Dancing Makes You Smarter, Happier, and Healthier

It has been shown through medical research that Dancing Makes You Smarter! Amazing!!

A twenty one year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute of Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study compares the percentage of Reduced Risk of Dementia for various activities:

  • 0% for Bicycling, Swimming, or playing golf

  • 35% for Reading

  • 47% for Doing crossword puzzles.

  • 76% for Dancing Frequently

Poster by David Avocado Wolfe

The Study Also Shows That Dancing:

  • Reduces stress and depression.

  • Increases energy and serotonin.

  • Improves flexibility, strength, balance, endurance.

  • Strengthens bones and boosts cardiovascular health.

  • Increases bones and boosts cardiovascular health.

  • Dynamic and rapid-fire decision making, creates new neural paths.

Here is a more detailed article by Richard Powers: Use It Or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter

Preparing For Your First Pointe Class

Preparing for Your First Pointe Class is such an exciting step in a young Ballet Dancer's life! Arizona Ballet Theatre Pointe Students take the transition to pointe, under supervision - slowly, cautiously, safely and happily.

For some dancers, the first day on pointe feels like a breeze. For others, it is more like a walk on broken glass. Frequently, when real pain is present, the problem is in the choice of pointe shoe. To complicate matters, literally dozens of brands are available for purchase although any one dance store cannot possibly carry such an inventory. Finding the best brand of shoe for you can be a frustrating and rather long process. For others, the proverbial piece of cake.

Clearly, from these brief comments it is clear that the first pair of pointe shoes represents the beginning of a new dance phase which commences with the attainment of a longed for goal - purchasing a beautiful, shiny pink satin pair of magic shoes.

They truly can facilitate magic - the experienced dancer knows that dancing fabulous choreography on pointe feels like nothing else on earth! My advice to you. Be patient. Be safe. Ask questions. Together we will find the right pointe shoe that we will pair with the right attitude to achieve a dance goal you will remember with delight and bemusement for years to come.

You and your Fabulous Parents, who make all this possible, should read the sections in this Happy Dancer's Guide on Fitting, then Sewing, and then Tying your new Pointe Shoes.

If you are the type of dancer who likes to do research, there's always the web which has become an amazing and irresistable ballet resource. Also feel free to browse our Dance Library located in the Dressing Room which contains excellent resources on the topic of pointe shoes.

Two books well worth reading are:

1. An excellent book called fittingly The Pointe Shoe Book by Janice Barringer.

2. Another excellent book that I ordered online recently, since it wasn't available locally, is Pointe Shoes Tips and Tricks for Choosing, Tuning, and Care by Angela Reinhardt. This is a fascinating book in which Angela Reinhardt, a former dancer, cautions you to not buy shoes that are too large, and explains the dangers of doing so. Miss Reinhardt also discusses the effects of shoes that are way too small. This book is a goldmine of detailed how-to information on modifying your pointe shoes to suit your foot. It is amazing.

As you can well imagine, the topic of pointe shoes within ballet parameters, and also in the larger cultural context, has evoked much fascinating dialog. To find more about it, please take advantage of the resources Arizona Ballet Theatre provides including personal supervision by moi. The truth is, I would not be teaching ballet in Tucson had I not witnessed an entire class of students, at a now defunct school, who had not even been taught how to tie the shoes on properly. I could not in good conscience let the young dancers remain ignorant. ( ;-)->----

I'll see you soon at Arizona Ballet Theatre's Studios in Tucson! Miss Cecily

The following Links take you to very useful reference material on Pointe Shoes. These links should help ypu become more familiar with what's available, and with names of features that may relate to your needs. They come from The Pointe Shoe Information Exchange.

  1. Valuable list of Current Pointe Shoe Styles by Brand

  2. List of Additional brands of point shoes.

  3. Very useful Pointe Shoe Size Chart by brand.

  4. Master list of Pointe Shoes organized by Specifications or features related to your foot.

  5. Interesting Article by Mariam Missaghi on The Physics of Toe Shoes.

  6. You will also find that Gaynor Minden's website is very informative and beautiful.

♥ABT's How-To Guide to Fitting Your First pair of Pointe Shoes

Several of our Tween and Teen dancers are preparing to buy their first pair of pointe shoes. We are all excited for them. We hope this guide will help make it the wonderful experience it should be! I will be right there with them of course. 

( ;-)->----

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Many of the local vendors tend to fit the shoes way too loosely. Tell them your child dances at Arizona Ballet Theatre with Miss Cecily, who insists on a snug fit. They need to fit snugly so that the foot does not slide around while dancing. It you give it some thought, this is very logical. The shoes should fit like a glove ( ;-)->---- DO NOT leave room for "growth."

Trying to learn proper technique on pointe with shoes that are too large introduces many difficulties. In addition to causing blistering, it forces you into bad habits as you try to compensate for your foot sliding around within its pointe shoe. Such habits, once formed are difficult to correct.

While the transition on to pointe can be can be a magical moment in any dancer's training, it also may involve much shopping frustration as well as more time than you might imagine. 

Rule Number One for Purchasing Pointe Shoes:

DO NOT sew on elastics and/or ribbons until I have checked the shoes in person for fit and hardness. They may have to be returned.

Rule Number Two:

In addition to being a snug fit, make sure the pointe shoes feel relatively good in the store. If you find pointe shoes that feel terrific and have a snug fit in relevé first, BUY THEM INSTANTLY!!!

Corollary to Rule Number Two:

DO NOT purchase pointe shoes if they DO NOT feel good in the store. The shoes will not magically feel pain free in the ballet Studio if they felt terrible in the store.

Rule Number Three:

As I mentioned previously, be prepared to return shoes to the seller, and also be prepared to try on perhaps 30 pairs yet still walk out without buying. Do NOT succumb to seller pressure. The shoes must be a good and a snug fit: an OK fit is not good enough for your child. ( ;-)->----

Arizona Ballet Theatre pointe students will take the transition to pointe, under supervision - slowly, cautiously, safely and happily. And, with pointe shoes that fit snugly and comfortably.  

Here's a nice guide on dance.net called "what to expect for your first pointe shoe fitting." It's written by a young dancer, "pointe92", who has captured a lot of the essentials. She says

"...ahhh. your first pointe shoe fitting. a lot of us have been dreaming about this day for a long time. it seems like all you have to do is go in, get pointe shoes, leave, and start dancing. but it is much more than that."

"To avoid getting confused do a little research and let your parents know of the cost of pointe shoes and the hours of classes that go into it."

"Be Prepared"
"First of all you need to be completely prepared.

"You will need...

Money, about $75.00 to $110.00 preferably cash because some stores don't take checks or credit cards. 

Plenty of time. a fitting can sometimes take hours!

Convertible tights. if you need spacers then these will be necesary. 

To cut your toenails - make sure they are not too long or too short. Don't cut them the day of the fitting.

A camera. I made the mistake of not taking a camera and I wish I had! 

If its possible, a teacher or an older dancer from your studio.

They can be helpful because a parent usually won't know much about pointe shoes even if THEY had been a dancer.

Note that "pointe92" mentions bringing a camera to mark the occasion. Fitting your first pair of pointe shoes is a very very big moment in your life. Having photos afterwards will be a wonderful source of lovely, meaningful memories. Also, we can post your photos here if you like.

"dance92" also suggests you memorize this Pointe Shoe Parts Diagram with the names of all the parts of a pointe shoe. It's a good idea!


Pointe Shoe Parts Diagram 

  • a) inner sole / sock liner 

  • b) shank 

  • c) drawstring / drawstring knot 

  • d) wings 

  • e) box 

  • f) drawstring casing 

  • g) leather outer sole 

  • h) vamp 

  • i) platform

"pointe92" continues...

"Ouch these hurt! are they too small?"
"The feel of a new pointe shoe can be over whelming.
"The shoe should be snug but not painfully tight.
"Your toes should be able to lay straight along the shoe and NOT be jammed into the end.
"Are your toes overlapping? Because they shouldn't' be!
"Your fitter will guide you through this process.
"The shoe shouldn't allow "growing room"
"Even if the shoe fits you fine, the teacher knows your abilities and the store's fitters do not! So this is very important before you sew ribbons and elastics.

There is very helpful material hidden deep in the recesses of the Freed of London™ website. Fitting Advice For Pointe Shoes Because it is so hard to find, we will include some of it here. As long as the link to the Freed of london website works, it is better to look there. We totally acknowledge that all of the material in the following paragraphs is the sole property of Freed of London. 

Freed writes: 

"With both shoes on, stand with your weight on both feet and knees bent. In this position, your feet will be at their widest. Your shoes should feel snug but not pinch. You should also feel the block ‘cupping’ your toes. In addition, you should feel the little toe joint, the big toe joint and the center of the heel on the floor in this position."

Freed goes on: 

"Next, place one foot en Pointe without transferring body weight. If the outer sole of the shoe remains flat against the pad of your heel, your shoe is the right width for you. If your sole twists away from your foot, the shoe is too narrow. At this time, you should also check that the block completely covers the toe joints."

We might add, that you do not want to be able to insert a finger next to your toes. That would mean the shoe is too wide.

"To check the length of the shoe, go en Pointe on both feet and transfer your body-weight onto your toes. If the outer sole of the shoe extends beyond the pad of your heel, the shoe is too long."

Freed of London presents the following copyrighted pictures illustrating the fitting process: 

Freed: Check with your fingers that the block covers the toe joints.  ©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Check with your fingers that the block covers the toe joints.

©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Too narrow if the sole twists away from the foot  ©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Too narrow if the sole twists away from the foot

©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Too long if the sole extends beyond the heel.  ©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Too long if the sole extends beyond the heel.

©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Correct fit if Shoes are snug but do not pinch.  ©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Freed: Correct fit if Shoes are snug but do not pinch.

©2003-2009 Freed of London Ltd. All rights reserved.

Here is a New York City Ballet Video on You Tube "The Importance of the Perfect Fit."

Principal Dancer Megan Fairchild discusses her pointe shoes.

©New York City Ballet Company

How To Create A Perfect Ballet Bun

You should also take a look at each Dancer's ballet bun in our Photo Galleries. Each is a good example of what we are trying to achieve. Each Dancer's hair is a bit different, so experimenting on the best method for your hair is worthwhile. Don't worry, we show all our new dancers how to make their very own beautiful ballet bun. Each Dancer's bun in our photo gallery is a little different, because everyone has different hair. We will help you until you can do it all by yourself, at the Arizona Ballet Theatre Studios. it will be just perfect for YOU and your hair. 

New dancers are always looking for step-by-step instructions on how to make a beautiful ballet bun. I'm sure you are too. Certainly your Mom or Dad is. At our school, we have Ballet Dads and Ballet Moms.

Lets look at a fabulous demonstration video, by the Anaheim Ballet, in Anaheim California, called Ballet Bun 411 - which is a little bit alliterative. The demo shows three dancers, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Herman, Semhar Dory, and Vanessa Sah, with different hair types, creating their buns. It appears to be an effective teaching and learning aid.

I think this demo could be really useful and helpful to new dancers who are anxious to learn these dancer skills. Apparently, you can download it to your iPod too. Please let me know what you think of it.

Please remember, just because we have posted this demo on our Arizona Ballet Theatre website, that does NOT mean you have to learn how to do this on your own. I am always ready to teach you, your Mom, and/or your Dad, how to make a really good ballet bun. That's our Arizona Ballet Theatre way. We help one another all the time. All our ABT staff, and the older dancers are anxious to help you too. We all want to help the younger dancers. So be calm, be happy, don't worry!!! It's normal to be a little nervous. Help and reassurance is always here for you when you feel you need it. Remember everyone did learn it, and I know you will too! If you are stuck, please come talk, and let us help YOU.

I am always happy to help new dancers learn how to create their very own perfect ballet bun.

Here's a step by step instruction set called "Make a Perfect Ballerina Bun" It's by Treva Bedinghaus, on About.com's website. It has photos of a Mom performing each step.

Here is a very clear instructional video called "Classical Bun" on You Tube from The Greenville Ballet School & Company in Greenville, South Carolina.

It's definitely a ballet oriented Ballet Bun!

Have you ever made a ballet bun? Don't worry; "My Dance Shoppe's" website has put together a step-by-step guide called How to Make a Proper Ballet Bun" to help you out. It looks quite helpful. Check it out!

Many people have difficulty making or "creating" the "perfect" ballet bun. Take a look at this marvelous discussion thread about all the techniques for making an Ultimate Ballet Bun by "NewFoundGrace" , a teenager who writes beautifully. It's extra delightful that "NewFoundGrace" has included some examples of well made ballet buns from our Arizona Ballet Theatre photo galleries. Cool! Thanks NewFoundGrace, we really appreciate your site. When you are in Tucson, come take classes and dance with us. (Unfortunately, when we changed websites, those photos went bye bye... :)) 

Grace uses "The Twisted Ponytail Technique." She writes

"1. Brush hair to make it smooth, and put it up into a ponytail (at any height, but I prefer a fairly medium-high ponytail) with an elastic. Braid tightly if you wish. It's very important that the ponytail/braid is secure, neat and tight (though not so tight that it gives you a major headache)."

"2. Twist the ponytail tightly, and coil it around the elastic, securing with U-shaped pins as you go. I prefer using many of these pins to ensure that the bun stays very secure."

"3. Once the ponytail is completely coiled around itself (with the end tucked under the rest of the bun) and has been adequately secured with pins, wrap a hairnet (or two, depending on how thick the hairnets are) over it. Secure with some more U-shaped pins."

"4. One word: HAIRSPRAY! Personally, I don't find hairspray necessary for everyday classes. I only use it for performances."

Grace continues... "Didn't quite get everything? Don't worry, it's also described (with pictures) at:" "Oregon Ballet Academy" .

I add, the "Oregon Ballet Academy" does have a very good set of instructions, with photos.

 "A Ballerina's World".

I have to add, that this is really a great site for Ballerinas!!! It covers a lot of very useful material.

It clearly is a labor of love. It is really Cool! The website creator has done a great job. She is enormously talented! It's by Ashley, a Dancer, who has a disability in using her arms. We would love to see her dance. Next time you're in Tucson, Ashley, please come take classes and dance with us.

Grace continues... "and,"

"Bay View Ballet (no pics though)"

Grace also refers to the following "alternate method by pointeshuchic who writes" 

...ok when my hair was long I had very many ways to do my bun. But then I found the perfect way:

1. Pull your hair back in a secure pony tail.

2. Divide it into two pieces.

3. Wet each one with water.

4. Take one of the pieces and wrap it around the pony tail, as though you are wrapping stick bobby pins in there.

5. Do the same on the other piece of hair, but go the other way.

6. Then, if you have any scraggly hairs, just put a hair net over it or spray it. This will make a flat, secure bun.

xoxo good luck

Also, take a look at the step by step instructions on "How to Make the Perfect Ballet Bun," By Deddus, including a list of materials needed, "eHowTM at How To Do Just About Everything"

It's a fun site to browse for many topics.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Hairspray

  • Thick hair elastic

  • V-shaped hair pins

  • Paddle brush

  • Boar bristle brush

  • Hairnet (optional)

Step by Step Instructions:

  • Step 1: Spray loose hair liberally with hairspray.

  • Step 2: Using the paddle brush, brush hair into a high ponytail at the crown of the head. Hold ponytail in place with one hand.

  • Step 3: Use the boar bristle brush to smooth out any bumps in the ponytail.

  • Step 4: Fasten ponytail tightly in place with a thick hair elastic. Shake your head back and forth a few times to make sure the ponytail will stay in place.

  • Step 5: Twirl free hair in one direction, forming a tight coil, and slowly wrap the coil around the base of the ponytail to begin forming the bun.

  • Step 6: As you wrap, secure the coil to the base of the ponytail by sticking hair pins through the hair and the hair elastic, pinning along the outer-most edge of the coil.

  • Step 7: If looking for a more professional bun, take a hairnet that matches your hair color and wrap it around the bun until the hairnet is tight.

  • Step 8: Spray the styled hair with another mist of hairspray and use hair pins to tuck in any stray pieces of hair.

Tips & Warnings

  • Close your eyes when spraying hairspray to avoid getting the product in your eyes.

  • Wearing a ballet-style bun for prolonged periods of time can cause headaches. Pull out the hair pins and let your hair hang loose if your head starts to throb.

 Here's one more bun making tutorial with photographs: How to Make a Bun by Anna Lofgren

I forgot how I found this, but it's cute. Madeline Ballet Bun Cover By Tiffany Roots

This page, How To Do A Ballet Bun," is colorful and a little different.

She has clear photos, and throws in some optional twists she says they can be worn in a ponytail too.

On this page, she talks about knowing your dance school's policy about decorating and accessories.

The bows and ribbons she shows on her website are rather elaborate! The instructions are here, for a price.

Annas Bananas asked How do I make a ballerina bun with layered hair?

She says her hair is layesred and falls 2 inches below her shoulders. Since it's layered, it doesn't look good in a ballet bun.She likes ballerina buns on the top of her head.

Kristina is a retired professional ballet dancer who loves Balanchine height buns. She answered:

"Put your hair up while WET, and smooth a bit of gel through the length once in a pony tail. Learn how to use the correct hair pin in the correct way for your hair texture, there are about 14 different hair pins, ranging from bobby pins, roller pins, hair pins, amish pins, hair forks, etc. Then cover the bun with a hair net close to the color of your hair to keep all the whispies in.

By saying you like your bun to be on the top of your head, I certainly hope you're not putting it any higher than the crown (right where it curves, and the top is no longer the top, but the back is no longer the back either..that's called the crown) Even most Balanchine dancers don't put it much higher than the crown.

Also, try using more than one section of hair, like how you make a braid. Try with 2 strands of hair, and make what is called a "vortex bun" if you can...you can view my videos on Youtube (search for CinnamonCurls or vortex bun) showing 3 and 4 strand vortex buns, you should be able to understand a 2 strand one from them." 

Or just braid your pony tail before you twirl it into a bun, the braided strands will help hold the whispies in too!