Basic Pointe “Tools” for Consistent and Reliable Pointe Technique
Elevé: A warm up exercise for the feet
Elevés are best done in first position, followed by a gradual progression to a small second, forth and then fifth position. Start with a slow four-count elevé on and off of pointe, being sure to articulate through each part of the foot. Follow with a two-count elevé and then a one-count elevé on and off pointe. Try to have students work through their ¾ pointe to warm and strengthen the foot. I always like to say think of your feet as a caterpillar with many segments going up and down from pointe.
Relevé: One of the main tools for getting on and off pointe
I prefer relevés to be executed with a light springing action on and off of pointe. Utilizing the plié effectively and placing the heels firmly on the ground permit the utilization of the entire foot for a strong movement to pointe. Return to the floor with a slightly lifted feeling, ending with a soft or quick plié depending on the step or tempo of the music. Practice relevés in each of the basic positions of the feet. Beginners should start by practicing relevés facing the barre, and in the second or third year, depending on their strength, should progress to one hand on the barre.
When performing piqués, utilize the entire standing foot by starting from a plié with the heel firmly on the floor. This gives you the power to catapult your hips up onto a straight leg on pointe. Many students roll down only to demi-pointe on the supporting foot, thus utilizing only a third of their pushing foot. This diminishes the power of the plié to project the hips up onto a straight leg on pointe. Start by performing simple piqués to sous-sus and then progress to piqués to passé and arabesque.
The tempo of the music or step determines whether you perform a chassé that goes deep into the floor or a quick sharp chassé preceding the step. Chassé with the entire foot firmly on the floor, making sure to take the top of the neck, the curve of the lower back, and the foot on the floor forward into the step. To achieve a consistent balance in the final position, it is important to first feel a sense of balance in the plié before springing onto pointe.
In conclusion, plié is one of the true secrets to consistent pointe work. Pliés can enhance a dancer’s musicality and/or the rhythm of the movement. Pliés will also, with practice and repetition, enhance the quality, timing, and consistency of your students’ pointe work. Review these “Tools” every class and you will see significant improvement in your students’ pointe work. You can try incorporating the tools and make the combinations more difficult as they become stronger.