What are pre-pointe classes?

Ballet Teacher and Young Student
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Question: What are pre-pointe classes in ballet? Do I need them?

Answer: Most young ballerinas dream of dancing en pointe for years before they tie their very first pair of pointe shoes. Good ballet instructors insist on proper readiness before making the decision to allow a dancer to progress to pointe. Many factors are involved in pointe readiness, including strength of the legs, feet and ankles.

Pre-pointe classes are often offered to ballet students who are not yet on pointe to further develop and strengthen the muscles necessary to go en pointe. Pre-pointe classes stress correct alignment and correct classical ballet technique. Pre-pointe classes also allow teachers to assess readiness, offering an atmosphere for proper evaluation of important skills. If you are thinking about beginning a pre-pointe ballet class, you may be wondering what the class will be like.

Pre-Pointe Class Basics

A typical pre-pointe class usually consists of girls between the ages of 10 and 12 and tends to last about 45 minutes. The girls chosen to attend the class are expected to be placed en pointe sometime during the following year. In an effort to teach the dancers proper technique for releve, some instructors start by teaching the difference between quarter, half, three-quarter and full pointe. Several strengthening exercises are performed at the barre including releves and echappes.

The teacher has the opportunity to watch for technical problems that can be corrected before dancers are placed in pointe shoes.

Pre-Pointe Stretching and Strengthening

Many pre-pointe classes incorporate specific exercises performed with the use of a Thera-Band. Using the Thera-Band for resistance, dancers are instructed to pointe and flex their feet in parallel.

The teacher might also lead the class in specific exercises that help improve turnout, which is also very important for pointe. Flexibility exercises might include drumming the toes. Drumming involves lifting the toes off the floor and lowering them one at a time. Abdominal work may also be included in the curriculum, as core strength helps tremendously in pulling up while dancing in pointe shoes.

Pointe Readiness

Before a dancer is placed in pointe shoes, ballet instructors use certain exercises to evaluate pointe readiness. The following exercises might be part of the evaluation:

  1. Core strength: Dancers are asked to plie and grand plie in center. Teachers watch for strength through the abdominals, ankles and feet, and make sure ribs are over the hips.
  2. Rotation: Dancers may be led through a slow tendu combination. Teachers will watch to see if dancers can sustain turnout from the hips without compensating.
  3. Alignment: Teachers may check the ability of dancers to maintain proper placement by leading releve exercises in first position.
  4. Balance: Dancers might be asked to sous-sous and degage the back leg side, so it closes in front. The might be asked to continue walking forward on demi-pointe, crossing from fifth to fifth. Teachers evaluate strength and placement through the core and legs.

    Preparing for Pre-Pointe Class

    You will most likely be asked to wear soft ballet slippers during a pre-pointe class. For fun, some instructors allow pre-pointe dancers to sew ribbons onto their slippers to make them look and feel more like pointe shoes. Regular ballet attire will probably be requested, as well as neat and tidy hair.

    After a few weeks, be prepared for your instructor to begin evaluations during class. Certain milestones and checkpoints must be met in order to be promoted to an actual pointe class. To help prepare for evaluations, you may want to try a few strengthening exercises at home. One such exercise is called doming: sit on the floor with feet flat on the ground. Lift the metatarsal knuckles and slide the toes towards the heel, creating a "dome" with your foot. Try not to curl or hammer your toes - concentrate on keeping them long and flat.

    Source:

    Diana, Julie. Pre-Pointe Class, Dance Teacher, July 2013.