4 Things To Consider If You Want To Dance On Pointe

by | Apr 21, 2015 | Feet | Shoes | Pointe, TIPS

It’s almost every student’s dream to dance on pointe. But it’s not easy, and there are a lot of factors to consider. If you’re thinking about pointework, review the following checklist to see if you’re prepared.

1. Strength

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Can you rise to the balls of your feet and stay there? Or do you sway, your knees like jelly? How strong are your feet? Can you point and flex your feet effortlessly? If you cannot manage to execute basic ballet technique with ease in soft shoes, you are not ready to handle the demands of pointe. It’s a common misconception that once you’re on your tip-toes, the work is over. Wrong. You have to carry your body weight, and cover space, all while maintaing your balance atop a tiny platform the size of a silver dollar. Focus on building a solid core i.e.. abdominals, gluteals, and quadriceps. These muscles will serve as your main source of strength and stability. Of course, don’t forget to assess your feet. Are you directly on top of your pointe, or are your heels falling back? This could be a sign of a poor arch, instep, or worse, weak ankles. If you still struggle to get over your box, you may want to try a 3/4 shank that allows for greater flexibility in the arch.

2. Alignment

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When you tendu, the inside of your heel should always come forward. If your heel falls back and creates a broken line, this is called “sickling”. This problem must be corrected if you want to dance on pointe. Developing this habit is dangerous in technique shoes; the risk of injury is even higher when you’re several inches off the ground. How about your knees? Ideally, when on pointe, you should be able to draw a line from your hip joint to the tip of your toe. If your knees buckle and bend in relevé, the proper alignment is broken and your safety is compromised. Stand in first position sideways in the mirror. If your shoulders and spine are rounded (hunchback), if your pelvis is excessively tilted (butt sticks out), or if your knees are not straight, you may want to work on your alignment before attempting to dance on pointe.

3. Health risks

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It may look pretty, but it doesn’t feel pretty. Dancing on the tips of your toes is unnatural and quite frankly, discouraged by physicians, so expect there to be some damage to your skin, and general discomfort. Continuous, abrasive rubbing of the skin inside the shoe can cause blisters, callouses, or you may develop painful bunions, or ingrown toenails. After my first week of dancing on pointe as a teenager, some of my toenails turned black and fell completely off. Most students eventually adjust to these aches and pains, but pointe is not for the faint of heart. In the meantime, you can use various forms of cushioning, like bandaids or lambswool, to protect your toes and joints.

4. Expense

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Pointe shoes are expensive. One pair can run you anywhere from $50-100. The good news is, unlike professionals who wear out a pair of shoes in a single performance, as a beginner, you’re likely to go through a pair only every 6 months to a year. However, this can still be a blow to your budget if you don’t care for them and learn to extend their life. It’s best to refrain from wearing your shoes around your house, outdoors, or on any other surface not meant for dancing. Also, consider whether you will be needing pointe shoe accessories like toe pads, or extra ribbon/elastic. Fact is, pointework is a pricey activity to maintain.

Still want to dance on pointe? While it’s great to have passion, considering some realistic obstacles to your goals will prepare you mentally, physically, and financially for one of the most difficult, and beautiful, art forms out there.

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