Magazine article Pointe

First Steps

Magazine article Pointe

First Steps

Article excerpt

For the dancer just starting with pointe work, echappes are a great beginning.

Throughout my entire career as a teacher, parents and students have asked me about the right time for a child to go on pointe and what they should do to get strong and not hurt themselves. Young bones are soft and pliable and the development and muscular strength of each child depends on the individual.

To be ready for pointe, a student must have mastered the correct placement of the torso, learned to turn out the legs and developed sufficiently strong feet and insteps. The dancer should be able to do battements tendu until the foot can go along the floor and extend into a lovely curve from the top of the foot and show an arch under the foot. Pointe work can help develop a better arch. Releves in first, second and fifth positions, with two hands on the barre, are an excellent introduction to developing an articulate instep.

From the first tendu to the first releve to the first echappe, it is necessary to pay special attention to the coordination of the feet and legs. I, personally, did not go on pointe until I was 12 years old. My teacher, Heino Heiden (who now directs the Children's Dance Theater in LObeck, Germany), was very careful about correct placement of the body and legs and the power that comes from turnout. He stressed that the strength in the foot should hold your body weight without any forcing. When I first went on pointe, he only let me do releves and then echappes holding onto the barre with two hands. I literally did hundreds of echappes. I did this for two months every day until he finally let me go to the center of the room. I then did more echappes to second and fourth. Echappes not only make the foot strong but also develop the muscles in the leg and foot.

I had very arched feet and hyperextended legs, and I am sure that if they had put me on pointe immediately without careful preparation, I would have ended up with weak foot muscles. …

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