How to dance on pointe shoes

How To Dance With Pointe Shoes – Tips For The Class Room

how to dance with pointe shoesHere is a post dedicated to the subject on how to dance with pointe shoes, as it is not as easy as ballerina’s make it look.

It is the dream of every little girl who does ballet to dance in pointe shoes.  In fact, all my pupils at some stage of their training ask me when they can buy their first pair of pointe shoes. Ballet is the only dance form that uses pointe shoes, although I have seen other dance forms lately attempting to adopt dancing on their toes for various shows or competitions.

Of course, the reality of dancing with pointe shoes is quite a different story and not a glamorous one at that.  There are blisters, ingrown toenails and varying degrees of pain to deal with. Learning to dance ‘en pointe’ is a long training process that takes years.

Pupils have to work slowly to develop the required strength in their feet and ankles before they start to do the complicated steps that they see the stars doing. There are no short cuts here, otherwise, you could be putting yourself in danger of getting permanent injuries.

Here is some practical advice for teachers and pupils who are learning the art of pointe work.

How To Dance With Pointe Shoes

How To Strengthen the Feet

If you want to know how to dance with pointe shoes, you must know that you won’t be able to do this properly until you have strong feet.

When doing your normal ballet class, make sure all your movements are with your feet using the floor.  There should be a feeling of pushing the floor away from you whenever you do a tendu. Your feet and the floor need to become good friends, and your feet need to use the floor with pressure in order to get strong enough over the years to master pointe work.

Here are a few more great ways to strengthen the feet:

  • While sitting curl foot into a c-shape to strengthen arch and hold for a while.
  • Walk while rising and lowing through the demi point, preferably working with no shoes.
  • Write the alphabet in cursive with your feet, one foot at a time.
  • While sitting push toes into the floor with pressure to arch feet (like pushing a towel underneath foot).  Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Scrunch up a towel with the feet.
  • Keep the heel on the floor in one spot and push the towel side to side with the toes.
  • Sit flat on knees to stretch the front of the foot.
  • Put the front of the foot against the wall with the foot flat and slowly stretch the knee and try to keep the top of the foot on the wall.
  • A good exercise to start with is standing parallel facing the bar.  Place foot on the calf and step up to 1st before lowering through the feet.  You can also do plies and rises then straighten legs turned in or out.
  • Do multiple rises and releves every week, on two feet and one foot.

Notes For Teachers

What Exercises Should I Start My Pupils  With En Pointe

When you dance in your pointe shoes for the first time, walk, run, and skip in the shoes first to get used to them.  They will feel totally different from the normal ballet slipper, and your foot will have to work a lot harder to make the shoes point and look good.

All pointe work should be done with the support of a barre or a partner, to begin with.  Gradually the student places less weight on the bar and more on his or her toes.

Many repetitions of rises and releves on two feet and then moving from two feet to one foot are required here. This is how to dance with pointe shoes in the beginning until your feet get stronger.

Be very careful of the overarched foot – the sole of the shoe must first be softened.  Make sure the knuckles of the toes don’t bend when standing on pointe.  The overarched foot will need more strengthening than the average foot in general.

Rolling feet in or out places strain on the ankles and knees, so insist on the student/dancer getting this right.

Here are some exercises for teachers to try with their pupils:

  • Stand parallel 1st on point and go from one foot to the other through demi point.  One foot goes down as the other goes up.  Both feet are ¾ point at the same time.
  • Facing bar, do battements tendus to each position and releve in each position.
  • Releve 5th and then retire devant 3 x, then retire passé to repeat on the other side.
  • Releve 5th and release back foot to do petit pas de bouree piques.
  • To teach courus do small foot changes on point.  Little courus on the spot with slightly relaxed knees.  Then go along bar facing it leading with the back foot.
  • Do walks up on toes.
  • Echappe to 2nd, not too wide and hold for 3 counts before closing to strengthen the feet.
  • Echappe to 4th and hold.  Make sure they stretch through the backs of knees.
  • Once they are stronger  you can bring them into the centre for echappes.

Once your pupils are more experienced try:

  • Rises through ¼, ½, ¾, and up in 1st, 2nd and 5th.  Show resistance in heels when going down.
  • Demi Plies and rises.
  • Tendu’s and Echappes.
  • Echappes and Detournes.
  • Releves two feet to one foot.
  • Pas de bourees Piques and Courus.
  • Courus on the spot with coupe over.
  • Up in 5th and move one leg at a time back, front, back and rest on point changing weight.
  • Walk along bar and back by bringing feet over, over, over and then under, under, under. (emboites)

Centre:

  • Releves devant and derriere with Echappes.
  • Walks with developes coming down through the feet.

Try to always work beyond your syllabus requirements. The process is slow and tedious, but this is how to dance with pointe shoes as you gradually get stronger and the idea is to make dancing on pointe look effortless.

How Do You Know If You Are Ready To Dance In Pointe Shoes?

Never start a beginner on pointe.  Even an adult should have a minimum of two years of dancing experience first.

The normal age varies between 11 and 14 years, although later is better.  Rather start later than earlier when learning how to dance with pointe shoes as the bodies must be mature and strong and growth in the foot must be settled. Never start pointe work before puberty.

The pupil should have even turnout, and be able to control the turnout from the hip.  She or he should have a good understanding of transfer of weight, and should be able to do releves and rises strongly on demi pointe.  The pupil should be able to rise and releve with ease on one foot.  Posture and balance must also be secure.

Other Pointe Shoe Problems

For the overarched foot, get them to sew a thick piece of elastic over the shoe for support until the feet have strengthened and the pupil has learned to support the feet.  Don’t allow them to go too far over as this will weaken the foot.

If one foot is bigger than the other, buy shoes for the bigger foot or buy 2 pairs.

A broken shoe means that muscles are weak and the student is not pulling up off the foot or she is sitting into the foot, thus putting undue pressure on the shoe and her feet.

Before starting point treat the feet with meths or camphrey or canyon herbal cream.  This helps to reduce the incidence of blisters.

If shoe twists off the heel then it is too big.

If the shoe is too small, the toes will be squashed. How to dance with pointe shoes

The heel should stay in the shoe on demi point and foot mustn’t slip in the shoe.

To fit a pointe shoe, stand in 2nd  and demi plie.  Relax foot and spread toes, as this stretches foot to its longest point.

Toes should be slightly touching the block with no pressure on the sides or top.  The shoe must be tight-fitting, but not the foot shouldn’t be squashed.  Be careful the shoe is not too pointy on the toe area.  Make sure that ribbons are tied correctly to support the ankles.

The other important aspect of how to dance with pointe shoes is choosing the right pair of pointe shoes for you.  The choice nowadays is vast, and there is a shoe type to suit every foot.  Go Here To Find Out More About Types of Shoes.

15 thoughts on “How To Dance With Pointe Shoes – Tips For The Class Room”

  1. I wish I had seen these exercise tips for strengthening my feet years ago. I used to dance a little bit, and now I know that all of my teachers were not well versed or knowledgeable. Because they would all just suggest us trying to go on point while holding the bar, see how it felt, and just repeat it regularly in order to build muscles the hard way. I never fully was able to do it, now I know why.

    Reply
    • Thanks Sarah. I think over the years our knowledge all improve as we learn more and more about our craft. I was also trained far differently to the way we are taught to teach now.

      Reply
  2. Although I am not a dancer, never could do that, I am a professional orchestral conductor, and many people say it looks like I am dancing when I conduct. I have often thought about taking a modern dance class. Was wondering if you think it would be of help to me. Ballet is my favorite form of dancing. I love how the music and dance come together. I love how all the fine arts are inter related especialy the performing arts. The industry is very high risk by it’s very nature. I like how you reduce the risks for young dancers and give some very sound advice.
    Kirk

    Reply
    • Thanks for your thoughts Kirk. I think anybody can benefit from dance classes, and there is a type of dance to suit every individual.

      Reply
  3. Nice to meet you my daughter wants to start dancing but she is very young .at the moment she is only 3 years old and she already loves dancing and tries to do it all the time i was thinking to get her lessons but can you tell me when a good age to start is is 3 years to young i think the earlier the better but i need some advise on this and you seem to be very knowledgeable in this so can you advise me on a good age to start dance lessons

    thanks you

    Reply
    • I have loads of three year olds, and they love it. At three they are to young still for a lot of the technical steps, but we work on the basics in the form of stories, and also some coordination, stretching and strengthening exercises, without them realizing of course that they are exercising. They also gain a lot by working with the music, which helps them listen and count better when they get older.

      Reply
  4. I like that you break the viewer into reality in the beginning about the common view of pointe shoe dancing versus the reality. Not only do you provide information for when the viewer is ready to start using pointe shoes in the first place, but also information for how the pointe shoes should be treated. Nice job.

    Reply
  5. Wow that looks like some hard work!

    I saw a picture once of what a ballet dancers foot looked like and it looked horrible! (in a good way)

    You guys must put in so much work to accomplish that! I don’t thin that I personally am going to try this, but maybe I can get someone else to, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    Reply
  6. Hi, Michel.

    I would have liked to learn to dance ballet, but where I live there was no such thing at the time. But when I see your site it looks so beautiful with the ballet shoes.
    I can almost feel the music when I see the pictures you have on your site. I am sure that it is going to give many girls an enjoyable reading.

    Elma

    Reply
  7. Hi there,

    I really, really enjoyed reading this article. Ever since I was five I’d wanted to do ballet – and my mum’s always called me Katerina Ballerina – but I never went to a lesson. We couldn’t afford it, and my parents couldn’t commit the time to let me do extra curricular activities. After I was 9 or so I’d come to the realisation that if I hadn’t started it yet, I was never going to be able to do it.

    I really wish I could learn as an adult, but I’ve been told it’s practically impossible, and I’m not coordinated enough anyway, but reading your article was a great way to learn about such a fascinating topic.

    Thanks again and all the best,

    Katia

    Reply
  8. Hi there,

    I really, really enjoyed reading this article. Ever since I was five I’d wanted to do ballet – and my mum’s always called me Katerina Ballerina – but I never went to a lesson. We couldn’t afford it, and my parents couldn’t commit the time to let me do extra curricular activities. After I was 9 or so I’d come to the realisation that if I hadn’t started it yet, I was never going to be able to do it.

    I really wish I could learn as an adult, but I’ve been told it’s practically impossible, and I’m not coordinated enough anyway, but reading your article was a great way to learn about such a fascinating topic.

    Thanks again and all the best,

    Katia

    Reply
    • There are many adult beginner ballet classes you could try. You may not become a professional, but you are never to old to learn.

      Reply
  9. Hello!
    Very nice article! I was in dance class when I was very very young.. unfortunately I didn’t continue it for long.. wish I had though, I love the idea of being able to dance so beautifully. 🙂 My little sister however, is quite interested in dance right now, I will pass this info down to her.

    Reply

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