First Pointe Shoes – What is the Right Age to Start Pointe Work
When a girl starts ballet, her dream is that one day, she'll be dancing effortlessly on her toes on stage in a beautiful tutu, her feet encased in a pair of gleaming pink satin pointe shoe It's no wonder that in ballet schools, the equivalent of "Are we there yet?" is, "Can I start pointework yet?"
The hard fact is that it takes a lot of hard work and years of training to get to the point (LOL) of pointe work. Trying to fast-track the process is fraught with danger: it can lead to injuries and even end a dancing career. So it's very important to honestly assess whether a dancer is ready for pointe work.
This clip gives a very good summary of what needs to be considered.
Is 10 Years Old Too Young?
It worries me that I'm seeing so many 10-year-olds in pointe shoes. Starting that young can be dangerous - it could even mean the end of a promising dance career before it even starts! It's vitally important you have the technique and strength to handle the extra pressure - start before you're ready, and your feet can actually become deformed. Only a specialist examination can say for sure, whether you're sufficiently developed to start pointe work. Just because you think your feet look or feel "ready" doesn't mean it's OK.
Tamara Toumanova was one of the "Baby Ballerinas", child prodigies who were world famous during the 1930's, dancing professionally by the time she was 13. She said she regretted being put on pointe too early, as it caused endless foot pain and foot problems in later life.
Personally, I think no student should start pointe work until they're 12, unless they're in full time training at a major ballet institution.
Sure, there are girls who will be ready for pointe work much earlier - but if you can't afford an expert to confirm that, why take the risk? It won't make you a better dancer, and only increases the risk of career-ending damage or injuries. Girls who start at 12 will soon catch them up, and probably overtake them because they've spent two more years developing their fundamental technique.
There are far more bad reasons than good ones to start pointe early - here are a few:
- The teacher isn't properly teacher-trained and isn't aware of the risks of pointe work under the age of 11 or 12. She may have started pointe early herself, and been one of the lucky ones who got away with it.
- The student demands it, and the teacher's afraid to say no in case the student leaves and finds another school that will agree. The teacher has to pay the rent - so she gives in.
- The mother demands it, and the teacher gives in for the reason given above. Mothers who push their daughters to do pointe work too early, should remember that they'll have their daughter's crippled feet on their conscience for the rest of their lives - are bragging rights really worth that much?
- The student is an exceptionally good dancer, and the teacher wants her to dance on pointe so she can win competitions and enhance the school's reputation.
I know it's hard to be patient, but it will pay off in the end!
Photo with thanks to Barnarina09 on Flickr.