By Hallie Rumsey-Lasersohn
Professional Dancer and Dance Teacher at Modern Motion
Seeing a ballerina glide effortlessly across the stage while balancing perfectly on the tips of her toes in a tutu and satin pointe shoes is magical. It is no wonder many young dancers are eager to receive their first pair of pointe shoes, but there are many factors that determine whether a dancer is ready to safely begin pointe work including age, technical strength, experience, and maturity.
The journey to dancing on pointe is highly personal, but as a general rule dancers should not begin pointe earlier than age 12. This is because the bones in our feet do not fully develop until age 12-15. Beginning pointe too early can cause injuries, stunt foot growth, or even lead to deformities.
Age is not the only factor to determine readiness for pointe shoes. Remember: being on pointe means holding up your entire body weight on the tips of your toes. Regardless of age, if a dancer does not have the strength in their feet and ankles, pointe is not only dangerous but painful. Students should be able to complete sixteen consecutive releves on each foot with a straight knee before they are allowed on pointe. They should also have enough strength to balance on demi-pointe on one leg in a variety of ballet positions.
In addition to physical strength, students should have at least two years of consistent ballet training and a good understanding of ballet technique and alignment. Dancing in pointe shoes requires the foot and ankle to be pointed straight up and down without sickling and the hips and shoulders stacked directly over the toes with the core muscles engaged and the knees pulled up and straight.
Many people think of pointe as its own genre of dance, but this is not the case. Pointe should be thought of as advanced ballet. It is for dancers who are serious about and committed to their training. Good attendance, exemplary class etiquette, and a willingness to work hard are essential to succeeding in pointe work. The decision to put a dancer on pointe is for your teacher to make. For dancers who are ready to pursue pointe, it will be gratifying, extremely fun, and yes, magical! There is nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and working hard to achieve it.
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Modern Motion Dance School