Lane Gormley, EdS, LPC, BCC
To prepare a dancer for pointe work, there is a special class called Pre-Pointe. Ashleigh Whitworth and Ellen Kenny-Hall planned the curriculum and teach some of the classes, based on The Perfect Pointe Book by Lisa Howell. Although it might seem that pointe work is mostly about the feet, it actually involves the dancer’s entire body. A beautiful pointe takes great practice and great strength. Look at Svetlana Zakharova’s amazing pointe.
In Pre-Pointe, the feet are strengthened with exercises using the theraband, a long stretchy, rectangle of thin rubber that the dancer uses to provide resistance while pointing and flexing from the leg through the ankle to the tip of the toe. The theraband is also used for many other exercises. The different colors of therabands denote different levels of resistance
Other foot exercises are done against the floor, including “doming” (creating a dome of space beneath the foot while keeping heels and toes on the floor), the Big Toe exercise, and “Piano Playing” with the feet. Still others are done at the barre. Here is a detailed progression from flat foot to arched foot through the metatarsal joint to the fully pointed foot.
Dancers preparing for pointe work also do calf stretches to prevent calf tightness caused by being on pointe. To strengthen the entire leg, they practice the straight-leg rise to demi-pointe called an élevé as well as pushing to demi-pointe from the plié (which is called a relevé). Working to deepen and to perfect the plié is an important part of Pre-Pointe training. The plié is all-important in rising to balance on tiptoe and, later, on pointe. Kathryn McBeth will tell you, “Plier is a VERB.”
Finally, balancing exercises on pointe prepare the dancer for the moment when she will balance on pointe. As Ruth Mitchell frequently said, ” Balance is strength, and strength is balance.”
If you want to know more, read The Perfect Pointe Book and The Perfect Pointe Parent’s Manual. Both are by Australian Physical Therapist Lisa A. Howell .
Lane Gormley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Coach at East Paces Counseling in Buckhead and Ray of Hope Counseling Services in Kennesaw. She has taken class, taught, and participated in the GDC community for many years.