Pointe technique in classical ballet consists of a female dancer standing on the tip or reinforced flat edges of her pointe shoes. The pointe surface of these shoes enables a ballerina to stand, walk and move on the tips of the shoes. Standing and moving on pointe makes a dancer appear weightless and ethereal, a quality important to many of the classical roles, such as Odette in "Swan Lake." Many classical, neoclassical and modern ballets call for extended periods of pointe work, and classical training in ballet requires a dancer to learn to stand on pointe.
Enroll in pre-professional ballet training at a young age. In its recommendations for when a ballet dancer should begin pointe work, the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science stipulates that a dancer should start learning pointe in the fourth year of training. This association clarifies that the year-four rule applies to those dancers who have taken multiple lessons per week for the first three years of training, with a minimum of four lessons per week in the third year.
Develop strong musculature in the core, torso, hips and legs. Dancers should not rely on the flat surface of the pointe shoe to support the weight of the body while standing on pointe. Years of lessons before learning to walk on pointe help develop the strength needed.
Attain the requisite degree of ankle, foot and hip flexion required to stand on pointe. Walking on pointe requires keeping the ankle and foot flexed at a sharp angle while the musculature of the legs and torso supports the weight of the body. Again, this flexibility stems from multiple lessons over time.
Meet jointly with your ballet teacher and your parents and tell them that you wish to start learning how to stand and walk en pointe. If you have studied with a good teacher for more than a year, your instructor will be able to tell you if you possess the requisite foot and ankle joint strength and the relevant leg and torso strength to begin learning pointe. A teacher will also evaluate your posture to determine whether you have mastered the basics of ballet needed before starting pointe work.
Start a strength program to remedy any imbalances in torso, core or leg strength or any hyper-mobility in the feet and ankles before beginning pointe work. Your ballet teacher will recommend the exercises to correct each particular type of imbalance. Do not begin pointe work until you have corrected any hyper-mobility or strength issues.
Begin pointe training as part of advanced classes with your ballet teacher after she has re-evaluated your strength and flexibility and approved you for learning pointe.
Tips & Warnings
- Your ability to perform a number of ballet movements, such as holding a turnout while dancing or executing 16 relevés in the center, will help determine if you are ready for pointe work. See Reference 3 for a full list of the basic strength benchmarks required for pointe work.
- You should turn 12 years old before beginning pointe work. By age 12, the feet have generally stopped growing and you will not risk damage to your growing feet and ankles.
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