Giving Fittings

Performing pointe shoe fittings

How should I give pointe shoe fittings?

Prepare the space
Create a fitting environment that is both professional and exciting. The pointe fitting area should be an attractive and inviting space, with comfortable seating and plenty of room for trying on pointe shoes. Ideally, the pointe fitting area should feature a ballet barre and a full-length mirror. It must include flooring appropriate for dancing, because pointe shoes fit and perform differently on different surfaces.

Pointe Fitting Appointments
Consider offering fittings by appointment. Appointments make it easier for you to focus on the individual dancer, and ensure that you will have adequate time for a complete evaluation and fit. Making appointments also gives you a valuable opportunity to remind dancers of how to prepare for the fitting.

Set the tone
From the beginning of any fitting, it’s important to be warm and welcoming to dancers and their parents and teachers. Build relationships with your dancer clientele and show interest in dancers as individuals. While maintaining a focus on the fitting process, be open to easy, friendly conversation that allows the dancer and her parents to feel comfortable with you as an adviser and friend. Educate them through conversation and discussion, in a way that seems natural to you.

Throughout the fitting, be straightforward and clear. Explain the shoes and the fitting process. Keep an eye on the dancer to make sure that she understands. Give instructions that she can follow easily; remember that she may be nervous or excited.

Communicate
Be considerate and aware of the dancer’s personality and help her feel safe and comfortable in your interaction. Some dancers may be uncomfortable answering a lot of questions. Try keeping your questions short, watching the dancer’s body language, and enlisting help from the parents when necessary. Other dancers may be hesitant to speak up about how they feel in a pair of shoes because they don’t want to “complain.” Make sure that all dancers understand how important it is for you to know about discomfort or incorrect or inadequate support during the fitting.

It’s essential to listen to the concerns of the dancer and her family. Make sure to address these concerns as specifically as possible during the fitting. If the dancer’s concern involves her training, be receptive but maintain neutrality, avoiding “taking sides” in any disagreement between teachers and dancers or parents. At the same time, don’t be afraid to share your expert opinion about dancers’ needs.

First fittings
At the beginning of a first fitting, congratulate the dancer. Acknowledge her accomplishment and show that you understand what a major step going on pointe is to her dance training. Make the fitting a special occasion!

After the first fitting
After the first fitting, ask dancers to bring their most recent pair of shoes to future fittings. You can learn quite a bit by looking at worn pointe shoes. If possible, they should bring their preferred tights and toe pads. Remind them to schedule fittings for a time when their feet aren’t swollen from recent exercise.

What should I teach dancers and their 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 ofRussian 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.

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