Every young ballet dancer dreams about it. And every seasoned ballerina remembers it. The first en Pointe and its magical memories stay on for a lifetime. The desire to step up your ballet dance and get onenPointe is often expressed by young dancers, parents, and sometimes, even teachers.
It’s rare to find a dancer who is not enthused about going on Pointe. But merely a strong wish and desire are not enough, and a dancer needs perseverance and persistent practice to make sure the enthusiasm matches the method. There is a time for everything, and this is true for ballet dancers too.
Your young ballerina is all excited about the ballet lessons. Practicing almost everywhere, including home, finally, they ask for wearing their new Pointe Shoes around the house. Don’t give in; proper supervision is so critical that many schools and studios ask their students to leave their Pointe shoes at the studio.
The first Pointe is not only about having arrived on the dance scene. There is a lot of hard work involved.
How will a ballet enthusiast know it’s time for the Pointe?
"What is the right age for a ballet dancer to start Pointe?" A question asked by many but the truth is there is no straight answer to that.
What is the Right Age to Start for Pointe?
It’s extremely difficult to tell an eager dancer that she is not yet ready for her Pointe. Starting pointework is not just a matter of age or physical maturity. It depends on a lot of other factors.
As far as age is concerned, there is a great deal of individual variation. Generally speaking, the bones of the foot are not yet fully developed for young dancers. It’s only around late teens or early twenties that a dancer's feet are fully ready for the Pointe. Even so, the pointe work has to be gradual and always supervised with utmost care and knowledge.
Students, and most importantly- parents must know that if the dance teacher is firm and not ready to let you go en-pointe, there is a strong reason to support that decision. There is always a risk of serious injury in introducing pointework too soon.
Most dancers are ready to start Pointe by the age of 10 or 12. However, irrespective of the age, if proper precautions are taken, and the Pointe shoes are correctly fitted, with strength and technique a dancer can be ready for the perfect Pointe.
It’srare, even dangerous to find a 9 year old ready for Pointe. Many adult beginners are also not prepared for Pointe either if they have not been conditioned to do so. Without proper training, strength, and technique, there is a significant force created by the combination of a dancer's body weight and momentum and can permanently damage bones.
Although adults are at a lesser risk of injury because their bones are fully grown, prevention is better than cure.
What is the Right way to Start going Pointe?
There are many factors that expert dance teachers consider when they assess if a student is ready for their first Pointe.
Level of commitment: If you have invested 2to 4 years in training for ballet, have a consistent attendance record for your ballet classes, you are an ideal candidate. Teachers expect you to put in a minimum of 5 hours of ballet training a week (that's about 3 or 4 classes per week) during the first year of Pointe.
Technique: Pointework requires a lot of conditioning of your body. Pointe involves a continual lifting up and out of the shoe. It involves a lot of strength and skill to attain and sustain the balance on one leg during high demi-pointe. You must be able to both relevé and piqué up to a balance.
Conditioning: Pointe is not only about your legs, but it's also about abdomen and lower back. Your core should be strong, and you need to work on your legs, especially your knees as they are pulled up most of the time during the position. To be able to use plié in your dancing correctly, you need to work your feet properly in tendu and must do all other exercises that help to point the foot.
If you follow proper conditioning and techniques, you will be easily able to execute strong releve, at least sixteen lawless ones onto a high demi-pointe center floor. And without any sickling!
Health and Fitness levels: If you have had some illness or an injury, you should wait till you have fully recovered. Your fitness and stamina to make it through a ballet class several times a week show that you are ready to take on the higher challenge. It’s not necessary that your insteps are arched like bananas, but to be able to properly “get over” onto full Pointe, you need feet that are not so flat or ankles that are not too stiff.
Overall, instead of focussing on age, a dancer has to be ready physically, emotionally as well as in technique to know if she is ready for her first Pointe.
Remember, injury soon after the first en-Pointe is a clear indicator that the dancer wasn’t ready for it. It reflects poorly on parents as well as teachers too.
To get the perfect Pointe, consider our tips on how to make the Pointe pain free.
Things to Keep in Mind while Practicing Pointe
The two most essential elements of Pointe are strength and stability. A dancer has to work on the whole body strength regularly to ensure the feet comply with a Pointe when needed. Strengthening your core helps to maintain body alignment and stability.
- Lack of plantar (arch of the foot) affects as much as an excess of it when it comes to Pointe readiness. Therapy bands can help improve strength and flexibility and help dancers with both conditions. With the advanced products like padding, toe fillers, most dancers can work within a Pointe shoe and get to their dream Pointe.
- Like any other physically demanding routine, maintenance and regular conditioning play a significant part in Ballet too. Especially during pre-Pointe training, a dancer who maintains a consistent exercise regimen is less likely to receive setbacks in the form of injuries.
- For parents, and studio owners, teachers, and instructors, who are concerned about missing out on dance competitions or recitals or facing peer pressure, it is all the more necessary to understand that there will be no students if they are injured. There has to be a proper process that involves professionals such as physiotherapists and doctors if need be. When in doubt, err on the side of health and wellness of your dancer and don't put undue pressure to go en-Pointe too soon.
- Physiological changes during puberty affect a lot of dancers. Physical coordination, height, bones, and muscles are affected during adolescence, and dancers may face a lot of challenges before and after they hit the puberty age. Keeping that in mind, it is advisable that a professional assessment of a dancer's readiness for pointe work is done from time to time. This also helps in preparing the dancers mentally and emotionally for the challenges ahead before they feel like they could get up on those hallowed Pointe shoes.
When a dancer is ready to go en pointe has to be a holistic decision based on several factors. Dancing “en-Pointe” is the dream and goal of every ballerina’s dance life. A lot of preparation is needed for the perfect Pointe, and the first Pointe is just one of the several to come in a dancer’s career.
A dancer who wishes to keep moving stronger for longer must be ready to put extra effort towards preparation. Remember, by failing to prepare; you are preparing to fail!