Karin Ellis-Wentz and Joffrey Ballet Academy of Dance student Elliana Teuscher. Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet.

Master Hops on Pointe: Karin Ellis-Wentz Demystifies One of Ballet's Trickiest Steps

"Hopping on pointe is a bit of a weird feeling," says Karin Ellis-Wentz, head of pre-professional programs at the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago. But, she adds, it's a skill advanced dancers need "because it's in so many variations." Here, she takes us through the techniques and exercises that help her students master this necessary trick.


The “Ginch”

Before you can hop on pointe, says Karin Ellis- Wentz, "you have to find that 'ginched' position of the foot. Be fully on your box, and then plié without going over your shoe or pulling back off." It takes some experimentation to find that "just right" placement of the foot and ankle. "Especially if you have flexible arches or feet that aren't naturally strong, you may have to do extra practice and strengthening."

Elliana Teuscher

Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

How Deep, How High?

The plié for hops on pointe should be quite shallow, especially when done on one leg. Generally, the jump itself is not high enough for the knees to stretch in the air. But stay very lifted and lengthened through the body, Ellis-Wentz says, "so you're not pounding into that foot."

The Body Position

Once her students are hopping in the center, the most common issue Ellis-Wentz sees is with their alignment. "They don't keep their hips placed over their ankle and the box of the shoe. Are you too far back? Are you too far over?" The former tends to happen with hops in arabesque or attitude derrière; the latter when the hips get ahead of you in traveling hops, for instance with ballonnés or ronds de jambe. Both will knock you off your toes.

Elliana Teuscher demonstrates practicing simple pliés on pointe to find the proper foot position.

Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

Supplementary Exercises 

"Do all your TheraBand and doming exercises so the intrinsic muscles in your feet are strong," says Ellis-Wentz. She also recommends targeting important supportive muscles higher in the body: clamshells for your glutes, wall sits or lunges for your quads (and, since hops on pointe are hard on the quads, make sure to stretch them, too), and planks to solidify your core. She also stresses the importance of calf rises facing the barre: "On one foot in parallel, lightly holding the barre, slowly rise up almost to your complete relevé. Then slowly lower the heel but barely put any weight on it. Build up to 32." Repeat this in plié, keeping the standing knee bent as you raise and lower the heel, to work a different muscle set.

The Right Shoe

"You can't hop when your shoes are too soft—or too hard!" Ellis-Wentz notes that shoes with tips that are angled to allow you to be farther over your box may make hopping difficult. Whether this is the issue or not, she says, "if you're really having a hard time, it might be worth investigating if a different shoe has a better platform for you to hop on."

Ellis-Wentz and Teuscher

Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

Extra Tips

1. Ellis-Wentz gives a simple exercise to help her students find the correct position and begin building strength. At the barre, spring up to sous-sus, plié on pointe, stretch and repeat. "The student can also just bounce in that plié first, then progress to hopping. When you get stronger, do that on one foot as well, in different positions."

2. "I like to use the image of a pogo stick, bouncing up and down," says Ellis-Wentz. "Keep your skeleton stacked straight over the base—shoulder, rib, hip and knee aligned—or you just go bouncing off."

Latest Posts


Maria Kochetkova. Darian Volkova, Courtesy Kochetkova

Maria Kochetkova on How COVID-19 Affected Her Freelance Career, and Her New Home at Finnish National Ballet

When international star Maria Kochetkova embarked on a freelance career three years ago, she never envisioned how a global pandemic would affect it. In 2018, the Russian-born ballerina left the security of San Francisco Ballet, a company she called home for more than a decade, for the globe-trotting life of a guest star. Before the pandemic, Kochetkova managed her own performing schedule and was busier than ever, enjoying artistic freedom and expanding her creative horizons. This all changed in March 2020, when she saw her booming career—and her jet-setting lifestyle—change almost overnight.

After months of uncertainty, Kochetkova landed at Finnish National Ballet, where she is a principal dancer for the 2020–21 season. Pointe spoke with her about her time during the quarantine and what helped her to get through it, her new life in Helsinki, and what keeps her busy and motivated these days.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
DTH's Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington work out with trainer Lily Overmyer at Studio IX. Photo by Joel Prouty, Courtesy Hutchinson.

Working Out With DTH’s Alexandra Hutchinson

Despite major pandemic shutdowns in New York City, Alexandra Hutchinson has been HIIT-ing her stride. Between company class with Dance Theater of Harlem and projects like the viral video "Dancing Through Harlem"—which she co-directed with roommate and fellow DTH dancer Derek Brockington—Hutchinson has still found time to cross-train. She shares her motivation behind her killer high-intensity interval training at Studio IX on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

As Ballet Looks Toward Its Future, Let's Talk About Its Troubling Emotional Demands

As a ballet student, I distinctively remember being told that to survive ballet as a profession, one must be exceptionally thick-skinned and resilient. I always assumed it was because of the physically demanding nature of ballet: long rehearsal hours, challenging and stressful performances, and physical pain.

It wasn't until I joined a ballet company that I learned the true meaning behind those words: that the reason one needs thick skin is not because of the physical demands, but because of the unfair and unnecessary emotional demands.

Undoubtedly, emotional and physical strength go hand in hand to some extent. But the kind of emotional demand I am talking about here is different; it is not the strength one finds in oneself in moments of fatigue or unwillingness. It is the strength one must have when being bullied, humiliated, screamed at, manipulated or harassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks