As a dance teacher, I've dealt with a lot of questions from my young students about pointe. It's the dream of most young ballerinas to become prima ballerinas who dance beautifully and flawlessly en pointe. Throughout the years, I've gathered helpful information for both dancers and dance teachers who want to pursue pointe.
The biggest question on dancer's minds is, am I ready for pointe? The answer to this questions is pretty ambiguous as the answer lies with the skill, age, and overall strength of the dancer in question. However, there are a few indicators to whether or not you or your student are ready for pointe.
By the time my students hit the age of 9 or 10 (depending on their skill level and whether or not they actually want to pursue pointe), I begin training them on strengthening their ankles, toes, feet, and overall technique. I focus a lot on getting their turnout perfected, if they have double-jointed knees - I work on helping them compensate, getting their turns balanced, their jumps higher, and their flexibility and balance perfected. All of this aids them in their transition to pointe.
I never, ever recommend dance teachers to put their students en pointe until they are at least 12. Why? Because at that young age, not only are their bones still growing, but their bone density is not optimal until they are 18. Obviously you don't want to wait until they are 18 to put them en pointe, however, the younger they are, the more susceptible to injury (particularly stress fractures) they are. By 12, most girls have stopped having growth spurts and are more likely to have stronger muscles, ligaments, and bones. That is if you have trained them properly.
Strength and flexibility are extremely important for pointe. Having strong feet, ankles, and legs are important for injury prevention. Proper training at a young age will ensure this. Providing exercises such as releves in the center will help with balance and calf and arch strength. Slow plies will help with Achilles flexibility, slow susu-passe exercises in the center will also help with balance and strength, and transfer exercises help with these as well.