There is probably nothing that distinguishes classical ballet more than the pointe shoe. It is a characteristic element that everyone recognizes. While everyone may recognize a pointe shoe for what it is they may not know that there are different techniques for getting on pointe.
The two basic techniques are:
- the “spring” – a very small jump where the toe comes to the place where the arch used to be when the whole foot was on the floor
- the “roll up” – lifting the heel until the weight is on the ball of the foot and then “rolling” to pointe from there.
Conversely, you can come down from pointe using either of the two techniques as well. The “spring” method, originating from the Italian School, circa 1870, is quick, strong, secure and allows for the confident execution of the most difficult steps in the repertory of classical ballet. The “rolling up” method, originating from the French School, circa 1840, is more subtle and smooth but is weaker and provides greater odds of slipping while attempting advanced steps. This method is the original technique as the pointe shoe was invented during the romantic period of ballet and the steps of pointe work were very simple.
I teach the “spring” method as this is the best technique to produce strong and consistent results. The students develop confidence quickly as they learn speed and attack with their pointe work. I also teach the “rolling up and down” method, but sparingly. This technique is useful when performing repertory from the romantic era.