Determine Their Intermediate Pointe Readiness

Determine Intermediate Pointe Readiness

When teaching beginning pointe, or when teaching any form of dance, you’ll observe early on that every student will progress at a different pace. Some will catch on quickly, practice strengthening exercises at home, seek more information or opportunities to expand their knowledge. These will, therefore, jump ahead of their classmates in physical and technical skill. Others may require more assessment to determine their readiness to move upward into intermediate pointe.

Pointe 2: More About Pointe has a list of intermediate pointe readiness skills. These can help you, the pointe teacher, take an overall view of the progress your students have made in their first year. Review these basic pointe exercises and steps to help you make this important decision.

I. Basic Pointe Movements

*Starred items are essential, and need to be well learned before the students join the Intermediate Pointe class.

*1. Exercise for Weight Placement: Student can sit on a chair without shoes, showing straight strong toes and firm metatarsal joints; showing how the feet should be in the pointe shoes. Weight bearing toes must not extend or curl, whether in this exercise, or in the pointe shoes.
*2. Exercise for Weight Placement: Student stands, facing the barre. See notes above, but use only one foot at a time. Put pointe shoes on, then repeat this exercise.
*3. Step Up & Roll Down: Feet parallel.
*4. Rises (elevés) on two feet: In parallel, 1st, small 2nd, 2nd, open 5th.
*5. Relevés on two feet: In parallel, 1st, small 2nd, 2nd, open 5th, 5th.
*6. Demi Detourné: Relevé to 5th, half turn, pivoting between the feet to face the other way, (feet stay in place), demi plié.
*7. Duck Feet: In 1st, and 5th. This strengthens the ankle action needed for bourrées and other small fast footwork.
*8. Walking on Pointe: In parallel, and in 5th. Sometimes called emboité.
*9. Bourrées: In place, en avant, en tournant (bourrée couru).
*10. Echappé Relevé: To a small 2nd, and to 2nd, and with an extra Plié Relevé in 2nd (Echappé in four counts).

II. Ready for Intermediate Pointe?

The Intermediate Pointe student must be able to use all three methods of getting up on pointe, with correct placement, and technical accuracy:

A. Relevé, (on two feet).
B. Posé, from a Fondu on one leg, reaching forward or side, keeping extended knee straight, step up on extended leg, close to 5th on pointe.
C. Coupé, (step up into 5th from a fondu).

To be ready for Intermediate Pointe, the student should be able to show all of the beginning steps with correct placement, technical excellence to their ability, and sufficient strength and confidence. Students should be able to quickly learn and perform an enchainement composed of two, three, or four of the basic pointe steps listed on the preceding page. Sloppy work in any of the beginning steps indicates that the student is not ready for intermediate pointe steps.

Exercises for Intermediate level can be a little longer than for beginning pointe. Fewer barre exercises will leave more energy for center work. Just be sure they are well warmed up.

III. Symptoms of Not Being Ready

A student is not ready if she is not advanced enough in the basics of ballet technique. If the basic technique is not clearly established, you will know by observing the following items at the barre:

  • Students are missing the correct use of demi plié in sautés and other center steps; and the correct use of muscles during the demi pliés and fondus at the barre.
  • If they do not have a full understanding of how the feet are supposed to work in a battement tendu, which is a technique basic to all ballet, it will show in their pointe work.
  • They do not use the metatarsal joint in performing the battement tendu.
  • They can’t hold their toes straight when pointing, in tendus or sautés, even without ballet shoes.
  • They can’t find their correct weight placement en pointe.
  • They do not know where the arabesque leg should be, or which muscle areas should be holding it there.
  • They cannot perform all three directions of the basic center steps such as balancé, glissade, assemblé, pas de bourrée, etc.
  • They cannot count music.

When in doubt, keep the students at their current level for one more year. You may encounter students (and parents) who do not understand your pacing, but if they are not ready, putting them in a level they aren’t prepared for will be more detrimental to their progress in the long run. Explain your thinking to the students who are moving up and those who aren’t. It may even be a good idea to have the expectations written out and have the students “audition” or have a specific graded exam class that determines whether or not they move up. Use whatever method works best for you and your dance school’s needs.

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Work Cited: “Pointe 2: More About Pointe” by Ruth Brinkerhoff, © The Ballet Source, 2016.

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