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.
Flexibility of the toes does play an important role in pointe. It might seem a little odd that your toes should be flexible, but if you've ever been en pointe, you know that stiff toes can cause all sorts of problems. If the dancer is not able to get up on full demi pointe, she may not be able to properly execute proper pointe roll-ups. Working on the flexibility of the tendons in the toes is super important to achieve a proper demi pointe in flat shoes before pointe should ever be considered.
Improper turnout and sickled feet are the worst. If the dancer is prone to sickling the feet, this can be a huge issue when considering pointe. When breaking in a pointe shoe, the dancer must be able to stand on the full box (tip) of the pointe shoe. Sickling can cause the dancer to break in the shoe incorrectly, oftentimes creating a slanted angle on the box. This can cause injuries as the dancer's balance will be off. Turnout is important for any type of dance, but for pointe it's even more important. For similar reasons as sickling, turnout needs to be excellent in order for pointe to be considered.
It is such a beautiful and exciting process to transition to pointe shoes! I hope that this post helps you on your road to your very first pair of satin pink shoes. If you are a new dance teacher, I hope that this information has helped you with deciding on whether or not your own students are ready.
If you liked this post, stay tuned because the next couple of posts will be based on the information presented here. We'll be focusing on Pointe and how to achieve strong toes and feet as well as turnout. Don't forget to share any comments you may have in the section below.
Until next time,