Am I Too Old to Start Pointe Work?
I get lots of students asking if they're old enough to start pointe work,, but this is the first time someone has asked me if they're too old!
In my view, age is just a number - I've seen students take up ballet in their thirties and forties and go en pointe. Your feet do not get too old! But there are other considerations which must be taken into account.
How much do you weigh?
Most ballet students start pointe at around the age of 12. At that age, they typically weigh 85 to 95 pounds (38 to 43 kg). As an adult, chances are you're a lot heavier - and every extra pound means more pressure bearing down on your toes when en pointe.
"But," I hear you say, "adult ballet dancers dance en pointe every day!"
Yes they do - but their feet were gradually strengthened and trained over several years, starting when they were much lighter so the stresses on their feet were a lot less. As a beginner in their early teens, they had less load to contend with, so it was easier for them to learn to articulate their feet and hold their toes in the correct position. You will have to master these skills while carrying your full adult weight, and that is harder to do. If you're even slightly overweight, you could be asking for trouble.
I would be the first to say that dancers shouldn't allow their shape to limit them - it's your soul that makes you a dancer, not your looks - but when it comes to pointe work, I'm afraid size does matter.
Is Your Technique Strong Enough?
Some teachers think that because an older dancer's feet are mature and their growth plates are fused, they can go en pointe without fear of damaging their feet. That's true to some extent - but an adult can still suffer serious injury if they go en pointe when they're not ready. It's not enough to have strong feet: you also need to have strong legs and be able to hold your turnout. If your feet can't articulate enough, then you won't be able to get "over the box" and that means you won't be able to dance safely. Read the Am I Ready for Pointe? checklist - just because you're grown-up doesn't mean you are magically exempt from the technical requirements for pointe work!
Bear in mind that a young student wanting to take pointe will be expected to take three or four classes a week in preparation. How much preparation have you done to be ready for pointe?
The video below is a touching story about a 70 year old woman who realised her dream to wear pointe shoes. I do wonder if she ever managed to venture away from the barre, though.