Do you dream of donning your first pair of peachy-pink satin pointe shoes? This iconic symbol of the ballerina is aspirational for many young dancers. Though we may want to start pointe right away, it's important that the process is not rushed to decrease the risk of injury.
There are many factors to consider when determining if a ballet student is ready to go en pointe. You may have heard that once a dancer is 11 or 12, they are ready for pointe. While biological age is still taken into consideration, motor development and musculoskeletal maturity largely varies from student to student. This can mean that dancers in the same class may be beginning pointe at different times. It can be disappointing to be told by your teacher that you are not ready for pointe but remember, safety is of the utmost importance. There is rarely any harm in waiting, as a dancer who begins later than their classmates always catches up. There is however, a risk of harm if a student is put en pointe too soon.
All this said, if you meet the criteria, going en pointe can be a safe and fun process which provides a new challenge for dedicated ballet students.
Pointe Readiness Checklist:
- Appropriate age
- Are you attending ballet class at least 2x a week? Are you focused in class and do you work hard to improve yourself each time?
- Do you have a good understanding of posture and alignment (see our blog on aplomb)? Are you able to maintain a straight line through the ankle with pointing, without sickling the foot inwards?
- Adequate stability and control of the trunk and pelvis, including external rotation (turnout)
- Are you able to control your turnout from your hips using your muscles rather than forcing it with your feet? Are you able to maintain the lift through the abdominals?
- Adequate range of motion in the ankle and foot
- A sufficient range of motion in the ankle joint is important in order for you to get over your box en pointe
- Adequate strength of the feet and ankles
- Do you have sufficient strength in the intrinsic muscles of the foot? Are you able to point your feet and perform a series of relevés without sickling through the ankle?
As noted above, there's a lot more than biological age that determines whether or not a dancer is ready to begin pointe. It's rare to have a student who isn't extremely excited to begin the pointe process, but remember that meeting the above criteria is vital to maintaining good health and safety in ballet class. We only have one body for our entire lives, so it is important to take care of it and respect it.