A pro dancer asked me this question yesterday: “Should I wear pointe shoes at the barre?”. That’s a brilliant question and not an easy one to answer.
The beauty of my job is that there is rarely a one-size-fits-all answer. This might throw you off as I reply “well, it depends, and here are the elements to take into account”. However this is your opportunity to become more autonomous in your decisions however! As you evolve through your career, you’ll need to make the right decisions for yourself to be successful.
Soft demi-pointes or pointe shoes at the barre?
When it comes to wearing pointe at the barre, my initial instinct is to say “no, don’t wear them from the beginning of class”. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about technique pointe work classes here, but a regular class. For technique pointe work, you do need to include exercises near the barre and center practice. Second note, I prefer the expression “near the barre”, rather than “at the barre”. Near the barre makes it clear to dancers that it’s only here in case you need it.
Now, why do I not like the idea of wearing pointes shoes near the barre? The reason is that you want to fully optimise your foot work from the first exercises near the barre. It is one of the purpose of these first exercises. They help you focus on articulating your foot through flex to pointe, brushing them on the floor for future balance and jumps and allowing your foot to find optimal positioning. Wearing pointe shoes will constrain this movement and rip you off the benefits of the barre work. You might as well skip it…
That said, I can think of one or two scenarios where wearing pointe shoes through the barre could be a good idea. Core de ballet is all about sharing with you the information you need to make the best informed decision for you today (tomorrow is another day!).
Assess your use of the floor when you wear pointe shoes at the barre
Working near the barre is a good time to assess your use of the floor, what some teachers call “waking up the feet”, “warming up the feet”, “feeling the floor”.
Brushing your feet through the floor serves multiple purposes. Among other things, you’re getting a lot of information about the floor you’re working on through your feet. Second, brushing the floor participates in fine tuning foot positioning before balance and jumps. Additionally, another purpose is enhancing foot mobility to stabilise your balance and control your jumps take-off and landings.
It is not just fancy to please the teacher.
Feel the floor and your toes through your pointe shoes
In the first exercises near the barre, with the thicker sole and rigid box of the pointe shoes, it will be very difficult for you to feel the floor and your toes articulating. Evidently, these movements are essential to fine tune your balance and jumps later on in class and rehearsal. So, you are not only
You will miss a large part of the benefits of the pliés and tendus exercises if you start with pointe shoes on. For a great class focusing on the use of the floor, I recommend the Female company class by Jean-Guillaume Bart on our streaming training platform.
Agile toes is the key to full pointe work
Maybe the most underrated element of strong pointe technique is toe agility. Long and agile (or call it strong) toes are essential to lift you up to full pointe and keep you there. Did you read our article “The day I pointed my feet for the first time”?
Too many dancers work with curled toes in an attempt to make their arches “pop up”. Unfortunately, this habit prevents them from finding balance on pointe and power in jumps.Therefore, you might prefer to work without pointe shoes at the barre and focus on long and agile demi-pointe to pointe movements.
Your foot is your balance, especially in your pointe shoes
We often think that we balance on our feet. Actually, the foot is very involved in creating this balance. Have you ever looked at how complex the foot structure is?
There are so many tiny bones, ligaments and tendons to allow the foot positioning to create tiny movements to keep you up. In pointe shoes, if your feet are not strong enough to control the shoe, these tiny movements happen at the ankle, knee, hip or back (or you fall down…).
Therefore, at the beginning of the day, give your feet time to perform as intended in your pointe shoes.
Know yourself to identify when wearing pointe shoes at the barre is ideal!
Now make your own informed decision. There is no one-size-fits-all advice. Maybe it is better for you to start the barre on pointe, maybe you want to wear them for fondus, or for center practice, or for pirouette in the center. Obviously, everyday might also be different.
In conclusion, the most important is that you take into account that your ballet technique needs you
- to brush and caress the floor,
- to build dynamic and powerful feet,
- to enjoy long and agile toes,
- and to include your feet positioning in your balance.
Are you looking for pointe work online training resources?
If you are looking for pointe technique classes, head over to our streaming training platform. You can also find there barre classes, full classical ballet classes, pas de deux training, and so much more.
I hope this helps! Comment below to let me know if you wear your pointe shoes at the barre, if this article answered your question; and what else you would like to learn.