Pointe Shoe Drill and Fondu Footwork
by David Arce
It’s awe-inspiring how quickly professional dancers can get into and out of pointe shoes. When I started teaching, I noticed that my students took a long time to put on their shoes—minutes that cut into valuable class or rehearsal time. So I created the “Two-Minute Drill.”
Students start barefoot, with pointe shoes, toe spacers, and toe pads ready (plus any needed aids for blisters, corns, or bruised nails). I start a timer for two minutes. Before the time is up, they must put on both shoes and stand turned out in first position for inspection, so I can see that the ribbons are properly tucked away. Students who fail to do this in time must do 25 push-ups; then the whole class has to repeat the process. After a couple of days of this drill, you’ll see how quickly students can get their shoes on when they’re motivated—a skill those who hope to dance professionally will need for their entire careers.
In fondu combinations at the barre that begin in fifth position—for example, en croix, battement fondu développé to 45 degrees, place toe on the floor in tendu, close in fifth—place extra emphasis on the footwork in moving from fifth to coupé in plié. This is a great opportunity to strengthen the feet. Ask students to visualize the toes of the working foot as an ice cream scoop. Then, instead of simply picking up the foot and placing it in coupé, they should imagine scooping ice cream from several inches below the floor. Not only does using this image guarantee that the feet will be completely pointed when they arrive in coupé, it also improves the strength and dexterity of the toes and the muscles in the soles of the feet.
David Arce is artistic director of Juline Regional Youth Ballet and a teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California. He trained at Ballet Yuma and San Francisco Ballet School and danced 12 seasons with SF Ballet.