What is pointe dance?
Pointe is a part of the classical ballet technique where dancers perform in special shoes called pointe shoes. These specific shoes look like a ballet slipper but have stiff structural elements (a hard sole called a shank to support the arch & a hard rounded toe called the box to encase and support the toes and allows them to balance on the flat platform tip) these features in the shoes allow the dancer to be all the way on the tips on their toes. The dancers full weight can be balanced on the fully extended foot. The same classical ballet technique is applied to pointe dancers but they face the challenge of doing the work on the tips of their toes... on pointe!
Is Pointe dance just for females?
Pointe is a challenging but beautiful technique. It was designed for dancers to appear graceful and weightless. In traditional classical ballet, women perform on pointe and men are in flat soft shoes. For example, in a classical ballet production such as Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, it is the females who are on pointe. But both men and women can do pointe! Many more men are taking pointe! Even if a male choses not to perform on pointe, it can help strengthen his feet.
When can dancers start pointe?
As you can imagine, dancing in pointe shoes is no easy task. Dancers are required to be proficient in ballet technique and have strong feet, ankles, arches, calves, and core muscle. Without these strengths and abilities, a dancer will not be able to dance on pointe, and can be seriously injured.
Additionally, dancers should not start pointe at too young of an age. In adolescence, children's bones in the feet are still growing and not fully developed. Attempting pointe dance without proper strength and before bones are developed can cause permanent damage to the growing bones. Of course there is individual variation as to when a child's bones are fully developed. But the age of 11 to 13 is usually the appropriate time to start preparing and going onto pointe. Pointework is a gradual learning and training process with supervision from a knowledgeable instructor.
Preparing for pointe:
Dancers who want to dance on pointe should continue to take regular ballet class and strengthen their knowledge and skill of classical ballet. Additionally they should take a "pre-pointe class". This is a class specific to strengthening the feet, alignment, and posture to be ready to graduate into pointe shoes. It works on specific muscles that will help the dancer rise onto full pointe and lower easily.
Dancers at Mary Lorraine's Dance Center are required to take a pre-pointe class (as you would and should be required to at any good dance school). This class is not available until age 11 and is a pre-requisite for pointe. At the end of the pre-pointe year, dancers will be evaluated to see if their strength and ankle alignment is ready for pointe shoes. Not all dancers will be ready for pointe shoes. Everyone develops differently and has different abilities. The decision is always made in the interest of the dancer's well being. As stated above, a dancer who does not have enough strength or has poor alignment will lead to them struggling, a twisted ankle, or even worse. We want dancers to excel and love pointe! But we are committed to them doing it properly.
Mary Lorraine's Dance Center offers a variety of ballet classes at different days and times.
Pre-pointe is offered once a week to dancers who are proficient in ballet and are at least 11 years of age.
Pre-pointe class starts every fall and runs through spring. The class performs a dance in the spring recital.
Dancers are evaluated in May to start in pointe shoes during the summer.