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Pointe Shoes
An Article by Mrs. Kelsey

Nearly every young dancer dreams of the day that she'll put on her first pair of pointe shoes. When she gets to "the age" of pointe shoes and is then told by her ballet teacher that she's not quite ready yet, there is, understandably, some disappointment and possibly confusion. Parents may hear "My friend is the same age as me and she's getting on pointe so why can't I" or "I've heard some girls start taking pointe when they're nine years old this is so unfair!" The truth is the dancer's ballet teacher is delaying her dancing on pointe in order to help her and most definitely not to hurt her. A teacher willing to say no has likely put a lot of thought behind the decision.

Depending on the individual, bones in the foot may not be fully formed until the late teens or early twenties. Students attending pointe work before ready risk, at the very least, building bad habits which may take years to correct. More serious is the potential for injury or permanent damage to the bone or muscle structure of the foot, which far outweighs the risk of disappointment. If the dancer is actually ready, the pointe work is introduced gradually and always carefully and knowledgeably supervised, and the pointe shoes are properly fitted, there is minimal risk of injury.

Though many ballet students begin pointe work between the ages of 10 and 12 there actually is not a certain age that says a girl is ready to wear pointe shoes. The factors that determine whether she is ready are strength, technique, attitude and commitment. Pointe work is an evolution and the extension of effective ballet training. It is not a right and is not for everyone. Two to four years of ballet training and good attendance record are needed to begin pointe work. The dancers demeanor in class is very important if she is attentive and hardworking it shows that she has the maturity that is required.

Pointe work includes continuous lifting up and out of the shoe. It is the same strength needed for sustaining a balance on high demi-pointe on one leg. If she can do this, it means that she can also hold her turn out while she dances, her core (abdomen and lower back) is strong, and her legs are really pulled up (not just locked into place). She must be able to both releve and pique (with a straight leg) up to a balance. Calf and ankle strength are essential. Her releve must be very strong (repeating without tiring), she should use plie correctly, and should know how to work her feet properly in tendu and all other exercises that require pointing the foot. NO SICKILING OR ROLLING IN.

When first starting pointe work, she should be in good health and not recovering from illness or injury. This is a touchy subject for young girls but it is best if she is not overweight. Pointe classes contain repetitive exercises, so stamina is also important. Her insteps do not need to be intensely arched, but they should also not be so flat or her ankles so stiff as to prevent her from "getting over" onto full pointe.

It is a good sign that a young dancer is excited about going on pointe.  An indifferent dancer may not have the perseverance needed for the repetitive exercises in pointe class.  If a dancer has been told she is not ready yet, but is still determined, she should ask the teacher for a strengthening routine she can do on her own.  She should not let her excitement tempt her to practice pointe at home or to wear pointe shoes around the house.  Proper supervision is very important for the dancer's safety. 



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