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Pre pointe for adults: what to expect and how to excel

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Embarking on the journey to dance en pointe is a dream for many adult ballet dancers, whether they’ve returned to ballet after a long hiatus or are starting fresh. A pre-pointe class is the preparatory stage that builds the foundation for this ambitious endeavor. However, it's not solely for those aiming to dance en pointe. Many dancers participate in pre-pointe classes to enhance their demi-pointe work and overall ballet technique. Let’s dive into what a pre-pointe class for adults entails, its purpose, and the journey from pre-pointe to dancing en pointe.


The purpose of pre pointe classes

Pre-pointe classes serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they prepare dancers physically and mentally to go en pointe. This includes strengthening the muscles in the feet, toes, legs, and core, and improving ballet technique to ensure safety and prevent injury.

Secondly, these classes offer an opportunity for adults who may not wish to dance en pointe but want to refine their demi-pointe work and enhance their ballet skills. It's a space where adult dancers can explore their capabilities and set personal goals, regardless of whether they include pointe work.

In a pre-pointe class, you will focus on:

Strengthening and conditioning

Develop strength in the muscles of your feet, ankles, legs, and core. Expect exercises such as releves, rises, theraband exercises, and foot articulation drills to develop the necessary strength and control required for dancing en pointe. Conditioning exercises targeting stability and balance are also common to help prevent injuries and enhance overall technique.

Foot and ankle mobility

Improve mobility and flexibility in your feet and ankles. Expect exercises like foot flexes, ankle circles, and theraband stretches to improve your range of motion and help prepare your feet for the challenges of dancing on pointe.

Technique refinement

Work on alignment, turnout, posture, and proper weight placement to ensure a solid foundation for dancing en pointe.

What to expect in a pre pointe for adults

Pre-pointe classes for adults are structured to gradually build the strength and technique needed either to progress to pointe work or to excel in ballet.

Here’s what typically takes place in these classes:


Theraband work

A theraband is an elastic band used for resistance training and rehabilitation. They are typically made from latex or synthetic rubber and come in various resistance levels and shapes (flat bands, loops, tubes, etc.).  Theraband exercises will strengthen your feet, toes, and leg muscles, as well as improving turnout and helping you achieve correct alignment of the feet.  Strengthenig the toes through theraband work is particularly useful as it is the strength in your toes, particularly your big toes, that will enable you to rise or releve to get en pointe.


Core and turnout muscle strengthening

A strong core and turnout muscles are essential for dancing in pointe shoes.  For this reasons, a portion of the pre-ointe class is dedicated to strengthening the abdominals and turnout muscle.  The muscles that support turnout are six deep rotator muscles surrounding the hip joint, including the piriformis, superior gemellus, inferior genellus, obturator internus, obturator externus and quadratus femoris.  The exercises will include those with and without a theraband.


Demi pointe at the barre and in the centre

Practicing demi-pointe work is a core component of pre-pointe classes. Demi pointe closely replicates the demands your body will encounter when dancing en pointe.  This is called ‘specificity training’, and helps you to develop the specific muscles, movements, and energy systems relevant to dancing en pointe


The demi pointe section of pre-point class will include demi pointe at the barre and in centre to help you build strength and improve balance.  Demi pointe work also enhances foot articulation and prepares the feet and legs for the demands of dancing en pointe.


The journey from pre pointe to pointe

Transitioning from pre-pointe to pointe is a structured process that ensures a dancer is physically ready for the challenges of pointe work. Here’s a typical journey:


1. Pre pointe classes

Dancers start with pre-pointe classes to build the necessary strength and technique.

2. Demi pointe shoes

Demi pointe shoes are entirely optional and not a necessary part of the journey to pointe. Demi pointe shoes look a lot like pointe shoes. They are satin, with ribbons, and have a hard box, but the shank is not as hard as in pointe shoes, which makes them easier to work in and helps you transition into pointe shoes.

Dancers may start to wear demi pointe shoes in their regular ballet class, at least at the barre. If you do choose to wear demi pointe shoes, you should be aware that at first, you will find your regular ballet class to be more difficult, but you may choose to wear them just some of the time and still get benefits. As with pointe shoes, you need to go to a dance wear supplier who is a qualified pointe and demi pointe shoe fitter to buy your demi pointe shoes. Do not purchase them online.

The benefits of demi pointe shoes include:

  • improvement in strength in feet, ankles, and even toes

  • better articulation of the feet

  • great stability

  • increased arch strength

  • better foot placement

  • easier transition into pointe shoes

  • better prepartion for jumping and landing when you progress to pointe shoes


The downsisde of demi pointe shoes are:

  • it is another expense (although you can still continue to wear them in your regular class after you graduate to a pointe class)

  • as mentioned, initially you will find your regular class to be more difficult, but then, that is the case for any progression to more advanced ballet.

3. Pointe readiness assessment

Teachers assess each dancer’s strength, alignment, and technique to determine readiness for pointe work.


4. Fitting for pointe shoes

Once cleared, the next step is getting fitted for the right pointe shoes. This is crucial for support and safety en pointe. Whatever you do, do not buy a pair of pointe shoes online. Your feet are unique (even each foot is probably different), and the shoe that will suit you will depend on your foot length and width, arch, toe length, and other key elements related to anatomy.  Having the right shoe will make a significant difference in your success. 

In addition to the shoe itself, the accessories you’ll need will depend on your feet.  Most dancers need toe pads, some may need toe separators, specially designed toe pads, lambs wool, and more.  Some dancers may prefer traditional ribbons, while others may prefer elasticised ribbons.  Your pointe shoe fitter can make recommendations on what is best for your feet and ability.


5. Initial classes in pointe shoes

Dancers begin with exercises in pointe shoes without bearing weight to get accustomed to the feel and constraints of the shoes.  These exercises are performed at the barre, and help with foot strength, articulation, shape, and more.  When you initially get your pointe shoes, you may only spend 10-15 minutes of the class in pointe shoes, and then change back to your soft ballet shoes for the rest of the class.  As you progress, you’ll gradually spend more of the class in pointe shoes.

6. Progressing to weight bearing

As you progress, you’ll start to do simple weight bearing exercises at the barre, such as rises and relevé, and will progress to things like pas de bourree and pose.  By ‘weight bearing’ I mean going up to full pointe. 


In this phase, you may do non-weight bearing (or non pointe) exercises in the centre.  This will help you get used to dancing in pointe shoes, which are less flexible and have a hard shank that makes balancing and foot articulation more challenging.


As you grow in strength and confidence, you’ll gradually move to weight bearing work in the centre.

Tips to progress

Progressing in pre-pointe and onto pointe work requires consistent effort. Here are some tips.


1. Consistency

Pre pointe and pointe are not classes that you should attend casually. If you want to progress to pointe, you need to make sure you get to your pre-pointe class as often as you can, ideally at least weekly. If you have the option to do pre-pointe more than once a week, that will help you progress more quickly.

2. Practice between classes

Regular practice strengthens the muscles and improves technique. First and foremost, as mentioned above, attend pre-pointe and pointe classes regularly.  Second, make sure you do some home practice.  You can do theraband exercises while sitting on the couch watching television.  You can practice demi point work like rises and relevé while waiting for the kettle to boil or in line at the supermarket.  But even better is when you set aside a short amount of time, say half an hour, a few times a week to practice your pre-pointe work.

3. Focus on core strength

A strong core is the foundation of all ballet movements. Incorporate core-strengthening exercises into your routine, such as planks, boat pose, fit ball situps, weighted dead bugs, pilates hundred, and more.

4. Be patient and consistent

Progressing to pointe work is a slow process that requires patience and perseverance. It is a privilege to dance en pointe, and something that must be earnt and can’t be just granted to anyone.  Pointe can be dangerous if you are inexperienced and lack strength and control. 



Pre-pointe classes for adults are more than just a stepping stone to pointe work; they are an opportunity to deepen one’s ballet practice, regardless of the final goal. With dedication, patience, and the right guidance, adult ballet dancers can explore their potential and enjoy the journey, wherever it may lead.



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