Tips for Pointe Work

Monday, September 30, 2013

We have had many subscribers tell us they are beginning pointe work, and ask for some tips. After working both with teens and adults, I feel there are some common mistakes. If corrected, these can make a big difference!

As always, make sure that you keep your pointe work to your class time with your teacher. Unless you are quite advanced, it can be dangerous to work on this at home, and even advanced dancers can risk injury working on a non-ballet floor at home.

The first thing I want to discuss is placement over the shoe. We want to be all the way over the platform of the shoe, pushing over the first three toes.

You do NOT want to be back towards the pinky toe.

You always want to feel like the ankle is lifting you up, and that you are not sinking down into the shoe.

You do NOT want to be back on the platform of the shoe.

If you are pulling back, even just a little, your achilles tendon might begin to engage, like this. You DO NOT want this! Not only is it not attractive, your achilles tendon is being put at risk for tendonitis, and that is bad, bad news. You are not building the muscles in your ankle that you need in order to lift out of the shoe properly.

The next thing is about the descent from pointe to flat. Sometimes it is not enough to think about moving through the demi pointe. Especially in dancers new to pointe, I see a lot of collasping. This is completely understandable! It takes a lot of strength to roll through the shoe properly, and it takes time to build that strength.

Collapsing - the ankles are not lifted and the toes are not engaged.

But, intellectually, one thing you can think about is moving through a 3/4 demi pointe before arriving at the full demi. This will help you really engage the strength of the toes as you come down.

3/4 demi.


Also make sure you are still lifting through the ankles the entire way down. It's easy to let the ankles go first, but try not to give in!

So, those are our tips! Proper placement over the shoe, 3/4 pointe, and strong ankles will help your pointe work improve overall.

Have you found anything else that has helped you with pointe? Is there anything else you are struggling with? Let us know in the comments below!

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AriRHen said...

Hi Ballerinas By Night,

I have a pointe class dilemma.

At the moment, my teacher has us doing a combination on pointe that includes a set of quick plié passés (I'm not sure of the exact terminology...kind of like the prep for a pirouette from 5th without turning). I fail at these badly. I can get the first one alright, but the ones after that never get to full pointe.

If the combination is slowed down I am not too bad at it.

I told my teacher today (after a fell out of one of these combinations) that the exercise was too fast for me. She said that I need to think about jumping onto pointe. She said pointe work uses the same muscles as when we jump. She said that I need to jump but learn to jump just enough so I get on pointe and not in the air.

This imagery kind of scared me because I can just imagine jumping up and feeling my ankle collapse beneath me.

Do you have any tips or a different way I can think about them?

At the moment all I seem to be thinking is "quick, quick quick!!!"

Thanks in advance,


Ballerinas By Night said...

Hi Ariane!

Your teacher is correct. Releves and jumps should use the same muscles in the legs. In this regard, releves should have a spring that resembles a jump. Are you thinking of springing to pointe or rolling up to pointe? Especially once you start going faster, it is essential to find the springing action. The spring is often described as *almost* a jump, just as she said.

You could also think of it as a downward action. When you plie, make sure that you are initiating from the leg that will be going on pointe, more than the leg that will be working and going to retire. Be sure that your weight is slightly more into that leg, and that you feel a connection with the tripod of that foot - two parts of the ball of the foot and the heel. Then think about the leg going to releve as really pushing the floor away in a downward energy pattern. This should give you the same way of executing the movement, but hopefully with more comfort!

When you are going fast, it can be difficult to find the plie, which could be why you are finding easier when it is slower and with the first ones, and harder with the faster ones. So be sure to find the plie every time, and work to find that plie as soon as possible. This will help you feel more secure to push off into the next passe or retire.

Another possibility is to not take the foot all the way to retire when it is fast. Practice plie to sur le cou-de-pied, trying to get the plie and "up" to speed, before trying to make the working leg go all the way up the leg. I think if you can get the coordination of the plie and releve up, you will be able to do the exercise all the way to retire in no time!

Hope this helps!

AriRHen said...
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