Health: Never mind the pain, get up on your toes, boys

The all-male dance troupe `the Trocks' may be bigger and heftier than the girls, but that makes their feet even more vulnerable to injury, reports

Louise Levene.

Every dance company has doctors and physiotherapists at the ready, but Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo's orthopaedic consultant gets shared billing in the programme notes. Ballet is a beautiful but painful business. When a prima ballerina descends from her pointes to acknowledge her public's applause, her partner may envy her the spotlight but he's usually grateful to be spared the lifelong blisters and tendonitis that come with the shoes. Unless, of course, he decides to buy a pair of his own. The Trocks (as they are usefully known) are a hilarious New York dance troupe founded in 1974 whose 14 performers all dance in tutus on the tips of their toes - a source of concern (and revenue) for a certain Dr Weiss and his New York clinic specialising in dance and sports injuries.

Dr Weiss admits that there is a big difference between a female ballet dancer's feet - systematically strengthened from girlhood to take the punishment - and a young man who decides in his late teens that his talents lie in parodying the grandes dames of the ballet stage. The Trocks' Ida Nevasayneva and Helen Highwaters can zip through classic solos with more style and technique than many women - but at a price. "They have some of the same kinds of problems as women, the same kind of tendonitis, the same body alignment difficulties, but the big problem is that if they haven't done pointe work as youngsters they can be doing it for the first time at 18 or 19, and the older you are the harder it is for the body to respond."

Pointe shoes make your most uncomfortable pair of pumps feel like carpet slippers. The sheath of pretty pink satin traditionally conceals an unyielding interior of canvas, steel and glue. The Trocks favour an ultra-modern design whose plastic shell can be remoulded and tailored to the foot with the heat from a hairdryer, but no amount of made-to-measure technology can alter the fact that the human body wasn't really designed to support its weight on a few square centimetres of bone. Dr Weiss has seen the effect that toe-dancing has on human tissues: "If you look at an X-ray of a pointe dancer's foot, their metatarsal bones are actually thicker. The Trocks are heavier than women and this can be compensated for if they have a bigger and heavier foot than a woman but even if they're skinny - and they are skinny - they still have 10 or 20 per cent more body weight."

You might imagine small, dainty feet to be an advantage. Think again. Ideally a dancer should have what used to be called a "peasant's foot", rather than the "Grecian foot" (what Weiss calls the "too-good foot") with the long, slender shape and the longer second toe. "It may look pretty in a sandal but it isn't suitable for toe-dancing." Square feet spread the weight more evenly.

Overuse is always a danger and hard-working dancers risk tendonitis and stress fractures, but the very drudgery of the Trocks' 35-week tour schedule can protect them from more traumatic injury. Dr Weiss cites many examples of male dancers who wear pointe shoes once in a while and get hurt: "The advantage for the Trocks is that they are doing it all year round. It may put more wear and tear on the tissues, and they often end up with ugly-looking feet, but they're not usually maimed by it."

From tonight to 31 Jan at the Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (booking: 0171-314 8800)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

    This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

    Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

    £12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An admin assistant is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrator

    £16500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking to recruit an ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests