By Cami de Ry
En pointe since she was 11 years old, Anna Witenberg’s ’13 body has had to suffer the consequences of her intense dance routine. Witenberg has dealt with knee problems, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splits throughout her dancing career.
Dancing en pointe takes a lot of meticulous technique to perfect, Witenberg said. As a ballerina pliés, she is expected to bring her heels all the way down to the ground, but due to Witenberg’s low instep and rolling heels, she did not do this as a young dancer. She developed habits that were soon hard to break, and her body was paying the price as it developed Achilles tendonitis.
“It probably won’t really ever go away, but I do pilates and other exercises to try to strengthen the muscles around the tendon so they can do their job,” Witenberg said.
According to Witenberg, it is a dancer’s responsibility to know the weaknesses of his or her body.
“For example, if someone has a really flexible back, they tend to forget to strengthen the back muscles to support it, which leads to back problems. It’s a matter of complimenting flexibility and strength,” Witenberg said.
New pointe shoes also place a physical strain on dancers’ feet. To break in her shoes, Witenberg puts them on first. She feels that if she does it manually the shoes don’t properly fit her feet. After many sequences of long, slow motions of pliés and relevés, Witenberg bends the new shoes just a little bit to break them in perfectly.
The injuries that Witenberg has faced have impeded her from some dance opportunities. For example, in the summer of 2009 she was supposed to attend the Boston Ballet Summer Camp, but because her ankles and Achilles were in their worst states, she was unable to go.
Now that Witenberg has felt the strains on the body, she hasn’t been dancing en pointe as often. From when she was 11 years old to 14 years old she attended en pointe ballet classes about four times a week. Contrarily, her dance routine has dropped in its intensity; she now attends maybe once a week at most.
“Now it’s more of a matter to brush up on technique,” Witenberg said.