This is the time of the year when decisions are made for classes for the up coming season. It is an exciting time to see what classes are available for your ability. One of the special times in a dancers life is when their teacher says that is it time to begin pointe work. Pointe classes need to be taken very seriously, as they are not an easy class and only for the serious dancer. It takes much determination. Pointe work is not for everyone. Even if you are anatomically capable and your technique is up to where is should be, pointe may not be for you. Then again …..maybe it is! Here are some considerations you need to be aware of before considering pointe work for you.
Because serious foot deformities can result from starting pointe too early, ballet students do not usually begin dancing en pointe until after the age of 11 and I believe not before the age of 12. This school of thought, is because the bones in the feet are still growing and can be permanently damaged if pointe work is begun too early. It is better to begin pointe later rather than too early. Dancers are ready for pointe work when they can hold their turnout from the hips while performing center combinations, hold a proper ballet alignment (straight back, good turnout, etc.), pull up correctly in the legs, and balance securely in releve, because dancing en pointe requires you to use your entire body, including the legs, back, and abdominal muscles. George Balanchine once said,” Why put a dancer on pointe if they can not do anything once they get there.”
Care For Your Feet
With pedicures being the rage today, be aware that they are not advised for pointe dancers. Dead skin and calluses on the feet are helpful and act as insulation against the strain of the pointe shoe.Blisters and sores on your feet from the stiffess of your shoes and every bleeding are to be expected. Nothing a band aid can’t handle. Be sure to cut your toe nails at least one day before pointe class to let the toes adjust to the new length of the nails.
And When Do We Actually Dance?
A lot of time preparing for pointe work will be spent at the barre. It is a gradual process before leaving the barre. but before you go to the barre, you need to learn how to tie your pointe shoes. I have seen many dancers just tie them any old way and then have problems standing en pointe. Then, after your shoew are tied correctly, you will begin by starting to break in your shoes to mold directly with your feet by learning to pointe tendu and rolling over the box of the shoe. The next step is to learn to releve onto pointe and keeping your knees straight while on pointe. Some beginning strengthening exercises at the barre will be relevés and échappés. Once the class is fully comfortable in doing those the steps on both feet, steps ending on one foot are introduced, such as pas de bourrée
After barre work, you will progresses to the center exercises, and stress proper turnout, One thing I like to tell my dancers it to be sure that you can see both heels in the mirror while facing front in releve. The first exercises in the center will be on both feet and will be relevés and échappés. Then across the floor becomes the next challenge. Bourees are the first traveling step.
How Are Pointe Shoes Supposed To Fit?
The stiff shank and box of your pointe shoes help to spread your weight of the across your foot instead of being concentrated in the toes. For this to be successful, the shoe MUST be fitted perfectly. Each pointe shoe manufacturer makes a range of shoes to fit different foot shapes and widths. I can not stress enough the importance of proper fit. It is the difference of being able to hold a releve properly and not.
Pointe shoe fitters should haave extensive training and experience to identify with the different types of feet and the makes and models of shoes that suit them. For this reason, it is NOT recommended that dancers buy their first pointe shoes online. And even with a professional retailer fitting you, never wear or sew on your ribbons before your teacher approves your new pointe shoes. See the “How Should Pointe Shoes Fit” page in the page section of this blog for more details from Freed’s.
My best wishes for all you new pointe students. This is a happy and fun time in your dance experience. Be aware ….it will be hard work……