Is a question I have been asked many times, by young dancers with stars in their eyes.
Being fitted for your first pair of pointe shoes is a long-awaited step for many dancers, and is a moment I have not forgotten!
Although the generally accepted age to start pointe work is 10-12, there are many other variables to consider.
This age is a time which often correlates with increases in
the number of dancing hours per week
changes in degrees of flexibility and strength of the student (thanks to puberty)
A combination of these factors leads to a large increase in injury risk for this age group.
Before you commence pointe work, you should have completed a period of specific strengthening work (such as a pre-pointe class), as well as a pre-pointe assessment done by a Physiotherapist or specialised dance teacher.
Ankles and feet
All dancers need strong ankles and feet, however there are certain benchmarks which can help us tell if you are ready to stand on your toes.
A dancer should be able to complete 16 single leg calf raises with good technique as a minimum (the Australian Ballet dancers perform 25 just as a warm up!)
You may also need to work on the intrinsic muscles in your feet (the small muscles within the foot that help maintain your arches).
Flexibility vs strength
Ballet is a sport which often attracts people who are flexible, however this can be a problem in itself. Although a large range of movement at the ankle is required to be en pointe, too much flexibility (also known as hypermobility) of the ankles, knees and hips can make it hard to control movement.
Dancers may need a period of core and lower limb strengthening to ensure that they are strong enough to hold those long legs up! If you need help getting the ankle flexibility to go en pointe, we can help with that too.
Generally, pointe work should only be considered for those who are pre-professional.
Dancers should be completing at least 3-4 classes a week of ballet.
Pointe work should only be considered after the fourth year of ballet training.
Starting en pointe is an exciting accomplishment.
It is important to remember that there is no race to pointe work. If you need some extra strengthening work, it will give you and your body the best chance at excelling.
Physiotherapist Annissa Harwood completes Pre-Pointe Assessments, and has a lifetime passion performing and studying the art of dance and pointe related issues.
“When Can I Start Pointe Work? Guidelines for Initiating Pointe Training, An IADMS Resource Paper” by David S. Weiss, M.D., Rachel Anne Rist, M.A., and Gayanne Grossman, P.T., Ed.M. © 2009