It takes years of training to create the gravity-defying magic of appearing effortless and graceful dancing in pointe shoes.
Criteria for Ponte Work
At Caulfield School of Dance, our Core Values compel us to proceed with the utmost care in ensuring the health and safety of our students. Pointe work is only pursued when and for whom it is appropriate.
Here are some words about pointe training from Christopher Powney, Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet School: “Pointe work is a defining addition to a girl’s ballet technique and requires great foundation strength. The top training schools only begin pointe work at the age of 11 (occasionally 10), after reaching the appropriate strength required. Ideally this follows three or four years of demi-pointe work and careful training, over several years, thereafter.”
To take courses in pointe shoes at Caulfield School of Dance, the student must:
• have achieved sufficient bone maturation (usually aged 11 years or older).
• be neither over nor underweight; students are at greater risk of injury if they are carrying too much weight on their bodies or do not have enough muscle mass/tone and therefore should not engage in pointe work.
• have had sufficient preparatory training in classical ballet technique (usually at least 2 years of ballet training several days each week) before commencing pointe work.
• be training consistently a minimum 4.5 hours per week with ballet technique classes on at least 3 days week.
To train en pointe, the dancer must have:
• adequate height of the heel from the floor when rising to half or demi-pointe (to the balls of the feet).
The student must be working en demi-pointe with her heels as high as possible from the ground to prepare her muscles to have the strength for pointe work.
• good health so she is able to fully participate throughout her classes. If the student frequently needs to rest because of weakness, illness, or injury, she is not strong enough for the extra demands of pointe work.
• the ability to pay attention to instructions and correction given in class and to work diligently to apply them.
Going en pointe is a big step and requires commitment on the part of the student.
The student must also have enough openness in the front of the ankle/foot connection (mortise joint) and a sufficiently arched instep to stand en pointe with straight knees in turnout.
And the student must have sufficient strength to do the following:
• posé onto a straight leg.
The student should be able to propel herself onto demi-pointe maintaining core support of upper body and full extension of the supporting knee, ankle, and foot, with turnout. A bent leg or any release in the ankle or foot indicates inadequate strength and/or coordination to do a safe posé en pointe.
• hold a retiré balance on demi-pointe.
The student should be able to do a well-placed (hips square, back straight, legs turned-out) balance on one foot en demi-pointe. This is more difficult en pointe, as the surface area for balancing is smaller and the strength requirements are greater.
• maintain turnout with feet flat on the floor, en demi-pointe, and in jumps. The fundamental element of ballet is turnout; most movements cannot be done properly without it. If the student does not have the strength to maintain turnout in soft shoes while dancing, she is not strong enough for pointe work. It is much more difficult to maintain turnout en pointe.
• easily execute a series of strong relevés en demi-pointe on one foot without the support of a barre. Relevés are more difficult to do en pointe because of the extra height and smaller point of connection to the floor, so the ability to do a series of strong relevés en demi-pointe in the centre is a good sign of readiness.
• maintain supported posture while dancing. Pointe work requires that the student use the muscles in her core as well as her legs and feet to manoeuvre en pointe. She must not use the pointe shoes’ architecture as her primary support. A weak back will be stressed en pointe.
• keep the heel centred to balance placement of the foot in rises and relevés. If the student lacks the proprioceptive ability and/or strength to maintain perfect alignment of the foot, she will be at increased risk of strain and injury.
• use plié properly while dancing. Plié (flexion at the knee, with the knees pointing straight over the second toe, keeping the heels well grounded on the floor), must be well understood and applied before pointe work commences.
• fully stretch or “point” the feet consistently while dancing. Stretching the feet and ankles fully whenever they are not flat on the floor strengthens the muscles that pointe work requires. If the feet and ankles are not consistently stretching to their maximum at all times when not weight-bearing, the dancer will not be not ready for pointe work.
For an excellent resource for preparing for pointe work click here.
Caulfield School of Dance is a performing arts academy with a distinguished reputation in the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada and beyond.