Am I Ready for Pointe Work? – Checklist
Preparing for pointe work isn't just about developing strong feet. Your legs, all the way from ankle to hip, must also be strengthened, and you also need good balance and turnout before you're ready to go en pointe. The list below is shows what you'll need before you're allowed on your toes. If the list sounds daunting, remember it's for your own safety. Dancing en pointe before you're ready almost always causes injuries, and those injuries can be bad enough to end your dancing career before it's even begun.
Before you're allowed en pointe, you need to be able to achieve the following:
- Good turnout in motion. It's harder to hold your turnout en pointe than it is on the flat. So if you can't stay turned out while dancing (not just at the barre), you won't be able to hold it on pointe.
- No sickling. If your foot tends to sickle inwards, your weight will be on your little toe instead of your big toe. That will affect your balance and increase your risk of injury or strain. You're more likely to fall off your pointes, which is dangerous.
- Good posture in motion. If you're inclined to arch your back, stick your butt out or have any other posture problem while dancing, you'll have trouble balancing on pointe.
- Pointed feet. This may sound obvious, but by this I mean with straight pointed toes. Some dancers point their feet but curl some or all of their toes under. It may not be obvious with shoes on, so take your shoes off and check your toes are flat. Curled toes in ballet slippers become knuckling in pointe shoes. You can't stand on curled toes!
- Good balance on one leg on demi-pointe. You need to be comfortable balancing on one leg on demi-pointe. For instance, you should be able to do a piqué passé with a straight leg, and hold your balance on demi-pointe with your leg in passé, without wobbling.
Talking of demi-pointe, if you're aiming to get on pointe, then you need to start aiming higher! Many ballet students don't take their relevé to its fullest extent, and that habit needs to change if you want to wear those pointe shoes. This video clip explains how to do a relevé properly. It incorporates a transfer of weight so you strengthen your ability to achieve point 5 above.
The other consideration before starting pointe work is how old you are. Like it or not, age is a factor in allowing any dancer to dance en pointe. Are you old enough to start pointe work?
When you're young, the growth plates of your feet are still soft and can be severely damaged by the pressures of pointe work. If you damage your growth plates, your feet may become so damaged you'll never dance again!
People grow at different rates, and only a specialist doctor can say for sure when your feet are strong enough to do pointe safely. The average ballet teacher can't be 100% certain. A lucky few may be ready by the age of 9 or 10 - but the majority of girls aren't mature enough until age 12.
So unless you can afford a specialist consultation - which most people can't - it's much safer to delay going en pointe until age 12. If you strengthen your feet and legs, improve your turnout and perfect your balance, you'll find you can pop straight up on pointe with relative ease when you finally start, and you'll quickly catch up - and probably overtake - those students who started earlier.
All Photos copyright Treivilo (Olivier T).