Going en pointe


The classic caricature of the ballet dancer is a delicate-looking girl moving gracefully on the tips of her toes. But the strength and technique it takes to dance en pointe, the formal term for it in ballet, is far from

delicate. Underneath those pretty satin shoes are gnarled, blistered feet from years of training for pointe work, a central element in ballet that takes tons of preparation from an age as young as ten. In this article, we’ll check out:

  • Preparing for Pointe
  • Pointe Shoes
  • Pain for Pointe: Common Injuries of Ballet Dancers

Preparing for Pointe

Going en pointe for a ballet dancer is like a rite of passage for a lot of dancers. Most young dancers go en pointe around the age of 11, depending on which ballet academy they attend. Going en pointe any younger than the age of 11 is dangerous because the bones in the feet are still developing and serious foot deformities can result. Going en pointe may only be taught under strict supervision of a teacher.

Because of the muscle training involved, dancers start pointe with…

…strengthening exercises at the barre in which they do repetitions of rising to point and going back to flat. Dancers ease their way into going pointe for longer periods of time over a course of anywhere from six months to a year before they are able to dance en pointe in the center.

Pointe Shoes

Also known as “toe shoes,” pointe shoes are an essential tool in allowing dancers to stay on the tips of their toes for longer amounts of time. Because almost every dancer requires a unique fit, dance shoes come in tons of shapes and sizes. However, they all share two basic structural features that allow dancers to go on the tips of their toes:

  1. The Box: a hard encasing within the toe end of the shoe that’s flat in the front to support the dancer’s toes.
  2. The Shank:
    a piece of rigid material that provides arch support.

Despite the varieties of shoes, many dancers still customize their shoes by breaking the shank in certain places and sewing on elastic bands and ribbons. Dancers are also recommended to use extra padding for their toes like lamb’s wool and use reinforcements between their toes for added comfort.

Pain for Pointe: Common Injuries of Ballet Dancers

Who knew ballet could be so badass? The goal of pointe work is to make a ballet dancer look weightless. The reality is that gravity exists. While a ballet dancer makes pointe look easy, it isn’t. Dancers can suffer from dozens of common injuries, not unlike any popular sport, such as bunions, Achilles tendonitis, bruises, Dancer’s Heel and heel spurs.


4 Responses to “Going en pointe”

  1. 3 tutu60
    February 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    There is so much hard work and pain involved in the “magic” of ballet. Loved the photo of the inside of a pointe shoe!

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