Most people don’t realise the effort and strength a dancer needs to go en pointe. The whole weight of the dancer is resting on the very tips of her toes so it can be quite painful. The feet must remain fully pointed at all times, it’s not just balancing! Each dancer/teacher will have their own opinions preparing students for pointe shoes and these are some tips that I hope will help you on your way. Remember you should only be using pointe shoes if your dance teacher has given you the ok! Pointe shoes can be quite dangerous to the novice and could cause serious and permanent damage.
My students must be at least 12 years old before I’ll even consider letting them get pointe shoes! Using pointe shoes too early can damage growth plates in the feet and I think students need to understand the responsibility of pointe shoes.
You need to do two things to prepare your feet for pointe work: Flexibility and Strength.
Flexibility covers all aspects of your foot. When pointing, ankles and toes must be at least in a straight line with the shin bone to help the dancer fully balance on the block. Feet also need to be slightly “fished” where the big toe is in line with the shin bone – no trace of sickling. I also like my dancers to develop their demi pointe so the big toe can flex to at least 90 degrees.
Strength comes with practice and practice and more practice. Demi pointe work is essential for strengthening your whole body in preparation for pointe. Rises are key to achieve the correct action of ankles and use of legs. Thera-bandsare good “at home” practice. I tell my girls to “pick up a tissue” (drop a tissue on the ground and repeatedly pick it up with your toes and drop it again)
Basic ballet technique needs to be very sound before attempting pointe work. Once a student goes en pointe without the use of correct technique it becomes dangerous.
A little bit of attention to your feet each day will help prepare your feet for pointe!