Hopping point exercise
*Begin in standing position. Cross your feet and point your right toe on the spot you have chosen in front of you, checking turnout.
*Hop in the air and point your right toe on the spot on your floor, keeping your arms tight at your sides. Your back knee will bend a little, but do not let it bend too much. Keep your front leg straight and your toe nicely pointed. Your toe should not make noise as it touches the ground.
*Repeat so that your toe touches the ground 8 times. Then switch your legs, hopping and pointing your left toe on the same spot 8 times. Switch back and forth several times.
*Now, hop and point each toe on the ground 4 times, switching back and forth. Then hop and point each toe 2 times, switching back and forth, and then finish your exercise by pointing each toe on the ground once, switching legs after every point.
*If you are doing this exercise with music, your toe should touch the ground twice per each bar of music.
Point and lift exercises
There is a basic exercise and three variations to choose from. (see note)
*Begin in standing position. Cross your feet and point your right foot, checking turnout.
*Lift your right leg into the air a short way, keeping the leg straight and your toe pointed.
*Now, bend your knee and pull your foot (still pointed) towards your back leg, stopping when your front foot is right in front of your back knee, almost but not quite touching the back knee. Your upper front leg should be flat, and your front toe should be pointed at the ground.
*Reverse the movement, straightening your front leg before lowering it to the ground. Your toe should stay pointed during this whole movement.
*Repeat the point and lift on your right leg 8 times, then on your left leg 8 times.
*If you are doing this exercise to music, each lift should take 1 bar and each return to pointing should take 1 bar, making each point and lift 2 bars long. You may want to practice more slowly at first and work up to this speed.
Variation 1: Lift your leg straight into the air and then return it to the ground instead of bending it to your knee. Make sure your legs stay straight and your front toes stay pointed. Pay special attention to your upper body: keep it straight and do not let your shoulders come forward. Your leg does not have to lift very high, but it does need to be straight, as does your back. Repeat 8 times both legs.
Variation 2: From the pointing position, tuck your leg behind you so that your foot is close to your buttocks in back, then return your foot to its pointing position. In this point and lift exercise, you should try to keep your knee down, so that it does not stick too far out in front. Your foot should stay pointed behind you. Repeat 8 times on both legs.
Variation 3: Lift your leg, bend your foot to your knee, straighten your leg out again and then, leaving your leg straight in front of you in the air, rise up on your back toe, hold it for a bar, and then relax back onto your whole foot as you lower your front leg to the ground. This is a more advanced variation. As you get better at this variation, you should gradually increase the amount of time you hold yourself up on your toe.
*Note: many people have difficulty keeping their toes pointed straight when first learning these exercises. If you notice that your foot tends to turn inward when you lift it, then you need to practice point and lift in front of a mirror. Whenever you see your foot turn, push it back so that it is pointing at the ground. If you are not sure which muscles control that motion, or if the muscles are weak at first, use your hand to help adjust your foot until you can move the foot on its own. Unfortunately, like many form problems, this one can only be corrected by diligent practice.
Used with permission from Ariel Bennett, Heritage Irish Stepdancers