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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pointers for adult pointework


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I don't know if I am qualified enough to start something like this, so delete if you feel necessary. But like the list Ms Leigh did for the Young Dancers board concerning the facts of pointe work, I feel perhaps us adults should have something similar.


These are some points I think adult dancers thinking about doing pointework, just starting or doing pointe should try and follow, some are common sense, some are from experience and some are just basic:


1. Try and get your pointe shoes from a reputable dance store, preferably with someone qualified to fit pointe shoes. You can find this out prior to getting them, by phoning up the shop and asking if they have a professional fitter available. If they do not, try somewhere else or ask your teacher for her recommendation. It is so important to get the correct fit of pointe shoes. Even pointe shoes that you may have worn 10 years previously,may not be ideal for your feet now.

I have have seena lot of adults with incorrectly fitted pointe shoes, i.e. gaping gaps around the foot, too big, too small. It is really worth the effort and perhaps the bit more money if you can do this right. It will save a lot of pain later as well.

2. When you have your pointe shoe, just like the Young Dancers, do not sew anything onto them, or wear them. Take them to your ballet teacher and make sure she approves. Then you can sew your ribbons on etc.


3. Just because you have started pointe work don't forget you still have to work hard in your normal soft shoes. So really try and push yourself especially in those releves, and tendus. Really work on your balance and just work twice as hard. It really pays off on pointe.


4. If you can get hold of a pair of soft pointes (Gamba do their Delcos, I am not sure what other makes there are, Freed probably). I have found that these really work my feet so much harder than my soft shoes. If you want to start pointe work, these shoes will help prepare your feet, i.e. harden your feet up.


5. If you want to go and do pointe lessons,and aren't sure if you are ready. Go along to a pointe lesson in your flats and do all the exercises demi pointe. This will really help you.


So anyone want to add anything else? I don't want to go on and bore everyone...as usual. I just thought it may be helpful to those aspiring Pavlovas wink.gifbiggrin.gif

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Xena, it's fine and very well done. I would like to add though that it is still very important for adult ballet students to realise that pointe work is not for everyone. Just because one studies ballet for a few years, and gets to a certain level technically does not mean that they actually have the physical ability and qualifications to do pointe work. Many people who start as adults do not have enough rotation and/or their feet are just not good enough to work well in pointe shoes. If one's feet are not flexible as well as strong enough to get ALL the way up on the TOP of the shoe in a ROTATED position with the KNEES STRAIGHT, then they should not be in pointe shoes.

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I have heard some bad things about how some (luckily few, but still some) schools handle adult pointe. There seem to be two problems in the opposite ends of the scale: some believe those who begin as adults should never get on pointe at all, and some let adults on pointe way before they are ready. Maybe the guidelines should say something about this - as much as I hate suggesting spelling it out that not all schools and teachers are good? biggrin.gif


Something along the lines that this is the case, and as an adult you, unlike young dancers, cannot look up to your parents to help you in choosing a good teacher / school; so you should yourself be informed about ballet in general and pointe work in particular, to help you to choose a teacher whose judgement and training you can trust.

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Indeed! And I feel that some general guidelines about the technicality you should have before you consider going on pointes is in order.


Those are my personal, absolutely prime conditions to be on pointes. I'm sure there are some others, more refined ones, and more personal to some teachers.

I certainly couldn't decide on someone's fate in one class, after having only spoken to the person, or if I feel this is simply not right (and the decision of the student and determination is also important! Oh, and I MUST mention also the attendance of a student. I won't put anyone -ever- on pointes unless they have more than one hour class a week, and a good basic knowledge of what ballet is about (physically, and broadly speaking, how they react to correction, how they move in the space given…etc… After all, what I will write below is so general and CANNOT apply to everyone, but here you go, I'll attempt it anyway, and hope I don't forget too much of the essential).


For a start, the general posture (and that's often a point which is misunderstood by a lot of parents/beginners, because they think that to go on pointes, only your feet count, when in fact the back -and general posture of the body- is probably more important): you need to have a straight back, solid, strong and where shoulders are square/in alignment most of the time with your hips. The shoulders should be held correctly and the neck should be in line with the spine (and especially in a relevé on demie-pointes, where the posture should be the strongest. If you don't have a strong relevé on both feet -in 1st or 5th position- there's no need to even consider further going on pointes). I speak about broad things here, and even if you define your back as 'strong', it may not be the appropriate one, but you know what I mean… I hope!


As for the foot itself, it needs to have a strong, full relevé on 5th, with a nice footwork when doing a dégagé tendu (so the articulation of the foot from demi to full stretched foot on the floor in the dégagé and back). The toes themselves will need to be strong (but usually, if the relevé in 1st or 5th is strong, that means the toes have had a correct training, plus the footwork in pointes at the barre will only help this, so at this stage, you don't really know how strong those toes are.)


And finally, your ankles must be also strong. Again, in a relevé, you're looking for a strong, straight foot from the floor to the knee, no sickling in any direction (on a flat foot as well as in a relevé in fact).


To determine all of this is very hard for a trained eye, so for someone who doesn't really know what to look for, it's harder. I don't really know if a beginner, adult or not, will be able to tell (even honestly) if they are ready or not with those criteria (and what you see in a mirror is NOT what the teacher sees from the distance)… So, I'm afraid it's a bit of hit or miss for an adult to determine that. You need to find a good teacher, and for this, you will need to determine -yourself- if the rest of the class, if the assessment by the teacher, seem to YOU adequate (but you could be wrong).


What you could look in other students, is those qualities named above, and see if you think their back is strong enough to be evaluated as a 'strong' one. If you think more than half of the class is in no position to sustain a good relevé on both feet (and you have doubt they would achieve that on demi-pointes even), then run!! But again, the tactics a teacher goes through may not reveal the quality of the teaching completely. I saw great teachers put on pointes some dancers (but I said 'some'… The ratio of 'more than half the class' is probably pushing it!) who may appear to be weak in some areas, and still would benefit from pointes work, but you're also right in saying (and that's less rare than the reverse case) that a lot of bad teachers are out there, and you should look for them (and avoid them!).


This is SO hard to determine who is a good teacher that I can understand why it's so hard to tell who you should avoid too! The reputable, long established school is usually the best bet, but -without stirring it too much- it's not always true…

Name names to experienced dancers, ask questions about practices in a particular school, and you're probably better off than guessing yourself…

It takes a lot of guts for a teacher to tell a dancer that pointes work is not for her/him (mind you, that wouldn't be as devastating to tell a 'him' that the answer is a 'no'!), so I'm afraid more often than not, the easy solution is to let everyone be happy about the answer, regardless of the safety implications. What makes money doesn't necessarily makes great dancers -unfortunately… And some of us have chosen to make money rather than safe, beautiful dancers, so it's up to you to choose who you'd rather follow…

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