How to look after your dance shoes

When it comes to dancing, looking after the shoes you wear is so important – not only for the shoes themselves but for your benefit too. But how do you best care for your ballet shoes? We put together our top tips…

 

Storage

For the times you’re not wearing your dance shoes, make sure that you take them out of the plastic bag or sports bag that you bring them to and from classes in. They need time to breathe, especially after you wear them. Dancing causes sweat, which is nothing to be embarrassed about but that needs to be dealt with if you want to look after your shoes in the best way possible.

To prevent shoes smelling and giving them space to air out properly, you should keep them in a cool and dry place. This will do wonders for their longevity too as they are far more likely to deteriorate in damp conditions.

 

Cleaning

Speaking of smelly shoes, you do need to wash them on a regular basis, even if you are leaving them to air out after classes. Not only can dance shoes get sweaty and smelly, but they can get dirty too, despite even the best efforts to keep them looking brand new. Check out the best way to clean your ballet shoes…

Canvas: You can use a washing machine to clean your canvas ballet shoes, just make sure that you put it on a delicate cycle and avoid fabric softener. Try putting them in a lingerie bag for extra protection. Then, when the wash is done, take them out of the bag and lie them flat on a towel in a warm room in your house.

Leather: For leather ballet shoes, simply fill a bowl with warm water and dish soap and use a sponge to wash the surface. Rinse off any soapy residue with a sponge using clean water, then dry with a soft towel.

Satin: Fill your bath or a wash basin with cold water, adding the desired amount of washing soap before submerging your satin ballet shoes in it – don’t twist or wring them though as this could damage them. Rinse them by refilling your bath with clean, cold water then gently squeezing them before laying them on a towel to dry naturally.

Whatever you do when you’re cleaning your ballet shoes, DO NOT use a tumble drying! Whilst it may be the quickest way to get your shoes dry and wearable again, drying your shoes is actually the quickest way to ruin them.

With the risk of shrinking your shoes and wearing out their material, it’s best for them to stay well away from the tumble dryer. Instead, dry them naturally. As informed above, the best way to dry them is to lay them out on a towel in a warm room, out of direct sunlight.

 

Repair

If your dance shoes are in need of repairs of any sort, it’s really important that you use the right materials if you’re looking to fix them yourself. Whilst it might be the quick and easy option, the superglue in your cupboard might not be the best solution for your shoes or your purse in the long run.

Sometimes, it really is better to go to a professional. As shoe experts, they will be able to make sure that your ballet pumps are spick and span for your dance classes and performances, and don’t run the risk of any other problems that your ‘trusty’ superglue might cause.

 

Wearing

Caring for your dance shoes shouldn’t stop just because you’re wearing them. They should be looked after from the moment you slip your toes in, until the moment you take them off – you have got to be as gentle with them as possible.

The same goes for when you’re carrying them to and from classes. They shouldn’t be haphazardly chucked into your sports bag before and after your dance class, and they certainly shouldn’t be worn outside. Not only will wearing your shoes outside lead them to be dirty and potentially ruined, it will also result in a very grumpy dance teacher when you’re found trailing mud into the studio.

Your carelessness could just cause them to get needlessly dirty and damaged, so do yourself a favour and save your shoes and your money!

 

Your feet

There’s no point in keeping your dance shoes spotless if you’re putting grubby toes and feet in them, so make sure you keep your feet clean! It will save you time and effort when the thorough shoe clean comes around.

With dancing, it really is imperative that you look after your feet in general. Not only should you wash and dry them before and after putting on your ballet shoes, but you should also keep on top of toenails and blisters too.

Ensure your toenails are always suitably trimmed and that your shoes properly fit to spare yourself for very sore feet! If you’d like a few more tips on working out the perfect fit, head to our post on how to choose the right ballet shoes for you.

Choosing the right ballet shoes for you

When it comes to choosing the right ballet shoes for you, there are number of things you need to think about. Remember that it’s important to check with the ballet school what type of ballet shoes they require – style and colour wise – and they may be able to offer some advice on what’s best for you, too.

 

Soft ballet shoes

Most of the time, you will need a pair of soft ballet shoes. They are the first ballet shoes you will own and will be one of the last, too!

Soft ballet shoes are worn all of the time by younger and beginner dancers in their ballet classes and worn most of the time by the older, more advanced dancers, apart from when they are doing pointe work.

Dancing Daisy has designed a range of soft ballet shoes, all perfect for both beginners and advanced dancers, with the following features:

  • Designed for comfort and durability
  • Lightweight
  • Leather, canvas or satin material
  • Elasticated drawstring at the top of the shoe
  • Pre-sewn elastic
  • Thin and flexible material, including its suede sole
  • Choice of colours and styles

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What is the perfect fit?

Whatever type of ballet shoe you get, soft or pointe, you want the shoes to fit perfectly. If you don’t, it’s only going to make dancing uncomfortable and more difficult. Don’t be tempted to buy a size bigger for your child to ‘grow into’ because shoes which are too big or too loose could lead to injury. A proper fit will ensure confidence, comfort and good performance! Realistically, you should expect to replace your growing child’s soft ballet shoes every 6 to 12 weeks.

Like many other items of clothing, ballet shoes sizing can very much depend on the brand or manufacturer that they are from. No two brands will have the exact same fitting, so always check out any sizing information or advice given before choosing the shoes. Don’t simply buy the same size as the shoes your child wears everyday to school.

 

How to accurately measure your child’s feetfootprint3a

If you’re buying your ballet shoes online, a good tip is to look at the foot measurements listed alongside the standard UK shoe sizes. This way, you’ll get a good fit first time rather than having to exchange for a bigger or smaller size. All you have to do is measure your child’s foot.

The easiest and most accurate way to do this is to simply draw round the foot on a piece of paper then measure, in a straight line, from the tip of the longest toe to the back of the heel in centimetres.

 

Materials

Leather: Leather ballet shoes are popular with dance schools and teachers because they are soft and supple, yet hardwearing, and mould themselves to the foot after a few wears, providing extra comfort.

Canvas: Canvas ballet shoes have a great durability and are a great material to perfectly execute turns and spins.

Satin: Satin ballet shoes look beautiful and give the foot a truly beautiful line. However, they are best used for special occasions, like performances or auditions as they aren’t very hardwearing.

Colour: The colour of ballet shoe that you need to buy depends on your dance teacher’s preference. Normally, pink is the chosen colour for girls, and boys wear either white or black shoes.

 

Soles

There are two sole types for soft ballet shoes: a full sole and a split sole. A full sole is the most popular choice, worn by most beginners but also more advanced dancers. Although, a split sole may be the preference of superior ballet dancers as it allows for a better point of the toe.

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Elastics

Ballet shoe elastics are hugely important to the wearer as they help hold the shoe in place, preventing any disturbance or discomfort during dancing. You have a choice of buying ballet shoes that require you to sew them in, or you can opt for shoes with pre-sewn elastic – a definite favourite for a lot of parents out there!

Whilst the pre-sewn elastic option may need some adjustments to suit the wearer’s foot, it makes the job much easier.

Also, at the top of every soft ballet shoe, you should find an elasticated drawstring for added comfort for the wearer. This can be adjusted by either being pulled tighter or loosened to ensure a good fit.

 

Pointe shoes

Pointe shoes are specifically for advanced dancers and should only ever be worn under the supervision of a trained dance teacher.

Pointe shoes need to be fitted to your exact size otherwise you could risk permanent injury. For your shoes to be correctly fitted, you will require a pointe shoe fitting service with a specially trained advisor, so we recommend you not buying them online. It is for this reason that Dancing Daisy does not supply them.

Have a look at the beautiful selection of ballet and dance shoes that we offer at Dancing Daisy, all reliable and at affordable prices.

Lucy sapphire blue ballet tutu dress worn by Mae

The Nutcracker’s Intertwined Associations with Christmas

As anyone who has an interest in ballet, or Christmas, is aware, The Nutcracker is the ballet to watch around Christmas. This holiday story about magical toys being led by the good Nutcracker against a seven headed mouse king enthrals children and sets the imagination alive.

With armies of mice, curses, and being whisked away to magical lands, it’s definitely a brilliant ballet, allowing for wonderful movements and costumes. But what does The Nutcracker have to do with Christmas?

At a quick glance, the Nutcracker doesn’t seem to have that much to do with Christmas apart from recent tradition.  At a closer look, however, there are connections to be made. The Nutcracker is essentially a story about the triumph of goodwill, acceptance and good. The Nativity also includes these elements with Jesus being born in adverse conditions. It’s a victory in the face of malevolence and corruption that Mary, Joseph and Jesus count of the acceptance and goodwill of those who assisted them. This in turn is reminiscent of older festivals marking the return of the sun and gradually longer days. Essentially, The Nutcracker is a modern retelling of ancient beliefs in good triumphing over evil.

The Nutcracker is one of many Christmas stories to carry a theme of good triumphing over evil. Rudolph, for instance, faces adversary and becomes a victor through showing goodwill and acceptance to others. This ethos of treating others kindly and with goodness in order to achieve our own triumphs has become the staple of the festive season. This is why The Nutcracker is the ballet most associated with Christmas.

Nutcrackers themselves enjoy a renewed interest every winter due to the ballet. They have a long history dating back to the 13th century, and as nuts were usually eaten in the winter months, the connection with Christmas has only increased. Over the years, nutcrackers became increasingly stylised and have become a collectors’ item.

Often, the costumes of the soldiers, and other characters, in productions of The Nutcracker reflect the East European and Germanic roots of these decorative nutcrackers, themselves having long been symbols of Christmas.

The Nutcracker is a great way to teach children the origins of Christmas stories in general, and offers a good message that they can take away not only for Christmas, but for the entire year.

The Best Things to Eat Before and After Your Ballet Class

No matter your age, your ballet class requires a lot of strength, energy and focus, so you need to be fuelling your body in the best way to reach your potential. By having a healthy snack before and after your ballet lesson you can minimise a low attention span, increase your energy levels and prevent muscle soreness and cramps. Depending on your age, the frequency and intensity of your lessons, the size of your snack will vary.

What you should eat before your ballet class:

  • Protein- Provide your body with the energy it needs by having a small amount of protein. You will only need to eat a small amount to feel the right amount of full.
  • Vegetables- Light, healthy vegetable snacks before your class will give you just the boost you need. Try mixing them with a little dairy or protein if you need more energy.
  • Whole grains- These healthy carbohydrates will fuel your body for longer periods of time.
  • Potassium- Commonly found in bananas, potassium will help you prevent cramping and muscle soreness if you’re participating in a really intense ballet lesson.
  • Water- When it comes to staying hydrated, nothing works better than water.

What you should eat after your ballet class:

  • Fruit- Fresh fruits are a healthy option to replace the lost glucose in your body after your dance class. It also aids in muscle development, and is refreshing and light.
  • Protein- Meats, cheese, nuts and beans can all help to refuel the body after you’ve used so much energy during your ballet class.
  • Potassium- Bananas, yoghurt, raisins and tomato products will all prevent the onset of cramping after your ballet lesson.
  • Water- Make sure to drink water after your class to flush out toxins, rehydrate and prevent sore muscles.

Be wary about energy drinks, sports drinks and sports bars. They are marketed as a necessity to be successful for exercise, but they’re not usually necessary. In addition to this, they’re often highly processed with excess sugar and difficult for the body to digest. If you want to buy sports bars, be sure to always check the label to see if a brand is healthy and natural.

By ensuring you treat your body well and eat healthily, you can expect to achieve better results during your ballet class. As well as this, enjoying and talking about your healthy eating habits can discourage harmful eating disorders in others. By keeping yourself healthy, you can avoid fatigue, soreness, injury, stress and stagnation with the development of your dancing ability. By staying healthy and strong, you’ll feel so much better than otherwise.

What to Expect at Your First Ballet Class

You may not have any idea of what to expect from your first ballet class, or have your ideas totally shaped through Hollywood movies, but ballet classes are fun and inclusive places where you’ll meet new people and learn graceful dance moves. Different classes will be taught in different ways, and if you’re interested in learning ballet, there’s nothing wrong with looking at a few different classes in your area before deciding on a class that’s right for you. By the end of this guide, you should feel more relaxed and confident for when you go to your first ballet class.

What makes a good ballet studio?

Some studios will be beautiful, with lots of natural light, a polished sprung wooden floor and lots of mirrors. On the other hand, it’s completely normal that the majority of studios are actually quite dingy, with peeling paint and a linoleum floor. You have to remember that at a ballet class, the important thing is the quality of the teaching, not the studio itself.

Setting up the ballet studio

If your studio uses portable barres, pupils are expected to help with setting them up. After all, it takes some time to put up portable barres and this will eat into your lesson time. It’ll also get you talking to other members of the class and feel more at home and comfortable.

The wall with the mirror is usually regarded as the ‘front’ of the studio, indicating which way to face. Make sure you can clearly see the instructor, and feel free to take a little bit of time ensuring you have a good spot.

Introductions

Often, your instructor will introduce themselves and ask new pupils about themselves, especially about any previous dancing experience. This helps them to determine the level of the class. Some instructors, however, will just come into the room and start teaching, so don’t feel worried if you don’t get asked.

Class structure

Ballet classes are often split into two halves. The first part of your lesson is almost always spent at the barre, completing exercises of varying difficulties. After that, you’ll move to dancing in the main space of the studio without the use of barres. You will be taught correct ballet posture and how to use your body to correctly execute steps.

You may notice that exercises and steps are referred to by their French names. You don’t need to worry about this, as you’ll easily get used to this. Don’t forget that being in a ballerina posture in an hour of your first lesson is something great. Just relax and enjoy your lessons, and you’ll find yourself an accomplished ballerina in no time.

A Brief History of Pointe Shoes

Flying Machines

In 1795, Charles Dideot invented the ‘flying machine’, a device that allowed dancers to rise up onto their toes before being suspended in the air. Audience revelled in the light, ethereal quality of the dances, causing choreographers to look for more ways to incorporate further pointe work into their routines.

In 1832, Marie Taglioni danced the entire La Sylphide en pointe, with her shoes being nothing more than modified satin slippers. The soles were leather, and the toes and sides had been darned to help the shoes hold their shape. At this time, shoes offered no support to the dancers, meaning they had to pad their toes for comfort and rely on the strength of their feet and ankles.

Toe boxes and the Italian School

From around the 19th century, a new form of pointe shoe was created in Italy, with a modified toe area that provided a sturdy, flat platform. The Italian School used this as a way to push the limits of dance, achieving for the first time, multiple pirouettes- or spotting. These new toe boxes were made of many layers of fabric and a stronger, stiffer sole. As they were constructed with no nails, they were almost silent.

The modern pointe shoe

The early 20th century ballerina, Anna Pavlova, is credited with the development of the modern pointe shoe. Her high, arched insteps meant she was often at risk of injury from en pointe work, and her thin feet meant she had more pressure on her big toes. As a way to counteract this, she used toughened leather soles for extra support, and flattened and hardened the toe area to create a box.

Other dancers at the time danced in shoes of goatskin or Moroccan leather, considered incredibly soft by today’s standards. For ballet to progress, it was essential that pointe shoes were stiffened and strong enough to support balances and challenging pirouettes.

In the modern day, pointe shoes tend to me fashioned from layers of satin that’s been stiffened with glue, and a narrow sole usually made of leather.

Different shoes for different roles

Today, dancers require different strengths and flexibility for their pointe shoes for every role they dance. Swan Lake is a technically and physically demanding role, requiring a shoe with a lot of support. La Sylphide, on the other hand, has fewer pirouettes and more jumps, calling for a light and gentle pointe shoe.

How to stop your child being bullied

Nobody likes a bully, if you were the victim of bullies at school or you know somebody that was, you’ll understand how frightening this can be. Victims of bullying often feel like they are on their own and have to cope with the problem alone. At one time bullying was restricted to the playground, today cyber-bullying and text bullying opens up a whole new world of problems. Children and parents can fight back though, don’t be a victim, take positive steps and beat the bullies into submission.

Talk about it

Victims of bullying are often scared to come forward because they are worried about the repercussions. As a parent, make your child aware they can talk to you, talk to their teachers, or speak to a counsellor if they prefer in confidence at anytime if they have any problems with bullies.

They might not have an issue at the moment but it’s good to let them know they can find support if they need it, through you, teachers they trust or professional anti-bullying organisations.

Tackle school about it

If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, or they have admitted there’s a problem, go to see the head teacher. Find out what plans they have in place to tackle bullying within the learning institute and the steps they are going to take to remedy the situation.

An anti-bullying campaign within the school could be useful where children are re-educated about the impact of bullying, the effect it can have on other people’s lives and how they can help to drive it out.

Keep a diary

Encourage your child to keep a log of any incidents, keep records of texts or emails that are sent to them from bullies. You can use this as evidence against the perpetrators and shame them by their actions when the bullying comes to light.

Give plenty of support

Help your child to understand the problem isn’t them; it’s the bully that needs help. Encourage your child not to believe in anything the bully says, try to build their self-confidence so they can ignore the problem, treat it with the disdain it deserves and turn a blind eye.

Most of all show them love and let them know that they don’t have to fight this alone, together you’ll beat the bullies and teach them the error of their ways.

How to prepare your child for their first day at school

As the new school year rapidly approaches, parents and children up and down the country are gearing up to deal with the huge milestone that is starting school. If your little one is due to start school this September your head is probably swimming with all the things that you need to do before the big first day.

If you’re stressing out because your child doesn’t know their A to Z yet, just stop; that’s what school is for. Your child’s teacher doesn’t expect them to turn up on their first day of school already knowing everything, but there are some fundamental things that your child should ideally know how to do before school starts…

  • Independent toileting: If your child is able to go to the toilet independently, and clean themselves up afterwards, this is a big bonus as it means teachers and classroom assistants aren’t spending all their time helping 30 children to go for a pee.
  • Put on their own coat: The ability to put on their own coat, and fasten it up themselves, will be a real help when they start school. If your child struggles with zips but can fasten buttons easily, make sure you buy them a button-up coat.
  • Get changed for PE: A classroom full of children getting changed for PE is chaotic enough, without the teacher and classroom assistants having to help every single child to find the right arm holes in their t-shirts. If your child can dress and undress themselves then it makes life a lot easier at school.
  • Recognise their own name: If you only teach your child one thing, make sure you teach them to recognise their own name when it is written down. This will help them to identify their coat hook and find their belongings in the classroom.
  • Eat independently: If your child is able to use cutlery to cut up their own food and feed themselves this will be a real bonus at school. Many schools do help younger children and those with special educational needs to cut up their food but they don’t have the resources to help every child.
  • Understand when to keep still and quiet: Part of their time at school will likely involve your child having to sit still, remain quiet, and listen to the teacher for short periods. Teaching them to be able to do this, as well as helping them to understand the concept of sharing, will help their teacher out a lot.

The History of the Ballet Tutu

When you think of a ballerina one of the very first images that we all conjure in our mind is that of a tutu. Long considered to be the most revered garment of a ballet costume, the delicate design of ballet tutus are the perfect outfit for the dance.

Most of us will have some idea of what a tutu is but, very little idea of how the design came to be. It’s believed that the first tutu was worn in Paris by Marie Taglioni during her performance of La Sylphide. Known as the most romantic period in the history of costume ballet, the tutu was a reflection of this period.

As time progressed the tutu shrunk in length to reveal to intricate footwork each ballet dancer displayed. Today, the tutu reflects the continual hemming of the tutu. Indeed, whereas the first tutu was hemmed at the knees, today the ballet tutu has evolved to be shorter.

One of the most noted tutu designers, George Balanchine, developed the atypical tutu design that we all know and love today. Known as the Powderpuff tutu, this design bears a striking resemblance to the Classic tutu, but without the hooping, and with fewer layers of tulle. These features mean the tutu is softer and more flowing than the traditional Pancake tutu.

The name is derived from ballet viewers in the cheap seats. The length of the ballet tutu was determined by those that came to the ballet and wished to set the intricate footwork (as previously mentioned.)

Such was the attraction of viewing the footwork of ballet dancers that long ago the audience that could only afford to pay for the cheaper seats of the lower part of the theatre would often peak under the ballerina’s skirts. This caused quite a bit of furore – and it is for this activity that tutus eventually got their name, taking their cue from the French word of ‘cucu.’

The name formed the basis of feminine ballet attire and today is universally recognised as a the name of the most prominent attire of female ballet dancers the world over.

Five Reasons to Sign Your Child Up for Ballet

Extra-curricular activities are paramount for a child’s emotional, psychological and social development. Helping children learn vital skills needed for later in life, the importance of participation in activities is not to be underestimated.

Deciding on the best after school activity for your son or daughter can be a decision that requires some thought. Here are five great reasons why ballet is a great choice of activity.

Coordination and Grace

Ballet lessons allow your son or daughter to develop control of their body and the how to move effectively in the environment around them. Ballet is a highly refined from of dance and requires precision. Specific positions for feet, head and arms make up stances and movement. Through consistent practice students learn to be more precise in their movements, executing each movement with poise and grace.

Spatial Awareness

With a typical ballet class consisting of a good quantity of children, each working in tandem with the teacher and learning how to have a circumference of surrounding space to work within is essential. By routinely having to work within such confined space will, undoubtedly, teach your child good spatial awareness. A ballet student learns how to pay attention to their classmates very quickly.

Good Posture

Ballet dancers are easy to spot in a crowd thanks to their excellent posture. One of the very first lessons taught to any ballet dancer is how to hold themselves. Ballet was first introduced in the Italian and French courts in the Middle Ages. The movements reflected the dignified manner that noble men and women carried themselves. Today ballet dancers carry the same air of nobility with them.

Listening Skills

Ballet dancers learn to pay attention and listen to those around them at all times. A single ballet class is full of verbal instructions and demonstrations. Choreography must be learned and retained. Music must be retained as the steps to the routine learned.

Physical Activity  

Daily exercise is paramount to our own vitality and health. Current guidelines state that between 20-45 minutes of exercise per day is required and ballet is a great way to get the amount of exercise a child needs.

By signing up for ballet your son or daughter will reap the rewards. These five reasons alone should be enough to convince you of the merits of ballet.