Once a dancer has completed pre-pointe training, there is a transitional class needed before full pointe training can begin. This is an introduction (or orientation) to pointe work. I find a good many teachers skip this. Either they are unaware of its benefits or they really want to get on with pointe work. However, taking the time to properly orientate your students to pointe can help navigate past problems that might arise otherwise.
My pointe introduction class is a 14-week course. Typically students who move through my 14-week pre-pointe course are ready to get their first pair of pointe shoes and go into the introduction class. The two classes together would make for a full season of dance (basically).
Here is the brief breakdown of how I teach this class. Each class is 30 minutes in length and meets once a week.
Weeks One & Two
- Learn What Type of Pointe Shoe You Have (so important!)
- Sew Ribbons/Elastic
- Three Rules of Pointe Shoes
- ONE—Do not wear them outside of class.
- TWO—Do not let anyone touch them.
- THREE—Do not forget your shoes for class.
- BONUS RULE—Keep them safe. (Am I the only teacher who has had students whose dogs have chewed up their pointe shoes?!)
Weeks Three & Four
- Learn How to Tape/Pad Your Toes
- Learn How to Tie Your Ribbons/Cut & Burn Ribbons Accordingly
- Pointe Shoe Ribbon Tying Races! (It’s a game I do because I cannot abide it when students dilly dally about while putting on their pointe shoes.)
- Learn How to Care for Your Pointe Shoes.
- Walk Normally—Just to get familiar with how pointe shoes feel.
Weeks Five & Six
- Still Learning How to Tie Ribbons (it takes time).
- Practice Balancing Flat on Two Feet (in 1st Position, etc).
- Practice Balancing Flat on One Foot.
- Ball Tossing on One Foot—I have them stand on one foot and toss a ball back and forth to one another while trying to remain balanced. They are always shocked at how hard this is.
Weeks Seven & Eight
- Tendu (in centre)/Transfer of Weight through 2nd and 4th.
- Ballet Walks.
- Barre—Learn How to Stand on Pointe—They stand parallel and step up to pointe. I don’t have them roll down. The only goal is learning what it feels like to stand correctly on their toes.
Weeks Nine & Ten
- Repeat Tendu
- Ballet Runs
- Barre—Learn How to Roll Up to Pointe—I still don’t have them roll down yet. But we will do this one in 1st and 2nd position. I pay special attention to 2nd as many students need help knowing how far apart their legs should be.
Weeks Eleven & Twelve
- Barre Work—I do about 15 minutes of regular barre work (plié, tendu, etc), but do not include relevé in these exercises.
- Barre—Learn How to Roll Down
- Centre—A simple waltz
Weeks Thirteen & Fourteen
- Regular Barre Work
- Centre—Waltz and allegro
You might notice I don’t have these students actually go on their toes in the centre throughout these weeks. My goal here is to get them very familiarized with how their feet work in pointe shoes as opposed to getting them dancing on pointe. Some students do excel more quickly and are ready for a faster paced class, but these students are rare. When I do have a faster paced student, I will adjust some exercise just for them so they are working in an appropriately challenged way.
I have found that taking time for this introduction class gives wonderful results. The students learn how to work carefully, methodically, and respectfully in their shoes. When they move into beginning pointe, they are fully prepared physically and mentally to tackle the challenges.
DISCLAIMER: The program described in this article has been developed by Ms. Hartley over her years of experience teaching pointe. It is not a curriculum resource provided by The Ballet Source outside of the scope of this article. For more information on The Ballet Source‘s Pointe material, see Pointe 1: An Introduction to Pointe.