Ballet: Agony of the Feet
By: Tim Burton
Ballet dancers have a secret. It is hidden under satin, and we are further distracred by the grace and the beauty of a
dancer's body in motion. Insiders are hesitant to reveal the secret for fear of embrassing the dancers, but the truth remains.
Dancers have ugly feet. The years of pounding and strain that their feet endure create crooked toes, discolored nails and
skin rubbed raw. Not to mention calluses, corns, and bunions. The wear and tear is endured to achieve performances that appear
graceful and effortless. "It looks so beautiful but it's physically brutal," says Lisa Hansen about the ballet. Hansen is
one in a group of physical therapists from Orlando Regional Rehabilitation Services who completed baseline screening for the
Southern Ballet Theatre last week. Along with an orthopedic physican and an athletic trainer, they donate their expertise
to measure and record the dancers' basic range of motion and fitness as a background for an future injury treatments. The
first stop for the dancers in the afternoon of measuring everything that bends was to step on a large protractor. They pointed
their toes outward, toward ballet's "first position." The dancers casually swivel their toes toward 80 or 85 degrees. the
extra push to a perfect 90 degrees is easy. The dancers can bend so easily, says Hansen, because they have all started stretching
out pliable limbs as childern in early dance classes. As adults their overall range of flexibility is off the charts, even
compared to athletes the therapists normally treat. The dancers have superb strength. Usually, the therapists see either strength
or flexibility in athletes, but not both. The dancers, says Hansen are in better shape than almost any football player. The
dancers also can bend their knees slightly backward into hyper- extension. It's a talent that may come back to haunt them.
"It's good for ballet," concedes Hansen, "but it's bad when you're 60.'
Ballet Life Behind the Scences
By: Wendy Neale
A girl's feet take the most excessive abuse during her years in ballet. From the beginning she must build up calluses for
protection when doing pointe work, and there will be very few moments while she is dancing that her feet are not sore...
Dancers wear various forms of protection around their toes. Lamb wool is recommended, although it is by no means used exclusively.
Tissue or pieces of thick plastic bag are frequently wound around toes before they are put into pointe shoes.
From Barefoot to Balanchine
By: Mary Kerner
Before every performance, ballerinas execute a variety of rituals to don their pointe shoes. Some wet the shoe's heel to
help it adhere better to their tights, while others place glue inside the heel of the shoe. Preparation of a dancer's pointe
shoes may take as long as the entire time allocated to makeup, hairstyling, and costuming.
All those layers of stiff materials interspersed with glue that compose the box lose their body with repeated dancing--and
foot perspiration. When the box becomes too soft to perform in, the shoes are either discarded or worn in place of technique
slippers for class... After dancers have left the theater, the dressing room floor is strewn with worn-out shoes--some pairs
used less than an hour...
Each ballerina has her own method of ensconing her toes in Band-Aids, adhesive tape, or lamb's wool to prevent or protect
blisters while dancing for so many hours on the tips of her toes. Although feet toughen and form calluses after years of dancing
on pointe, blood from blisters rubbed faw against the stiff box may cake and dry in the toes of pointe shoes. It could seem
a prardox that something so beautiful onstage can cause pain, but New York City Ballet choreographer George Balanchine saw
no reason why offstage realism should affect an audience's enjoyment of the performance: "Women who dance have ugly feet.
Their feet aren't pretty anymore, but they're professional." The man who made ballet for women, a supremacy that had been
developing since the day she first stood on her toes, said: "It takes fifteen years to acquire the technique of pointes."