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Pre-Pointe Exercises for Stronger Feet and Ankles

Going on pointe is a huge milestone in a ballerina’s journey—getting your first pair of pointe shoes means you’re one step closer to being a professional and dancing like principal dancers you look up to like Misty Copeland or Anna Pavlova. 

To be ready to dance en pointe, you need to have strong feet, ankles, and rotators. Maintaining consistent technique—turning out using the glutes and inner thighs, stretching through the entire leg, rolling through the feet—are important things teachers look for when evaluating dancers for pointe. Everybody’s journey is different and some dancers are ready before others, which is completely normal. Focus on yourself and your technical progress and you’ll be ready for pointe in no time.

To help you strengthen your feet and ankles, Miss Julia Mary shared some exercises she’s been doing with her Ballet 2 class in Manheim this year. Keep reading for step-by-step exercises and watch our recap video to see each step in real time. 

TheraBand Exercises

Hold your TheraBand with both hands on either end and put the ball of your foot in the middle. Pull the band towards you to add some resistance. Point through your ankle, as if you are on relevé. Then point through the ball of your foot so your toes are reaching towards the floor. Roll up, toes first, then flex all the way and repeat. Do exercise for 8-16 repetitions per foot. Then isolate just the ball of your foot. Point and flex up and down 16 times per foot.

Lay your TheraBand out on the floor and sit by one end. With your feet together, scrunch your toes in and out to pull the band towards you. This exercise increases the strength and dexterity of your toes. Repeat 4 times.

Tissue Exercise

Place a tissue or paper towel on the floor underneath the ball of your right foot. Stand in first and tendu your right foot side while keeping the ball of your foot on the floor. Pause in the forced arch position and curl your toes under—as you do so, pick up the tissue off the floor. Lower back down to the ball of your foot, slide the tissue back into first, and repeat 8 times.  Repeat exercise on the left and then through tendu devant (front).

Lacrosse/Tennis Ball Exercise

Grab a lacrosse ball or tennis ball (or any other ball of similar size) and place between your ankles while standing in parallel. Find a comfortable position underneath or above the bony bump on the inside of your ankles. Put a little pressure on the ball and lift your heels to relevé for 4 counts then slowly lower to the floor for 4 counts. Repeat 8 times. Tip: make sure your toes are pointing towards the foot to maintain correct alignment.

Yoga Block Exercises

Take a yoga block (easily purchased at Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc) and place it longwise in front of a barre or chair. Stand on the block with your heels off the back. Rise and lower, letting your heels go past the back edge to increase range of motion. Repeat 8-16 times.

Stand on either side of your yoga block with your heels resting on the block. Rotate from your hips, as if in first position. Lift your heels off the block so you are in your highest relevé then place down with control. Be sure to engage your glutes and right above your kneecaps when rising. Repeat 16 times.

Other Barre Exercises

Stretch your feet by standing in parallel and lifting your right heel into a forced arch position. Gently press over your foot so your toes curl under, though be sure you are pointing your whole foot, not just the toes. Return back to the forced arch and lower down. You should feel a stretch in your arch and the top of your foot. Alternate right and left 8 times and then repeat rotated in first.

Starting in first, tendu your leg to the front. Press over in forced arch so your weight is in your front leg, while keeping the back leg straight. As you straighten your front leg, aim to keep your heel lifted and your leg rotated. Be sure to stretch above the kneecaps. Close to first and repeat with the other foot, then through tendu side. 

In first, demi plié with your knees over toes. Lift your heels off the floor into forced arch while keeping both heels facing each other. Stretch your knees while working to maintain the turnout you began with—watch your heels to make sure they don’t turn towards parallel. Slowly lower to first and repeat 8 times.

Face the barre and start in first. Demi plié and as your rise to relevé shift your weight over to your right foot. Coupe your left foot derrière (back) as you relevé. Return the left foot back to first and plié both legs. Repeat movement 8 times to the right foot and then 8 times to the left.

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