• Su Crossland

Feature Friday - Pointe Class (from 02/10/2020)

Welcome to our first Feature Friday!

This is where we will feature one aspect of our MESH community in more detail. This week we will be looking at our newest class – Pointe Class

Pointe work is what a lot of young ballet dancers aspire to – to be able to dance up on the toes like Angelina Ballerina or Darcy Bussell. However, it is not as easy as some people think and takes a lot of training and practice to get there. It also takes the right shoes to enable someone to dance en pointe safely and comfortably – despite what you see on TikTok, plastic cups in socks are not an acceptable alternative!

Up until the 17th century ballet was a male dominated art, and it wasn’t until the 1680s that women began to dance ballet. Initially they would dance in long skirts and heeled shoes, but as their technical ability increased dancers began to wear flat shoes, enabling them to perform leaps and turns more easily. In the 19th century Marie Taglioni danced La Sylphide en pointe in shoes with leather soles and darned sides and toes to help support her feet. People were so amazed by her perceived weightlessness that she became an icon of her time. A pair of her shoes were even bought by her admirers for 200 rubles and were cooked and eaten! It is unknown whether the shoes were very tasty, but they were most definitely not very comfortable and the dancers required an enormous amount of strength in their feet and ankles to support themselves.

In the early 20th century the modern pointe shoe come to be when Anna Pavlova flattened and hardened the box of her shoes and inserted a toughened leather sole for more support. This is what has now developed into todays pointe shoes. To see a modern, hand-made pointe shoe being made follow this link:

Most believe believe pointe work is only for female dancers, however; there are are many male dancers that can, and do, dance en pointe. Sometimes it may be for a specific role (such as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream) and sometimes it may be an entire company (such as the all-male comic company Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo)

Not every ballet student will make it onto pointe. Here at MESH Ballet the health and safety of our students comes before any desire to push a student en pointe too early. To ensure that students’ feet are not damaged by pointe work we have a rigorous 4 stage testing and training programme which we will only begin once a student is attending a minimum of two dance classes a week and their foot growth has slowed or stopped. Once the testing and training has started the onus is on the student to complete the exercises given to ensure their feet and ankles are strong enough for the demands of pointe work. They will be invited to attend Pointe Class, although will be completing the exercises en demi-pointe.

Once a student has passed the testing stages they will be invited to attend a pointe shoe fitting with a reputable shoe fitter. There are many makes and styles of pointe shoe and each dancer requires a different shoe to suit their foot; this is why professional fitting is so important. Follow this link to see how professional dancers will not only have a preferred type of shoe, but also have a specific shoe maker to make it for them:

Once a student has found their shoe they will be up en pointe and dancing in no time. Especially with the introduction of our new Pointe Class. This class is specifically for new and improving pointe students, and focuses on strengthening and confidence building to enable the dancer to be able to perform with grace and beauty en pointe.

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