Beginning Pointe- What to Expect


 Beginning Pointe- What to Expect

If you're new to the world of dance, pointe work is a tough and rewarding discipline. It deserves respect. And you deserve a clear-eyed understanding of what's in store for you if your child, niece, nephew, or some other dear little dancer wants to take this plunge.

Pointe work is like a complex math problem for your dancer. Lots of complex substructures pulling in lots of directions at once: flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, and the list goes on. Pointe work is hard for kids to master and it can be discouraging.

That's why I always remind my dancers that they are the only ones who can control their behavior on pointe. If they don't know how to behave up there on their toes, they'll never succeed. And once they learn how to behave up there, success comes from focusing on their development as a dancer without being distracted by what other people think.

I have great news for you, the parent of a beginning dancer. If your child is committed to pointe work, he or she will learn how to do it correctly and with good form. It just takes time and repetition. But no matter what happens in the studio, I can promise you that you'll get through it together as a family. That's why I created this article: to give you some tools and advice to be successful with pointe work.

Know what to expect from pointe work before you start

When students are ready for pointe work - when they're really ready - I always introduce them to three important concepts: instep height, toe position, and good upright posture on releve.

Instep height refers to the distance between the ball of your dancer's foot and the bottom of their pointe shoe. When you hold their foot up in front of you, you'll see that the instep is high, with no line over their toes. This is a small toe box that will allow them to get a great fullness on pointe and a strong arabesque for class or recital. In my studio, we spend time working on this concept at the beginning of each studio session. It's really important because it sets an ideal position for them to get into when they're on pointe for both classes and shows later on.

Toe position refers to the position of the big toe in relation to the rest of your daughter's foot. If her big toe is forward, it will make it difficult to achieve a lot of balance and a lot of pointe. I want my dancers' big toes centered behind their second toe and first metatarsal bone. For this reason, I like my students to start on an inside-jointed pointe shoe because it gives them more flexibility in this area. As dancers progress, they can be fitted into an outside-jointed shoe which will help them get into the proper position more easily.

Posture on releve is your dancer's ability to stand tall with good upright posture while balanced on her toes. To achieve this, she must keep her core tight and her legs together. When she's done correctly, you'll see that her back is in a straight line from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes.

Once your dancer understands these three concepts - instep height, toe position, and posture - then we move on to positions.

Substructure, anatomy, and the position of your dancer's body

Your dancer should begin her pointe career at the inside of her feet because we want to develop a foundation of strength that will translate to more advanced positions later on. We also want to make sure she's safely protected on pointe so she can have fun and progress at her own pace.

The inside-jointed shoe helps us achieve both these goals. The inside toe box is small enough for instep height, but big enough for good toe position. I always recommend my dancers start in an inside-jointed shoe because there are fewer restrictions on instep height and toe position in comparison to an outside-jointed shoe.

With this inside-jointed shoe, she'll be able to move her toes independently from her foot. The strength of her toes will increase, and she'll have a better range of motion on pointe. It's a good way to get your dancer ready for the transition from the inside of her feet to the outside in a later stage.

We can achieve stable balance on pointe with either an inside or an outside-jointed shoe. I recommend using an outside-jointed shoe for my beginning students because it allows them to do more difficult work on pointe before they master instep height and toe position in an inside-jointed shoe.

If your dancer has strong feet, then she can be fitted with an outside-jointed shoe much earlier. If her feet are not yet strong enough for an outside-jointed shoe, then we'll hold off on that type of shoe until her feet have developed more. It's best for her not to learn improper habits with an outside-jointed shoe and have to break them later when releve work is more difficult.

To make the most of your dancer's body on pointe, we want to develop a leg line that is closer to the front edge of the shoe. This will allow her to get a great toe point while taking the weight off of the back of her feet. At the beginning, it's good to show your dancer that she can get a beautiful line without lifting up on her toes. We'll achieve this by working on shoulder articulation and using her body in ways that take pressure and weight off of her abdomen.

How to locate your dancer's plumb line

One way to teach your dancer about good posture on releve is by locating her plumb line - a vertical line from head to toe. I like to start this process early because it gives me an indication of where my student is at with regard to achieving strength in her ankles, knees, and hips.


Your dancer's journey on pointe will be an exciting one, but it's not something that you should rush into. You want to make sure she has the time to develop and practice the three concepts I discussed. The best way to do this is to take some time at the beginning of her pointe career and get your dancer ready for success. We can't afford to let our child progress beyond her skill level because it could jeopardize her safety for years to come.

The most important goal during the beginning stages of pointe work is to build a solid foundation of strength in your daughter's feet so she can keep working toward more difficult work later on.

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