Something Other than Uggs

My main reason to go to Australia would be for the country side. I want to go there badly. It is on my list of places to see before I go to the great shoe store in the sky. I would of course be wearing Uggs or Blundstones. What else would I be wearing? They tend to be kind of expensive but then again they are all real leather. I would be okay with that because it is all about the shoes. I would be even more happy because of the wonderful deals I would get on Sydney Hotels. Can you believe there are specials that run only $79.00 per day? That is at the Metro Inn Edgecliff. That is most economical, so I could spend a little more on shoes. Sydney can accommodate the traveler looking for a five star hotel to the student who is looking to stay at a hostel.

It is nice to know that affordable hotels are available in Sydney and in other cities all over Australia. Take the Darling Harbour Hotels. This area is one of the main tourist hangouts with lots of restaurants, exhibits and nightlife. There are bargains that start as low as Fr. AUD 130. There are lots of attactions all within walking distance of the area hotels. Some of the hotels there also offer free inclusions during your stay with them. There are even last minute deals to be had and special offers with 21 days of arrival.

North Sydney Hotels are located with the business district. There is train and bus service that can take you to the city or to and from the airport. If you choose to walk, you can be back in the city in twenty minutes and five minutes by cab. So even staying there, a little furthur out is not an inconvenience. You still have easy access to all the attractions of the city. In North Sydney the accomodations are guest houses, apartment, flats and some hostels. When staying there ask about free inclusions like parking, internet access, breakfasts and gyms. You might not even want to leave the hotel at all if the services at the lodging are very nice.

With all these deals and freebies, ther is not reason not to have a grand time in Australia. Economical and quality accomodations are just a few clicks away.

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

School Shoe Drama

Im mid August my nephew was visiting and my mother too him out on a $600 shopping spree like he did not have any parents to buy him school clothes. No problem with that. But, if you do for one grandchild like that you have to do the same for the other and that was not done. When we were all out together, I suggested that she go ahead and get dirty Fila her school shoes. That request was refused. My mother said that she would get them later. Well, there is no time like the present in my book. You have the purse strings open for one grandchild, they need to be open for the other.

Well, of course later never came. She never did get her anythign for school at all and never suggested we go out to get anything for her. School is now in session. I knew that my mother would do that as my nephew is her favorite and she shows him all sorts of extra attention that she never turns to my child's way. dirty Fila felt bad. I spoke to her and told her not to worry. I would be able to get all of her school things and all the shoes she wanted as well. To begin the school year she wanted two pairs of Sperry Topsiders. I got her both. These are the ones.

She got these and all was right in the world again for her. Me? I still believe it was wrong for my mother not to do for one grandchild as she has for another.

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

Nikes for the American Indian

Nike unveiled Tuesday what it said is the first shoe designed specifically for American Indians, an effort aiming at promoting physical fitness in a population with high obesity rates.

The Beaverton-based company says the Air Native N7 is designed with a larger fit for the distinct foot shape of American Indians, and has a culturally specific look. It will be distributed solely to American Indians; tribal wellness programs and tribal schools nationwide will be able to purchase the shoe at wholesale price and then pass it along to individuals, often at no cost.

"Nike is aware of the growing health issues facing Native Americans," said Sam McCracken, manager of Nike's Native American Business program. "We are stepping up our commitment ... to elevate the issue of Native American health and wellness."

Nike designers and researchers looked at the feet of more than 200 people from more than 70 tribes nationwide and found that in general, American Indians have a much wider and taller foot than the average shoe accommodates. The average shoe width of men and women measured was three width sizes larger than the standard Nike shoe.

As a result, the Air Native is wider with a larger toe box. The shoe has fewer seams for irritation and a thicker sock liner for comfort.

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

This house is now a Shoe-Free Zone (almost)

My parents have now moved into their apartment down south. I am now the sole caretaker of the house until it sells.

I want to keep the place really clean, so while I am in charge here, shoes come off at the door.

However, my parents will be back from time to time and it is still their house, so technically this is not a proper shoe-less household. I may be getting a lodger soon and I hope she will be agreeable about removing her shoes.

Of course, how many visitors I get depends on how many I invite.

I am holding an "housewarming-up party" soon. I mentioned below that I stated 'Shoes off' on the invitations.

Smelly Feet


The issue of 'smelly feet' is often raised as an argument against the Shoes-Off rule.

In Western society there seems to be a lot of paranoia about the phenomena of 'smelly feet'. I think this is simply a result of people not removing their shoes very often. Your feet will actually smell a lot less if you remove your shoes regularly. It is unfortunate that we in Britain have not yet reached the civilised heights of Finland, where it is acceptable to remove shoes in business meetings and on trains (not that people do not do so in Britain, but it is frowned upon somewhat).

Nevertheless, I think most people worry too much about this issue. People imagine their feet smell far more than they actually do. I have met very few people who let off much of an aroma after removing their shoes, and most of them were people who did not wash and change their socks regularly.

If people know in advance that they need to remove their shoes, they can make sure they wear clean socks, or even better, bring slippers with them. If they are especially worried about it, they can use some of those fancy foot deoderents.

Feet wil smell a lot less if people wear sandals. Sneakers are best avoided in favour of leather shoes.

Some people will say 'I would rather put up with a dirty floor than people's smelly feet.' Well, I guess people decide on their own priorities. However, stinking feet will leave with the guests. A dirty floor will not. Nor will the dust they brought in on their shoes, and that is very bad for your health.

When To Start Pointe Work - A Dancer's Guide

When to start pointe work is a worry for parents. How can you tell if your daughter is strong enough to dance in ballet pointe shoes? Get her a specific dancer's guide for this.

There are specific requirements for beginning pointe work that teachers look for.

** Familiarity with correct technique. This results from the time spent in classes combined with the ability of a child to retain information and work hard without constant prompting.

** Muscle strength. The time required to develop this varies, and depends upon the number of classes per week, the child's other activities, musculoskeletal health and general health.

If you watched students in the regular class, and then watched them do the same movements in the pointe class, you should not see too much difference in the effort. If they struggle hard, fall hard off pointe, or clench the barre, then they are not ready to do pointe work.

Some smaller and younger children work better than their peers and could be strong enough to do basic pointe work. Children who learn quickly need to be challenged with new work. If their technique is precise they could work safely in a pointe class.

Teachers need to know their students. I think it takes a couple of years to watch children work, adjust to growth, handle the pressures of life, and observe which students are going to tackle new work with discipline and precision. Enthusiasm is not enough, and yet it is the motivating force for participating in an art like ballet.

I have taught children who were born to do ballet, physically, and yet did not have the powers of concentration to work safely without constant supervision. These students look good for a few years, but don't make the best or most reliable performers. And they don't necessarily fall in love with ballet. Many move on to easier hobbies.

If you have concerns about your child's readiness to do pointe work, and her teacher wants her to, ask exactly what qualifies your daughter to do pointe now. The teacher should be able to tell you something specific that makes sense.

Give your child an expertly designed dancer's guide about when to start pointe work.

Athlete's Foot


An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.

Should One Provide Slippers for Guests?


In some Eastern European and Asian countries, guests change from their shoes into slippers provided by the host.

Some argue that if you intend to have a shoes-off policy in your home, you should keep some slippers for guests to wear. This will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

This is a fairly good idea, but I am not so sure. If slippers are provided, then they must either be disposable plastic slippers or else slippers that can go in the washing machine. It would be quite unreasonable to expect guests to wear slippers that have been worn by somebody else that day. I am not sure whether most slippers are machine washable. Some guests might not even trust you that they really have been cleaned and may prefer to stay in bare or stocking feet.

I think the practise of providing guest slippers might be just a bit too weird for British. Many British people will have been to a house where shoes-off was required, but not many people will have been offered guest slippers to wear, unless it was in another country. I think a lot of English guests would prefer to go shoe-less, rather than wear slippers that are not their own.

I think it is a good idea to buy slippers for family and regular visitors and keep them at your house. These should be worn only by the person they are provided for. Hopefully, one's family and close friends would be delighted by this consideration.

Providing clean socks is a different matter. I would suggest keeping a supply of clean socks in different sizes by the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot.

I think it is very sensible to let visitors know in advance that one has a shoes-off rule in one's home. That way, they can be sure to wear socks without holes or bring their own slippers if they prefer.

Degrees of Firmness part 2

I think for friends I would go for the very direct no.6 (Could you take your shoes off, please?) and for people I did not know, I would use the more restrained no.4 (Are you alright with taking your shoes off?).

It may be that you are just too shy to use the more direct requests. However, you might find that the softest approach no.1 works a lot of the time. If you are barefoot and there are a lot of shoes by the door, you may get the right reaction just by saying:

You can take your shoes off here, if you like.

Degrees of Firmness

1. You can take your shoes off here.

2. We take our shoes off here.

3. We do like visitors to take their shoes off.

4. Are you alright with taking your shoes off?

5. You don't mind taking your shoes off, do you?

6. Could you take your shoes off, please?

7. Take your shoes off, please.

8. Shoes off.

9. Shoes off now!

Party Invitations

I am hosting a party in a few weeks to celebrate having the house to myself.

I wrote on the invitations:

"Shoes off at the door would be appreciated. Feel free to bring some slippers."

I liked these home viewers

Today a thirty-something couple from London viewed the house. They were remarkably pleasent people.

I was conducting the tour myself, so I had to request shoes-off myself this time.

The couple told me they always ask visitors to take their shoes off. I have heard that people in London and the south are more likely to keep their homes shoe-free. I suppose with the astronomical house prices in the capital they naturally want to look after them.

Shoes-Off in Churches?

I do like to write posts that reflect the Christian ethos of this blog. Naturally, not everybody who visits this blog is a Christian. But I would still like to hear what you think. If you are not a Christian, would you feel comfortable visiting a church where there was a no-shoes rule?

In many Asian religions, shoes-off is identified with reverance. In the temples of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, shoes are removed as a sign of respect. For the most part, this custom is absent from Christianity. In fact, in many western churches, removing shoes would be considered disrespectful. There are exceptions to this norm. There is a tradition in Roman Catholicism of pilgrims going barefoot at certain shrines. This is quite common in Ireland. Shoes are removed in the churches of Ethiopian and Coptic Christianity. Also, the custom of shoes-off has been absorbed into the practice of some more recent missionary churches in Asian, in countries like Japan and India. There the custom is not for any theological reason, but simply a reflection of cultural norms. I must admit in Japan, there was something a little surreal, though delightful, about not wearing shoes in churches.

Personally, I am of the opinion that churches might do well to meet in homes rather than special buildings, in which case shoes-off might well be called for. However, most Protestant denominations make use of special buildings. Would it be appropriate for a congregation to require shoes off in its normal meeting place?

There are obvious practical reasons why removing shoes in churches might be a good idea. Firstly, churches invariably have really filthy carpets. If the church wants to keep its building clean and save money on carpet cleaning or replacements, a congregation in stocking feet or slippers would be a great help. Secondly, churches often have a lot of small children playing on the floor, so a shoe-free environment would be safer for them. Remarkably, many churches do not even require shoes-off in their creches. People in this country are rather slow to see that a baby-friendly environment is a shoeless one.

Being a fundamentalist Protestant, I am concerned to follow the Bible in how we 'do church'. Obviously, nowhere in the New Testament does it say that people must take their shoes-off in the meeting place of the church (the earliest Christians met in homes where they might well have taken their shoes off). Does this mean a congregation would be wrong to make it a rule? No, not at all. The Bible does not say that we should forbid people to smoke in church, but certainly a church should forbid people from doing so. It might be inappropriate to not let somebody in if they did not take their shoes off, but there is nothing wrong with having a sign requesting it or leaving a shoe-rack at the entrance.

One might argue that having a shoes-off rule would give the impression that the church building is a temple which is sacred in itself. Such an idea would be foreign to Christianity. On the other hand, though there is nothing special about the building in which a church meets, the worship and preaching that take place in the service are holy. Christians as a people are the temple of God, indwellt by the Holy Spirit and there worship together is a most blessed thing. Removing shoes would reflect the solemnity of the proceedings.

Another argument against such a practice would be that many churches contain a lot of elderly people who would find it difficult to remove their shoes. This is true. A church which has a congregation with an high average age would do better not to adopt such a practice. However, a lot of churches like Woodgreen Evangelical Church, which I attend, have very young congregations. The majority of people who attend my church would have little difficulty removing their shoes I am sure.

Many churches aspire to be 'seeker-friendly.' By this, they mean that they hope to make their church as welcoming as possible to visitors. Would having a shoes-off rule in the church run counter to this? I suggest not. Britain is a multi-cultural society. People are used to the idea that there are many different religions in the country with different customs. A lot of people know that if they visit a Mosque or an Hindu temple, they need to take their shoes-off and would not make a fuss about that. Many schools take their pupils on trips to those places. So a church which required shoes-off would not be such an alien concept today. Many people might find it more relaxed and comfortable.

A Different Home Fellowship Meeting

I was invited by a friend to attend a different home fellowship meeting to the one I normally attend.

The people whose house it was at were wearing shoes when I arrived. It is amazing how people with an off-white carpet will walk on it in shoes. It was not in good shape and will certainly not stay that way.

I took my shoes off anyway. It was interesting to see which other people did. A thirty-something couple both took off their shoes. Perhaps they keep a shoeless home.

A Dancer's Guide For Releasing Muscle Tension

Get your dancer's guide that teaches how releasing muscle tension every day, increases strength for dancing in pointe shoes.

If you have just started dancing in pointe shoes, or are preparing to, here is one thing you can do to strengthen your feet.

You use the floor as resistance in every tendu and degage you do.

You PRESS into the floor with the sole of your foot, every time you leave fifth or first position and stretch your foot into a tendu, degage, grande battement, or go through first in your ronde de jambe a terre.

You also PRESS through the metatarsals on to full pointe to the end of your tendu, degage or grande battement.

This will strengthen the sole of the foot, and the muscles under the metatarsals (toes) which will help you in pointe work.

It will also help you in jumps, lowering into a demi-plie with that cat-like quality, and avoid many injuries from landing well, when you are on a less-sprung floor.

It is important for you to realize that all your basic ballet work is preparation for your work in pointe shoes. Every small movement from a closed position to an open position is a chance to strengthen the sole of the foot. Pressure into the floor is like the resistance of a heavy weight. The harder you press, the heavier the weight.

Relaxing the foot muscles is important. You can roll your foot over a tennis ball, but better yet use a rubber ball that has a little give.

Here's a "pinkie ball" stretch I learned from material by Deborah Vogel about ballet stretches. With a soft rubber ball, kneel down on the floor and put the ball under one of your legs, under the shin. Let your weight press into the ball, move it down inch by inch, and it will relax the tibial muscles. Go all the way down to the ankle area, kneading and releasing muscle tension.

Then, put the ball under the top of the metatarsal area, and pressing into it, you will get a stretch down the top of the foot and over the ankle, increasing the curve of your point.

Remember, muscles are stronger and better toned when they get stretched properly, and relaxed fully, every day.

Pointe shoes make noise, so for that, among other reasons, the more control the better.

The upper body posture and control is part of all of this too - but the feet is where you meet the stage. I hope this helps.

For more exercises about how to release muscle tension, get yourself a dancer's guide.



Some people are of the opinion that it is very important that guests have the choice of whether to keep their shoes on or not.

However, it is not as simple as that. Some choices may impose on the choices of others.

Some visitors may want to take their shoes off, but may fear that doing so will be considered rude. Being informed that shoes-off is encouraged will be a great welcome for these people.

The shoes-on folks might then argue, "Yes, but you can still let people keep their shoes on without imposing on the people who prefer to go shoeless."

However, this is not the case. Firstly, those people who want to take their shoes off may fear, if there are lots of other guests, particularly at a party, that their feet may get squashed by other peoples' shoes. In a crowded party, it can be hard to avoid having people tread on your toes.

Secondly, people who take their shoes off will prefer to walk on a floor that is cleaner. In fact, there is another issue here, as Angie pointed out in a previous post. Some guests will enjoy sitting on the floor. And sitting on the floor is a much more pleasent experience when it is clean. So allowing guests the choice of wearing shoes imposes on those who like to sit on the floor.

The simple truth is that no host can please everybody. However, there are far more good reasons to insist on shoes coming off at the door than for allowing shoes to stay on. Let guests chose between slippers, socks ot barefeet. That is choice enough.

It is not Selfish to ask Visitors to Remove their Shoes


Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Hoteles en Spain!

Last year dirty Fila's middle school class tried to get a group to go to Spain. It did not get off the ground because it cost too much and the money was needed right at the start of the school year. It sounded fantastic but I had to say no to that one. Now in the future, I plan to let her go and me too. I want to go to Spain. I just want to travel period! Barcelona and Madrid are definitely two places I want to go.

Where would I stay once I got there? What are the prices like? Well wonder no more. Hoteles en Barcelona run the fill gamut from one star hotels that cost 18 eur to five star places that cost a lot more. There is something in a price range to fit every budget. There are even special free incentives and even great deals on last minute bookings. Spain has alot to offer from the beaches to the city. It seems that it is the place to go with many ways to get there whether it be by plane, car or train.

Hotels in Madrid can be so economical because Cheaper than Hotels offers year round pricing due to the fact that they have formed excellent working relationships with leading hotel chains and thousands of hotels across the globe. That allows them to bring the best competitive prices to their guests. You can even get last minute deals that come with freebees like free parking and even some meals. If it is within 20 days of your arrival, last mintue bookings are available with full payment due once you arrive. You just need to reserve the accomodations on line with a booking fee or deposit.

Lines are manned 24 hours a day and there are even bilingual staff there to help with any language barriers. Hotels in Barcelona are just as economical. It is very easy to book. Just fill in the dates of your arrival and departure and where you want to go. Once you hit the search button, it will bring you all the results of hotels and other things available during the time you want to go. That is ease in travel. With the web that trip to Spain will be a breeze. So eb sure to check out cheaper than hotels.

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

Spanish Shoes

I have begun to take up Spanish again. I took it for 8 very long years and got very good at it. In the past 8 years I have not really used it and it is now leaving me. I want to become very conversational again. Especially with dirty Fila taking it now in high school--the advanced class. She has had it for the last 3 years in middle school.

I want to be fluent because I think she has a school trip to Costa Rica this summer. I want to go as a chaperone and I want to be able to speak the language just as well as she does. I found a great book that comes with a CD.. Spanish Now. So far so good. I will be soon be wearing my flamingo shoes!

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

Good Old East Europeans

I saw some East European immigrants loading a car outside their house. I could see through the open doorway that there were loads of pairs of shoes in their hallway!

It's Me Again

It has been awhile. I have been very busy with all sorts of non-blog like things. I have missed being here. And guess what? In the interim I have bought some new shoes and have finally worn some I have been saving until the fall. New but have never been worn. I want to get back to comign more frequently. I plan to do so. This had been a fun place to come to when things were stressful. Shoes can take my stress away.

I have also had some odd shoe encounters. Very odd. More to come.

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

Home Viewers Again

We had some more home viewers, this time an elderly couple and their son.

I was a bit worried about what would happen if elderly people came. Would the estate agent ask them to take their shoes off? I would not be comfortable asking elderly people to remove their shoes and would hate to be thought mean and unthoughtful.

As it happened, he did not. The estate agent removed his shoes and the visitors followed his example and removed theirs.

I guess old people do not always find it difficult to take their shoes off. My grandmother is 79 and often removes her shoes when visiting our house. She sometimes takes her slippers with her.

I am finding it very encouraging that nobody has so far expressed any unhappiness at removing their shoes when viewing the house.



I believe there is an issue of stewardship here.

All that we have is a gift from God. We may enjoy our posessions, but we do need to give account to the Lord of how we have used them.

Carpet cleaning services are necessary to keep homes really clean, but they are very expensive. Replacing carpets costs even more. Having a shoes-off policy considerably reduces the need for maintaining carpets and other kinds of flooring. Therefore, as stewards of God's gifts, I would suggest that Christians ought to strongly consider the benefits of having a shoes-off policy in their homes.

Clean homes can also be more effectively used in the service of the Kingdom. Homes can be put to so many uses; entertaining visiting speakers, providing shelter for those who need it, hosting fellowship meetings (I think a good case can be made for holding all church meetings in homes) and Church lunches. Keeping homes shoe-free means that larger numbers of people can be accomdated at the home with minimal impact. It also makes the floor a safer place for small children and babies.

Update: Student who put her flip-flops on train seat wins ‘ludicrous’ case

Times: Student who put her flip-flops on train seat wins ‘ludicrous’ case



You may not have a baby at crawling age
But if you ask visitors to your home to remove their shoes, you send a message that it is acceptable to keep your home shoe-free. That makes life easier for those who do have crawling babies.

You may not have a new carpet
You may have an old carpet that needs replacing or a wooden
floor that is covered in scratch marks. But if you have a shoes-off policy, it will make it easier for those who do have a new carpet to do the same.

You may not live in an area where there is pesticide on the ground
But if you have a no-shoes rule in your house, it will make those who do need to require shoes-off feel more comfortable about it.

Times: Student is taken to court after putting her feet on train seat

Times: Student is taken to court after putting her feet on train seat

She had flip flops on. Personally, I think it is okay to put your feet on a seat if you take your shoes off first.

I once went on a coach trip to Austria with my school. The driver told us "If I see your feet on the seat, I will take your shoes off myself." I do not think he did this, but I did not see anybody putting their shoes on the seat.

Comment about church carpets

A blogger from Cheltenham, Jonathan Hunt, visited my church yesterday.

He commented that he could not understand why so many churches have carpets. He said that in one's home one can control what goes on to the carpet, but church carpets always end up getting really filthy and unhygienic.

This is absolutely true.

I keep meaning to write a post about the possibility or not of having a shoes-off rule in church buildings, but I can never seem to get round to it. Sometime.

Ballet Shoes, Ballet Stretches, and Especially The Splits

Get the right information about gentle ballet stretches that lead to high leg extensions and split jetes, a featured attraction of ballet. If you were not born with long ligaments, muscles and tendons, what are the best ballet stretches for you?

While you spend strength on fighting your own tightness, striving for that effortlessness in your ballet shoes and pointe shoes, other very flexible dancers are trying to reign in their movements to maintain form and balance. But, ballet being the way it is, they look better during the struggle than the tighter dancers.

Stretches after exercising are the best. After class, do the following:

Sitting on the floor, stretch the legs out in front to stretch the hamstrings – one at a time, bending one knee, so as not to stretch the lower back, flex and point the foot. After slow stretching, I recommend completely relaxing the legs and letting the torso sink forward, with a few deep breaths, to release tension before going into a second position split.

The second position split should be opened fully but WITHOUT pain. Ideally have your pelvis upright, and your knees facing the ceiling, with the backs of your thighs pressing into the floor. You are mimicking the position your legs/spine would be in, in a standing position. Do not tuck your hip bones under or sway your back and roll forward off your pelvic bone onto your thighs.

In this position you will do a side bend toward one leg, hang there, breathing deeply, holding the legs straight but relaxing neck, shoulders, face and arms. Straighten upright, and bend forward, hold the abdominals, but allow the upper torso to bend forward toward the floor, keeping the legs with the backs of the thighs pressed into the floor. Straighten up again and bend over the other leg, hold for about 30 seconds, and pull up into a straight position. You want a stretch but not any sharp pains. You are applying stress to the soft tissues, but never painful or sudden movements.

The splits. A full 180 degree splits depends on overall extreme flexibility.

If you can't sit in this position but can only get, for example, down to a few inches from the floor (or halfway or three-quarter way down) stretch one leg at a time. Sit down and stretch one leg devant. Let the back leg bend. Keeping the front leg straight and turned out, pull forward slowly, and when you can't go any further, hold your lower abdominals and let your upper torso bend over. Your weight will effect the stretch, breathe deeply a few times, for about 30 seconds, and then come back up to a straight position. Do this four times, and change legs.

Next, bend the front leg into a 90 degree angle so you can lean forward over it, and extend the back leg to a straight position. It will probably slide sideways so that it will not be behind the hip as it would if you were standing up. Slowly move upright, stretching the front of the hip, do NOT go to a point of pain. Stretching is DISCOMFORT, not pain. Lean forward releasing the tension, and turn your leg in. Then straighten up again, and you will feel the stretch in a different area. Do this several times and change legs. Eventually your leg will stretch out more behind you.

Another great stretch is to do a side bend away from the derriere leg – you'll stretch from your thigh through your hip area up the side of your torso.

To finally relax, sit in a splits position with both legs bent. Bend forward right onto your front leg and let the weight of your torso press your hip, inner thigh and groin muscles into a relaxed stretch. Then bend back, but in a relaxed manner. Breathe deeply a few times and change legs.

If you have any muscles or joints stinging and aching after classes, ice. Get a soft gel ice pack, and you can use it 15 minutes per hour. Make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a thin towel and does not touch your skin.

Another therapy is a hot bath with a cup of apple cider vinegar. This draws the lactic acid out of the muscles and is extremely relaxing. Epsom Salts are good too, I think vinegar is better. You won't smell afterwards, honest.

If you are a retired dancer, or are on a hiatus from classes and miss that wonderful stretched out feeling, I highly recommend a ballet dancers's guide for getting more flexible.

To Dance or Not to Dance In Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

I get asked a lot, "do you think I should pursue ballet professionally?" And my immediate thought is, "If you can live without dance, do so, if you cannot, then dance."

I say that because ballet is a subculture. That is not a bad thing, but like opera, music, and other art forms, training is intense and competition is fierce. That may be the attraction for some. Ballet attracts perfectionists, obsessed and oddly dysfunctional people, but also attracts incredibly gifted performers and brilliant broad-spectrum artists who excel at dance and related arts such as choreography, music and stage design.

Professional ballet has a small job market. Ideally you would start training at the age of 9, and be ready to perform in a company by 18. You would have been in about 8-10 classes per week, with some modern dance training as well.

Starting later, along with physical limitations, is the challenge for the majority. And yet, when I taught at university, I saw students go on to become leaders in the dance world. Although, not in ballet, but in the modern dance arena, which emphasizes creativity somewhat more than the perfect technique and physique. I think the maturity of training at that age helps too, and I have seen a greater number of survivors from that venue.

Talented children with highly sensitive nervous systems have more problems with the competition. If they are studying away from home, they lack their family support. This can be very stressful for children. However, the demands of the training and the joy of learning what they love sometimes balances the stress beautifully.

To be extremely positive, let's just say all roads lead to our success. I have seen "failed" dancers develop into excellent musicians, brilliant actors, and choreographers with exceptional vision. I once had a student who backed out of a performance in his first semester of training, due to sheer stagefright. He became a well-known innovator in the Canadian dance scene. The first time I saw a short piece of choreography of his in a small workshop setting, I knew where he was headed.

A world-famous prima ballerina was let go from a major dance school because of an eating disorder. She was immediately picked up and hand-held by a competing school. She just needed more personal support.

A well-known Canadian musician/conductor was once a struggling ballet student. He played piano at the school in order to pay for his classes. He wasn't a bad dancer, but started his professional training late. The school's top pianist spotted his talent and supported his development as an accompanist. We were roommates for a while. Our third roommate was a flautist. Ahhh... well, anyway... good musical memories. I remember my heart soaring as Steve played the fourth act from Swan Lake from the Russian leather-bound score his mentor Babs MacDonald had given him, on a piano in our tiny apartment. He was born to dance in his soul, and became an excellent musician and conductor.

So if you are led to dance, dance! You never know where it will take you.

To dance is never a mistake.

You can find many inspirational ballet stories at The Ballet Store. I'm so glad ballerinas and men in ballet like to write!