"When can I start pointe work?" "Is my daughter ready for pointe?" "Should I have my daughter evaluated before she goes on pointe?"
As a physical therapist who works with pre-professional ballet students, I am asked about pointe readiness by students, parents, and teachers. The answer is unique to each dancer: the amount/length of dancing, strength, balance, ROM and growth plates (or when the bones have stopped growing). Readiness is not an age timeline, instead it's assessed by medical professionals (MD, physical therapist) and/or teachers trained in evaluating students.
A student needs to understand that pointe training is a long process of strengthening the entire body. There are a number of factors that go into pointe work, therefore they all need to be considered when evaluating a student.
The following guidelines are used to determine when pointe work begins.
- Age is NOT a determinant
- Student is a pre-professional with several hours/years of training
- Strength in hips, pelvis, trunk, and feet (assessed by a medical professional)
- Balance (student must demonstrate good alignment when performing high level balance exercises, such as single leg airplane, ect)
- Range of motion to determine if there is adequate flexibility in the hips and feet, as well as the student who may be hypermobile (assessed by a medical professional)
- X-ray to determine if growth plates have finished growing (assessed by MD)
The above are guidelines, each student should be assessed as an individual to determine readiness. Also, make students aware that if you are held back from pointe work this is not a reflection of your dance ability. There are many beautiful/successful dancers who did not go on pointe at age 12.
This is a difficult time for girls as their bodies, emotions, and peer pressure is molding their image. We have the opportunity as teachers, medical professionals, and parents to make a positive impact in their long term career. That is where educating the students and encouraging them with their hard work. Even the great choreographer, George Balanchine is quoted as saying:
There is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe if she can not do anything when she gets there!
(Hamilton WG. Ballet. In: Reider B (ed): Sports Medicine, The School-Age Athlete, ed 2. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1996, pp. 543-81.)