Let’s get back to the basics in teaching pointe class
Having been teaching pointe for many years at beginner, intermediate, advanced and professional levels, I have observed a lack in the teaching and practicing of basic pointe work in technique classes. As we all know, muscle memory is the key to consistency in all areas of dance, particularly in pointe work.
There are basic ways of getting on and off of pointe, with some variations thereof. Repetition of these simple processes in all classes from beginner to advanced, with added degrees of technical difficulty over time are crucial to the technical progress of all students.
At the beginner level, it is imperative to carefully teach the basic up and downs of pointe work in order to decrease the likelihood of bad habits creeping in as the student progresses. Repetition at the beginning level is critical and necessary for the development of stronger center work.
I utilize these simple on and off pointe combinations as tools to incorporate into more difficult steps at all technical levels. With pointe work, repetition is key, along with achieving a feeling of balance on one and two legs. Attaining a sense of balance on pointe requires the legs, feet and torso (core) to understand the placement of the body on pointe.
Sometimes younger students push ahead, learning habits that are difficult to change as they progress. We all want our students to progress, however, some students are more prepared physically and technically than others, sometimes at the same level.
As teachers, we all must use our good judgment in helping students to understand that ballet is a technique that must be carefully taught by the teacher and executed by the student. This is why it is so important to establish correct basic pointe technique. Many students are reluctant to apply certain correct basic exercises because they require moving differently, forcing students out of their comfort zone. This is especially true when several teachers have taught them with different teaching methods. This is when trust and encouragement from the teacher is paramount. It takes diligence, perseverance and constant repetition of the basic pointe exercises until they become one with the mind and body.
Pointe barre work is the genesis of solid center work. A carefully planned barre including exercises leading to center combinations is advisable to teachers at every level.
Next article I will explain specific exercises to develop the on and off pointe work knowledge.
Associate Professor of Ballet
The University of Oklahoma
School of Dance