If you have not heard the name Lynne Charles before, ballet friends, you’re welcome. She will change your pointe work forever. She is an American who has spent most of her adult life living and working in Europe.
Former principal dancer with John Neumeier and the Hamburg Ballet, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, and principal permanent guest artist with English National Ballet, as well as professor of classical ballet, Lynne has made it her mission postretirement to push the evolution of pointe work in a holistic and safe way. It was so exciting to have the opportunity to sit down with my amazing teacher and pick her brain.
How was 4 Pointe conceived?
As a dancer, pointe work or articulation in the legs and feet was my specialty. I was well known for being an extremely articulate dancer, which I learned from my teacher Robert Scevers, who has since passed away. The first year I moved to Europe, I would go to his home every night and hang on his stove and do barre with him. He retrained me. He promised me that if I listened to him and did everything he said, I would become a very articulate, wonderful dancer like Elizabeth Carol, a ballerina with Harkness Ballet who we both were big fans of. I trusted him. He also said, “It will make you have a long career,” which was true because I danced until I was 53. I didn’t have injuries or problems like most dancers have.
When I retired and started teaching and coaching, I started noticing that dancers today are being required to do, ever since Billy Forysyth, such incredibly difficult pointe work—so much turned in and over the foot and back on the foot and just much more than is required in a simple classical ballet. I thought there must be a way to add something to the pointe class to make sure that in doing this, dancers can do it well but don’t get injured.
I was a Professor at the Folkwang University in Essen and worked with contemporary dance students for five years. I learned a lot about the contemporary side of dance. This opened my mind to more possibilities. The only way dancing will survive is if everything evolves and changes. One does not want to ever lose in classical ballet the classical, pedagogical background or the essence, but over the last twenty years classical ballet has changed and evolved through pilates, Gyrotonic exercise, and sports medicine. I pride myself on being a teacher who’s very open minded and also looking to evolve my class.
This all led me to wanting to do 4 Pointe. I had also watched a lot of things on YouTube and discovered there has been no evolution in pointe training. Pointe training has basically stayed the same as it was 50 years ago. I decided to use aspects of everything I’ve learned and work with dancers to discover and develop how to make pointe training better.
I always say that right now, in the phase where my 4 Pointe is, it is never meant to replace a pointe class where you do piqués and all the classical pointe stuff. It is meant to be an addition. Within a year, I hope to have developed it so that it is a whole class. That being said, if you do my whole 4 Pointe barre, you have worked your whole body.
What are some of the most important elements for an adult dancer preparing for pointe?
The correct shoes. If an adult beginner does not have a good pair of pointe shoes, it’s miserable. They will get blisters, have sore feet, it’s going to be an uncomfortable experience. Do some research. You may want to wear the same shoes as your favourite ballerina, but maybe those shoes are not good for you. You have to invest time and find out what kind of shoes there are. Try on 4 or 5 different shoes. Invest and try 2 different kinds, alternating until you see which works better. Your first time on pointe is an experience and you want it to be a good one, so you need to have good shoes. Pick a teacher that is interested in your well-being, not interested in making a buck. Otherwise you become one of the crowd.
What advice would you give to adult students going on pointe for the first time?
I think in the beginning it is painful in the knees, hips, and lower back. This is normal. I would advise strengthening their feet with a TheraBand. Do some relevés at the stove when cooking to strengthen the ankles. I think if they are interested in doing it, more power to them.
I have great respect for adult beginners. For someone at 40, starting ballet puts tremendous strain on the body. It’s a tremendous investment of your time and your energy. I think that sometimes adult beginners are not treated with enough respect for who they are and what they have achieved in their life. Some are double, triple mothers, have had a full-time job, and take care of families. It’s a whole different kind of person. It’s not a 12-year-old, it’s a mature adult. I think sometimes they are not taken seriously enough.
If you can teach an adult beginner and a child, then you can teach anybody. The easiest thing to teach is a very talented dancer. Half your work is done. If you can get something out of an adult, that is a real challenge to your teaching qualities.
Any final thoughts for the adult ballet world?
Don’t let anybody demotivate you. If you have two kids, three kids, a husband, a house, and a job and you still want to do ballet, oh my God, more power to you. And even if you don’t have any of those things and you want to go to ballet and you’re not 18, you’re 35, 40, 50, whatever—if it makes you happy, ballet is a wonderful thing to do and it’s a way to get in tune with yourself. I think anything you do that makes you happy, you should just do it. And ballet is not just wonderful for the body, it’s a wonderful art form. Don’t give up, don’t let people discourage you or make fun of you, just go for it.
Thank you so much Lynne for sharing with us. I leave you all with Lynne’s mantra….
“4 Pointe is meant to be a somatic and mindful method of training dancers on pointe. I believe a dancer’s body is their tool and it must be cultivated with wisdom and respect, kept in good health, well fed as well as artistically nourished. This is the challenge of our generation. Therefore as leaders we must learn enhanced ways of transmitting valid and timeless information as well as further developing how classical training methods can be updated without losing the sense of what art is and why we do it.”
Find Lynne on Youtube….
On her Instagram…
And meet Lynne in person at our upcoming Adult Ballet Weekend Intensive on June 13th. Details here…..
Until our next plié ❤