Over the Box

Over the Box

Have you heard your teacher say the phrase “over the box” in class?  Maybe you have a hard time getting over the box and are looking for ways to improve?  Let’s talk about what being “over the box” means.

Over the Box:  The dancer is considered “over the box” when her foot aligned properly in the shoe, and the platform balances squarely with all edges flat on the floor.

What’s the Big Deal?  I bring you, exhibit A:


You may be surprised to learn both pairs of shoes are worn by the same dancer.  

Compare the differences in each shoe.  The top shoe has a longer vamp, and the shank breaks in the wrong part of the arch.  The shank is either too hard or too soft for this dancers flexible feet with high arches.  The bottom shoe has a shorter vamp and a softer pre-arched shank, which allows her to get fully over the box.

A dancer who consistently attempts to dance on shoes that don’t allow her to get over the box is in danger of injuring herself.  Simple exercises such as eleves and releves are feasible, but any exercises in the center are unsafe on shoes like the top pair.  Echappes are especially difficult in this type of shoes.

“I can’t get over the box!”

Sometimes in this situation, the student worries that it’s her fault for not getting over the box.  She may resort to things like foot stretchers which can cause more damage.  Realistically, the dancer is probably wearing shoes that are completely wrong for her feet, need to be broken in, or have ribbons that need adjusting.

Several things can impact ability to get over the box, including:

  • Vamp that’s too long
  • Shank that’s too strong
  • Shank that’s too weak
  • Poorly sewn ribbons and/or elastic
  • Shoes aren’t broken in
  • Profile is too high
  • Dancer has rigid flat feet
  • Overall shoe is the wrong model

If you are struggling to get over the box in your current pair of shoes, be sure you’ve spent enough time working the box and shank to get them to better mold to your feet.  If the profile is too high, try flattening the box.  Be wary, as this will make the box wider!  If the arch is breaking too high or just isn’t quite right, spend some idle time watching tv just bending and manipulating the shank.

When the first pair of shoes pictured were manipulated for a few hours, the shoes fit this dancer a bit better, although range of motion is still limited and strain is placed on the ankles.  They are still not quite right, but much improved over the first photo.  In the third photo, the ribbon and elastic placement has been fixed, shoes swapped to different feet, and they almost look like proper shoes!  Here’s the evolution the terrible looking pair in the photo above!


If your shoes are totally broken in, you likely need a different make/model of shoe.  Shoes with pre-arched shanks help.  Always be wary of the vamp length and shank strength!  It may not be the fault of your own anatomy keeping you from getting that beautiful line en pointe.