Technique For Pointe Work - Including For Men In Ballet
Posted Aug 24 2008 4:02pm
There are several famous male ballet dancers who have practiced classical ballet in pointe shoes. Some required it in their roles - for example, for the donkey Bottom in A Midsummers Night's Dream. Some choreographers have put on pointe shoes in order to empathize with their ballerinas. And many men in ballet want to take advantage of the opportunity to stretch their ankles and build strength.
I know many dance teachers would love to see some boys/men in ballet take pointe classes. Men in ballet actually can get exactly the right fit in pointe shoes, or let's say most can.
Why would men want to put on pointe shoes and do those cruel-looking exercises?
Some men in ballet might have the ambition of getting into Les Trocs (Les Ballets Trockaderos du Monte Carlo, all men, many ballerina roles). Pointe work is an absolute necessity.
The majority of men in ballet do not have the mobile ankles that typically females have. A high curve, or ANY curve on the top of the ankle and instep is a plus, to meet the ballet fashion.
Female dance students quickly learn how to use pointe shoes to stretch the top of the ankle and instep, if they need more flexibility in the ankles. In second position, rise onto pointe, and plie, allowing the weight to go over the platform of the pointe shoe. If the ankle is not flexible, the weight of the body, supported by the pointe shoe, gives it a fabulous stretch.
And to build strength, if ankle flexibility is sufficient, rise onto pointe, and plie but stay on the platform of the shoe. This requires restraining the ankle joint and holding it exactly where you want it. For ballerinas, this is a requirement for control in general, and a necessity for the repetitive tiny hops on pointe found in classical ballet choreography.
While there are perfectly good exercises to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet without using pointe shoes, basic exercises on pointe are excellent for strengthening the feet. I recommend strengthening the feet before going onto pointe, but keep it up once you have started pointe classes. A simple exercise like rising onto pointe, slowly pressing down to demi pointe (as opposed to dropping down) and then pressing back up onto full pointe, will build strength. Adding repetitions as you can, you will develop strength and control.
Getting back to men in ballet - you will need to learn all about foot and toe types, and all the tips and tricks of toe leveling, toe spacers, and toe padding. Avoid dancing in pain! You are surrounded by experts - all the girls you study with!
I think many boys and men in ballet need to hear it from their teachers - that this would be a good idea! Not for the lucky men with the hyper-mobile arches, necessarily. Even for them, however, it would introduce an understanding of what ballerinas need, to check out the delicate balance that men learn to support, as a partner.
If you are among the men in ballet and already learning technique for pointe work - good for you!
Go here for more information on excelling at pointe work and all the relevant technique details that you need.