Every ballet dancer wants to dance en pointe but not every ballet dancer should.
Number one, is safety. Is the student ready to safely work at this level?
As a teacher, it is not easy to tell an eager student that she is not yet ready for pointe shoes. There are many factors involved when considering each individual physique.
The bones of the foot are not fully developed, strengthened and hardened until sometime in the teenage years. Naturally there is a great deal of individual variation. If a young dancer attempts pointe work without proper strength and technique, there is a chance that she will permanently damage those not fully developed bones. Body weight times momentum creates a great deal of force.
When to start Pointe work
Students attempting pointe work before feet and body is physically ready risk, at the very least, building bad habits which may take years to correct. More serious is the potential for injury or permanent damage to the bone or muscle structure of the foot, which far outweighs the risk of disappointment.
Though teachers may have their own set of criteria, these requirements are widely accepted within the dance community:
- At least 12 years of age.
- At least 4 years of ballet training.
- 2 very regular weekly ballet classes
- Attentive, and applies corrections well.
- Maintains turnout and correct posture / alignment still and moving.
- Awareness of ankle and foot alignment, avoiding sickling or rolling-in
- Effectively uses plié, points the foot while dancing.
- Can repeat center relevé maintaining alignment and straight supporting leg.
- Can balance on one foot with the body correctly positioned over the supporting leg
- Coordinates movement well, particularly in regard to varying approach to relevé (from plié, from straight leg, stepping or springing into, etc.)
What a beginner Pointe student can expect
Pointe work begins at a slow, steady pace with exercises performed only with the aid of a barre. Even standing in the pointe shoes requires ankle strength. Eventually dancers will exhibit enough strength to complete some steps in the center, however expect progress to be gradual. Pointe work builds upon ballet technique and every struggle, problem, weakness, and deficiency is amplified with this new layer of difficulty.
Responding to a “No”
Some preparatory work involving the increased articulation (mobility) and strength of the feet is often added to the end of a full ballet class in point shoes for 10 to 15 minutes; increasing to a 30 min class.
Pointe work is an evolution and extension of effective ballet training. It is NOT the end result of a particular number of years in ballet class, being a certain age, or even of an intense desire to dance en pointe.
- Pointe work is not a right.
- Pointe is not for everyone.
- Dancing en pointe is only a requirement for ballet dancers who are pre-professionals or professionals.
- Choosing not to dance en pointe (because you are not planning to be a professional ballet dancer) does not make you less of a dancer. It’s actually a very mature decision!
- Pointe work is a positive experience for those ready to devote themselves to quality ballet training.
- A teacher willing to say no to you has put a lot of thought behind the decision. A teacher who tells everyone they have the physique for pointe work is not someone I would trust to train me.