What questions should I ask dancers during a pointe shoe fitting?
Asking questions is an important part of the fitting process. The more information you have about a dancer’s experience, development and preferences, the more likely you will be to choose a pointe shoe and fitting specifications that will give her the best experience on pointe. Here are some of the most important questions for you to ask.
Question: How old are you?
Purpose: Knowing the dancer’s age helps you gauge her physical and emotional maturity and gives you background information for the guidance she may need. Advise younger dancers and their parents about how foot growth and technical development make it necessary to reevaluate pointe shoes frequently. Older beginners may have less flexibility in their feet and ankles, which you should take into account during the fitting. Knowing the dancer’s age also helps you speak with her in the most appropriate way.
Question: How many days and hours do you dance each week?
Purpose: This question gives you more information about the dancer’s experience level and, sometimes, how serious her training is. It also gives you the opportunity to consider how many pairs of shoes she will need. Dancers who dance more frequently will need more frequent shoe replacement and might want to buy more than one pair of pointe shoes at a time. If they dance every day, they should consider alternating between pairs so that each has time to dry thoroughly. Once you have established a relationship with a dancer who dances frequently, always try to keep her shoes in stock.
Question: Do you perform?
Purpose: Whether or not a dancer performs on pointe can affect how many and what type of pointe shoes she will need as time goes by. If she does perform, you can advise her to purchase one or more pairs ahead of time, to save for a particular performance, eliminating last-minute ordering. Some dancers want pointe shoes with softer shanks for performance shoes, to minimize break-in, but harder shanks for class and rehearsal; advise them of Russian Pointe’s shank options and how they can choose a variety of shanks in the same model and fitting. Whatever her preferences, try to keep her preferred pointe shoes in stock for last-minute performance needs.
Question: What other dance classes do you take besides ballet?
Purpose: Knowing the dancer’s tastes and interests helps you establish a relationship with her, understand the different stresses her feet might be experiencing (such as ankle tiredness from tap or sole abrasions from modern), and advise her about other purchases (such as a leotard that will be appropriate for both ballet and tap classes).
Question: Do you play sports?
Purpose: Sports can affect foot shape, strength and flexibility. As the dancer develops her pointe work, these factors may be counteracted and her fitting may change dramatically.
Question: Where do you dance? Who is your teacher?
Purpose: Some studios and teachers have individual styles and preferences. For example, if the dancer is training in a technique that includes springing to pointe, she is likely to need stronger shanks. Some teachers have preferences for shank strength, especially for beginners. Some have preferences for the appearance and performance of pointe shoes, which you will need to keep in mind during the fitting.
Question: Does your training require springing to pointe or rolling through demi-pointe?
Purpose: If you aren’t familiar with the technique used at the dancer’s studio, you might want to ask the dancer about this aspect of her training. Russian Pointe shanks (standard and flexible) are specially designed to facilitate each of these techniques, and generally harder shank strengths are better for springing to pointe than softer strengths. The dancer might not be able to answer this question directly; if you think this will be an important factor in the fitting, you can ask her follow-up questions that allow you to deduce the answer.
Question: Does your teacher have recommendations or requirements for your pointe shoes?
Purpose: Asking this question shows respect for her teacher, and it helps to avoid unnecessary returns or exchanges when a teacher disapproves the shoes. When you disagree with a teacher’s idea of a correct fit or appropriate model or shank, you may explain the difference of opinion tactfully and look for a compromise. Working cooperatively with teachers helps assure that dancers will be comfortable with your fitting services and continue to work with you for future pointe fitting needs.
Find more questions and answers in How do I evaluate dancers before fitting?