These are some questions and guidelines to determine whether our students at Wildwood Dance and Arts are ready to begin pointe work. It can be an expensive endeavor in that pointe shoes are not cheap. You never want to use anyone else's shoes, and need to spend the necessary fees in order to acquire proper fitting shoes. The dancer should never enter into pointe work with the notion that they are "just going to do it for a year". The first year is much more to do with strengthening in the shoes, working on balance, working through the feet and getting some basic ballet movements accomplished en pointe. I suggest that if students are considering pointe work the "goal" should be longer than a year or more. It must be remembered however, that it is not for everyone- and even though the goals of a longer stent on the shoes is noble not everyone finds that they are cut out for it. That is different than starting off with a stunted framework. Please consider for yourself, discuss with our parents, and with your ballet teacher what your goals are for doing pointe.
Am I ready for Pointe Work?
Pointe work is an advanced level of dance that must be approached only by those who are physically and mentally ready. Not until several physical specifications are met can rising onto pointe be done safely and successfully. Consistent mental focus is needed in order to be consciously aware of your body while en pointe. Premature pointe work can lead to structural defects and injury, inhibiting further growth as a dancer.
Here are the physical specifications that must be exercised in order to make proper pointe work possible:
1Abdominal Strength and Neuromuscular Control: While standing and in motion, dancers must maintain proper body alignment in order to ensure proper weight distribution and avoid injury. The dancer must engage and control their core muscles in order to maintain proper body placement and to provide support for the entire upper body.
2Ankle Strength, Flexibility and Neuromuscular Control: The ankles must first be strong in order to support the weight of the entire body on such a small point of contact with the floor. In addition, adequate ankle flexibility is required in order to position the foot properly on the platform of the shoe. Lastly, dancers must be able to correctly distribute their body weight across the metatarsals while en relevé and on the tips of their toes while en pointe. Sickling (favoring the outside of the foot) and pronating (favoring the inside of the foot) welcomes injuries from the foot up to the lower back.
3The dancer must be strong:
a. Sufficient strength in the torso and sides of the body and back.
b. Must be strong enough to maintain proper posture and avoid over-arching spine, throwing shoulders back and forcing the rib cage forward.
c. Sufficient strength in the lower abdominal muscles.
d. Must be strong enough to maintain correct pelvic placement and stability. Sufficient strength in the inner and back thigh muscles.
e. Must be strong enough to maintain rotation and hold the turnout. (Turned in legs place a great strain on the knees when the dancer is on pointe.
f. Sufficient strength in ankle and attending tendons and muscles.
g. Must have developed sufficient strength to rise in a straight line and hold with no "wobbles.
h. Must demonstrate NO strain or clenching of the ankle.
i. The foot must have a fairly flexible foot that allows enough mobility to be straight on pointe.
j. Must have sufficient strength on the outer and inner sides of the foot to hold the foot in a straight alignment when rising and lowering on the demi-pointe.
k. Must have sufficient strength in the metatarsals for weight adjustment so that the foot does not 'hook' when rising and lowering on pointe.
l. Must have the ability to hold the toes straight with no curling or knuckling. Must be free from abnormalities such as bunions, dropped arches, or collapsed 1st or 2nd metatarsals.
Remember: The pointe shoes do not hold a dancer up on pointe, her body does!!!
Before advancing to pointe work, it is generally recommended that the dancer is at least 10-12 years of age and has taken ballet technique classes for at least 3 years. In addition, it is optimal for the dancer to have consistently taken ballet technique (1.5 hour) class 3-5 times a week for at least one year prior to beginning pointe. Since the pointe shoe retailer can only provide a minimal evaluation, it is best to first consult with your ballet teacher before purchasing a pair of pointe shoes. Your ballet teacher can provide you with a full evaluation based on your performance in the classroom setting. Getting the teacher's approval first will guarantee their help and support with the dancer's pointe shoe endeavors.
Children's bones are extremely immature and soft. While we grow and develop, our bones go through the same process. If you were able to look at a young person's bones, you would see that there is cartilage and not bone at each of the ends; these are called the growth plates. These growth plates will not finish growing until much later in your life, usually around 21 years old. As you reach 12-13 years, the foot growth will start to slow down, and the hardening process will begin. This normally coincides with the onset of menstruation or your second growth spurt. When this begins the hormone estrogen is secreted by your body, it is this hormone that will keep your bones healthy, strong and solid. Waiting to go on pointe until around this age or older, could limit the damage that could occur to this softer cartilage. When children have finished growing, these plates close as this cartilage will now have become solid bone. It is important to know that the body is unable to build bones alone; calcium and vitamin D are needed to assist this growth. This is the time for you to maybe look at your diet and include lots of calcium rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, greens, tofu etc.
Some more questions to ask your teacher and yourself:
Do you have sufficient strength to do the following:-
1Hold your turnout while dancing?
2Hold your heel forward towards the big toe, when you pointe your toes with NO sickling?
3Hold a passé balance on demi-pointe without any wobbling?
It is very important with Pointe work that you do not just think of feet. Your core stability is as important, it does not matter how strong your feet and ankles are, if your body is not correctly aligned, and your core stability is not strong enough, dancing on pointe could be more difficult.
In the book Anatomy and Ballet By Celia Sparger she states, "The ability to do Pointe work is the end result of a slow and gradual training of the whole body, back, hips, thighs, legs, feet and general coordination of movement, and the placing of the body, so that weight is lifted upwards off the feet, with straight knees, perfect balance, a perfect demi-pointe and no tendency of the fee to sickle in or out, or the toes to curl or crunch".
This page contains some basic guidelines for your readiness to start Pointe work. Please do not worry if you are not yet quite ready to begin, it is much healthier and safer for you to take slightly longer preparing your body, allowing some skeletal maturity to have taken place, than to have started at a too young an age, maybe causing you damage that maybe brings your dancing to an early finish.