are creating a big controversy.
Can We Respect A Ballerina Knowing Her Arches Are Fake?
There might be many people who claim that ballet is pure theater and because of that fact, theatrical performances naturally come with a slight degree of illusion. It's true that a ballerina has to appear as a character she is not when she is on stage. That means wearing false eyelashes, stage makeup and making pointe work look light, easy and effortless. One of the most exciting things for audience members to witness is the dancer on her toes. We hone in on those feet visually.
Imagine being mesmerized by the beauty and grace of her movements only to find out that her gorgeous insteps are actually foam rubber inserts. Doesn't that kill the romance and magic of ballet for you?
The Highly-Arched Ballet Foot Can Be Overrated
What is it about another dancers' arch shape that drives so many ballet students crazy to have feet shaped Credit: Flickr.com, Dancers Feet by Gary Knight, (CC by SA 2.0) with the same curvature? Although I wasn't born with super-curvy feet, they did stretch out and elongate over the years during the pointe work training I received as a young student.
Could it be that today's students are in a huge hurry to attain the aesthetics that took a professional dancer years of daily stretching, flexing and strength training to achieve? The answer is probably yes. The most important thing to remember is that your natural anatomy will always dictate the level of curvature that you can achieve; even after decades of dance training.
Fake Arch Inserts Are A Traditionalists Nightmare
Instead of focusing on the highly-curved banana feet of a certain popular few dancers in these modern timesCredit: Flickr.com, The Final Result by Michael Sheehan/ High Tech Dad, (CC by SA 2.o), check out the pictoral history of ballet and the appearance of the professional female dancer in decades past. Many of the world's most revered and respected ballerinas of our time did not have huge, high arches.
Although instep curvature and flexiblity is required to keep control of your technique in pointe shoes, not having banana feet are not the end of a dance career.
Why A Fake Arch Insert Is Not A Professional Solution
Are you interested in getting a pair of fake inserts to wear with your pointe shoes? If so, you may have caved in to the immense Credit: www.amazon.compressure for perfection of appearance that is the norm in the ballet world. Comparing your bone structure, tendon and ligament flexibilty with everybody else and deciding that you aren't "made right" is a morale destroyer for any dance student.
It does not help matters when the most reputable dancewear companies are posting big, tempting, glossy ads with these fake arch products. This kind of marketing makes beginners think that a padded arch insert is just another normal pointe shoe accessory, which it is not.
A Professional Ballet Career Leaves No Room For Fake Arches
Not Every Dance Role Calls For Wearing Tights-What Then?
There are many, many different types of ballet choreography. Some roles call for wearing tights and classical tutus. Modern interpretations can call for a ballerina to dance "au natural" and bare-legged with simply her pointe shoes and her costume. It would be a sad career move if a dancer had to refuse roles unless she could wear tights to hide her arch padding. There are not many ( if any) professional ballet theaters that would ever want to hear that from a corp member. During the physicality of a pas de duex, the last thing that should be on a dancer's mind is whether her male partner has brushed up against her arch "falsies" and distorted their shape. It sounds like a comedy, but for her, the dance company and the paying audience, it would be a tragedy.
Put Your Arch Development In The Hands Of Your Instructor
What should you do if you feel that your arches don't measure up? Unless your professional instructor tells you that your feet are a lost cause and that you will never be able to have proper placement on pointe due to your bone structure, keep going! There are hundreds of pointe shoe models that help correct box placement for lower arched ballet students.
There are effective training routines for enhancing the instep of all types of feet and the multitude of different bone structures they come with. Know for a fact that being a lower-arched dancer means having strength and balance on pointe while the banana-footed dancer wiggles and sways to maintain the same balance. The extra-curvy arch may look aesthetically pleasing in still photos, but understand that hyperextended insteps cause big challenges for them in the shank, vamp and pointe shoe department.
The biggest issue with false instep enhancement products is that most of these products get negative reviews by dancers who claim they are lumpy looking, move around and become easily misshapen during use. Many schools recommend strength training and stretching on specialized machines that are made for building up a dancer's instep. Feel free to read my article about ballet arch enhancers to see what I think about them. As always, a teacher is the best guide when it comes to developing the type of feet that will make you successful as a ballet dancer.