Are You Ready to Try Pointe Ballet?

Things to consider before starting pointe ballet

Seven ballerina girls (11-13) standing on toes, rear view
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Dancing "en pointe," or on pointe, is a major goal in a ballerina's dance life. Dancing on pointe, or your toes, requires tremendous strength of the legs and feet. Many ballet teachers have strict requirements for starting pointe work. How do you know when you're ready for pointe shoes? The following five requirements should be met before considering starting pointe ballet classes.

Age for Pointe

The proper age to start pointe work is controversial.

Many experts believe that a ballet dancer can begin dancing on pointe if she is at least 9 or 10 years old. Some teachers do not attach a number at all, they simply rely on ability. However, because the growth of the foot is about complete at age 11 or 12, the bones in the foot are still hardening, many agree that pointe work could be introduced at this time. Never try dancing on pointe shoes if an instructor tells you to wait. Dancing en pointe at a young age, before your bones are strong enough to support your weight, could result in permanent injury to your feet.

Years of Training for Pointe

You cannot begin a ballet career in pointe shoes. In order to be able to dance on pointe, a dancer must have had time to achieve the form, ​strength and alignment needed to make a successful transition into pointe work. Proper technique is required to be able to properly rise on the toes without risk of injury.

Class Enrollment for Pointe

In order to maintain proper technique and flexibility needed for pointe work, it is imperative to practice ballet formally at least three times per week. The pointe portion of the class should follow the regular ballet class, perhaps extending the class time by half an hour.

This ensures that the entire body, especially the feet and ankles, are properly warmed up.

Physical Readiness for Pointe

All dancers should be formally evaluated by their ballet teacher to determine if they are physically ready to meet the demands of pointe work. The teacher should check for correct body position and alignment, sufficient turnout, strength and balance and mastery of basic ballet techniques.

Also, some people may never be able to dance en pointe, no matter how hard they train, simply because the bone structure of their foot would result in injury if pointe were to be attempted. There is an "ideal foot" for pointe. For example, toes should be about the same length, to provide a squared-off platform for stability. The most difficult foot shape is one in which the second toe is longest. Also, the dancer should have good ankle flexibility and a high arch on the instep of the foot.

Emotional Maturity for Pointe

Pointe work is hard work. Beginning pointe classes will be more demanding on your body, especially your feet. Are you prepared to suffer from sore feet and occasional blisters? Also, pointe shoes are complicated and demand a certain level of responsibility to maintain.

You must be taught the correct way to put them on your feet and tie them to your ankles. You must also care for them properly to keep them in good condition. Another consideration, are you ready to devote at least three hours per week to ballet classes? Choosing to dance on pointe is a decision that should be taken seriously.