It’s happened—you’re ready for pointe work and have been fitted for and received your very first pair of pointe shoes - how exciting!
However, the last thing you want to end up with is an injury so before you rush into testing them out, a word of warning: take it slowly and carefully and definitely under teaching supervision. Pre-pointe exercises are a must for ballet. There are a range of strength and conditioning exercises you can do on a regular basis to prepare and maintain your body and feet for optimal health, safety and readiness.
Here are the best pre-pointe exercises and beginner pointe exercises to ensure you’re prepared for pointe work.
How to Strengthen Feet for Pointe: Articulation
When starting out with pointe work, there are a number of beginner pointe exercises you can work through to help build strength in the feet. It is important that you begin with pre-pointe exercises at the barre on two feet before moving on to work on one leg or in the center.
Pointe work relies on good articulation of the forefoot, so by exercising control and ensuring you work through the demi to the full pointe, you are building strength and ensuring you can rise fully to full pointe. You are also building up calf endurance which is another important factor. Here are some basic articulation pointe exercises.
With pointe shoes on, face the barre with feet in a parallel first and hands gently resting on the barre.
Slowly and with control, rise with two feet to demi-pointe, moving through ¾ pointe, and onto full pointe, feeling the full articulation of the forefoot as you rise.
Hold and then slowly lower from full pointe through to ¾ pointe, back down to demi-pointe, and then to parallel first position. Repeat 10 times.
Balance Exercises for Ballet Dancers en Pointe
When en pointe, the base of support is only as large as your pointe shoe box, so it is important to ensure you have good proprioception skills. If you’re looking for beginner pointe exercises, this is a balance exercise for ballet dancers that will help develop your overall balancing skills, which will assist when en pointe.
Step OneWith bare feet, stand on one foot with the other in retiré. Hold this position for up to a minute then continue with your eyes closed.
You can increase the difficulty by rising to relevé on the supporting leg and moving your arms through the five positions.
Repeat steps one and two on the other side.
Ballet Doming Exercises for Pre-Pointe
This basic pre-pointe exercise helps to work the intrinsic muscles of the feet. Doming is a good pre-pointe strengthening exercise to help develop strong feet and arches.
Sit on a chair with your feet placed flat on the ground.
Lift the metatarsals and slide the toes towards the heel (keeping toes flat) to create a dome with the foot.
Finally, slide the toes back along the floor to a flat foot. Hint: you may need to use your hands for assistance until you build enough strength to work your feet independently.
How to Strengthen Ankles for Pointe
Knowing how to strengthen ankles for pointe work is a must. These pre-pointe ankle exercises help to build the strength, stability and control in the ankles that are so crucial to pointe work.
Sit tall on the floor with legs and feet stretched out in front of you. Place a resistance band around the ball of one foot and hold the other ends with your hands. Without flexing the toes, flex the ankle of that foot upwards and hold.
Next, work against the resistance band to flex the ankle downwards.
Repeat 10 times on one foot then swap the band to the other foot and repeat. Pay special attention to make sure your toes remain elongated and not ‘crunched’.
If you need more of a challenge, you can also wrap the resistance band around both feet (ankles slightly apart) stretched out in front of you and hold the other ends with your hands. From this position, slowly wing one foot out sideways then return to upright position. Repeat on the other side.
Dancing en pointe is a huge moment in any ballet dancer’s journey, and these pre-pointe and beginners exercises will help ensure your feet are strengthened and conditioned for pointe work. If you’re wondering when you’re ready to begin pointe work, check out our article ‘When Will I Be Ready To Dance En Pointe?’.
Michelle Dursun is a writer for the Class Section of Dance Australia magazine and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Dance) and a Graduate Diploma (Education) with the Queensland University of Technology.
Dancer featured is Bloch Artiste 2017, Mimi Swinton-Beatty. (Full-time student at Alegria Dance Studio)