Progressing to pointe is the highlight of every young ballerina’s dancing career. Dancing en pointe requires a great degree of strength, proprioception and balance – without these vital elements dancers are placed at a significant risk of injury to their ankle or foot. Prior to beginning pointe you must have the permission of your ballet dance teacher and should only practice on a suitable studio surface under the supervision of experienced ballet instructors. Listed below are a great set of beginner ankle and foot exercises that you can use assist in building the appropriate strength and preventing injury.
To begin, start the exercises at the barre on two feet to grasp a good technique and confidence before progressing to work on one leg or in the centre of the
- With pointe shows on, face the barre with feet in a parallel first position and hands resting gently on the barre
- Slowly and with control, rise with two feet to demi-pointe, moving through 3/4 pointe and onto full pointe. Take note of the full articulation of the forefoot as you rise.
- Hold for 3 seconds, then with the same control, slowly lower yourself down from full pointe to 3/4 pointe to demi pointe and then to parallel first position.
- Repeat this 10 times
The execution of good articulation of the forefoot helps build strength whilst ensuring a smooth transition between positions. These exercises also assists in building calf endurance
When on pointe the base of support is only as large as the tip of the pointe shoe. Therefore it is important to have good balance and proprioception (a sense of where your joints are in space). This exercise will help develop better balance, especially when transitioning to full point at speed.
- Without pointe shoes on, stand turned out on one foot with the other for in retiré. Stand in this position for one minute. To make this more difficult try with your eyes closed!
- You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by rising to relevé on the supporting leg and moving your arms through the five positions
- Ensure you repeat on both legs
The intrinsic muscles of your feet play an important role in supporting the bottom arch of your foot in pointe.
- Sitting on a chair bare foot, place a towel underneath the feet
- Then slide the toes back along the floor towards your heel to scrunch the towel underneath your toes
- Release and relax the toe muscles
- Repeat 10-12 times each foot
These exercises are vital to build the strength and stability of the ankles and require the use of a theraband.
- Sitting tall on the floor with feet and legs stretched out in front of you. Place the resistance band around the ball of one foot. Hold the other end with both your hands tightly.
- Working against the resistance flex the ankle downwards.
- Repeat 10 times on each foot. Ensure your toes remain elongated and are not ‘crunched’
Written by Ashleigh Mills, Physiotherapist