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Anatomy of the Foot in En Pointe Dance

Anatomy of En Pointe Dance

Sylphs vs Galumphs

Ashley Davidoff MD Copyright 2015

“I have no desire to prove anything by dancing. I have never used it as an outlet or a means of expressing myself.  I just dance. I just put my feet in the air and move them around.”   

–Fred Astaire

I guess Fred did not do “en pointe…”

Learning Pointe technique  is about a need to portray the human form as a weightless sylph – a mythological spirit or being of the air imagined by Paracelsus in the 16th century.


“I See Myself in First “ 

This anatomy of the foot art piece (dedicated to Sally Anne-Friedland, a school friend who is now a contemporary dance choreographer ) depicts a ballet dancer looking down at her calves and feet as she stands in first position on the first day of dance.  She can see the anatomy of the bones of her feet, she knows not who they are, but she wants to use them to learn ballet: specifically with the purpose of learning and perfecting pointe technique.  

Sally’s first homework task – hit the books and learn the anatomy.  “Tell me about the bones that are going to help me direct all my weight to my toes so I can dance like a weightless sylph.  … a sylph? … the  mythological spirit of the air of Paracelsus.  My enemy: the Jabberwocky galumph of Lewis Carroll.”

Perhaps Fred Astaire had the same thing in mind when he said he wanted to “just put my feet in the air and move them around!”


“Anatomy of the Bones of My Feet”

“as I look down upon them …” said the dancer to herself… I see some interesting building blocks looking like rectangular rocks of an ancient ruin and others that are graceful columns

“Now that I have met my bones and learned their names I would like to try this en pointe thing!”


En Pointe to the Bone

shows the X-ray of the ballet dancer in en pointe with the tip of the toes of her left foot bearing the full weight of her body, allowing her to appear weightless.  The anatomy of the bones of her feet are fully exposed.  The ability of the muscles, bones and neural mechanisms to coordinate this activity is an exercise in balance and poise.

“… and then I dressed my dancing feet”


Dressing for En Pointe

The pointe shoe is rendered beside the X-ray to provide an ambiance of the raw anatomy dressed up to express the elegant aesthetics 

“… and then we  practice, practice and more practice on the bar … and get to the dress rehearsal”


Dress Rehearsal

This art piece expresses a mood of elegance and refinement of a company of classical ballet dancers. The shape and position of their bodies is captured in a single moment of time as they balance on their toes. The technique requires the dancer to flex and extend infinite number of muscle fibers, controlled by an equally infinite number of nerve pulses, balancing one bone on the other. We know and love this form and the dancers know exactly what to do to recreate the familiar shape.  We cannot imagine the depth of complexity of biochemistry, physiology and anatomy involved in this process – it is a miracle!

“… and finally: show time!  And we look, ‘I think’ like the sylphs and nymphs we are supposed to be rather than the galumphs.”


“En Pointe in Silk”

expresses a mood of controlled sophistication, and grace. The shape and position of their bodies clothed in silk is captured in a single moment of elegance in  time as they balance on their toes… just like sylphs. 

… and that is the point of En Pointe!

The galumph of raw dance such as Hip Hop will follow soon!

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