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Beginning pointe classes


dadofaballetdaughter
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Dear All,

 

Newcomer dad here. Some thoughts please.

My daughter is 10 y.o. and has been dancing since aged 4 or so.

She is doing grade 4 or 5 level ballet (not exactly sure) and her teachers are ex Royal Ballet and Moscow Ballet.

She is 5'4" now, size 7 feet!, and has been invited to start dancing en pointe.

My questions:

Too young or OK?

Her teacher says already that she won't be a professional ballerina because her feet are "wrong".

How does she know and what is it that she sees? Therefore is it worth her going to pointe classes?

Also, will doing sports "interfere" with her dancing development?

She is a talented netball player, and is good at athletics.

(PS I am a doctor so I know about anatomy, growth plates, epiphyses etc, etc).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions.

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Even if your daughter had the most suitable feet I would say that 10 is way too young as the bones are still soft, no need to tell you that foot bones keep developing until early 20s!

 

And if she isn't going to be a professional dancer ( and let's face it very few make it, even if in full-time vocational training) why risk it?

 

I don't think at this age sports would interfere with her dancing development. And the Ballet training will help enhance the sports.

 

But if you have already been told that her feet are wrong (and size 7 won't be easy to cope with en Pointe) then I am rather surprised that she is being invited to do Pointe classes.

Especially aged 10!

Edited by hfbrew
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How old are the teachers?

 

Royal Ballet & other UK vocational schools now only put children en pointe in Year 7 (aged 11-12) & these are children whose feet have been carefully assessed at audition.

 

If the teachers are from an older generation or as you say from Eastern Europe there did used to be a tradition of putting them up early before we knew the pitfalls that we now now.

 

Some schools will start pre- pointe around the age of 10 which is basically strange thing & preparation Excercises.

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Hi and welcome to forum dadofaballetdaughter

 

My daughter started on pointe age 10. I found this document online which was a useful read at the time http://www.newcastledanceacademy.com.au/content.cfm?page_id=561756&current_category_code=13577

 

Apart from anything else it gave me a few prompts to think about certain things. I had under estimated things such as having a mature attitude to learning and applying corrections for example.

 

There's also a lot of parent myths out there .. Everything from periods to darning shoes and how to sew in ribbons so my advice is to listen but don't believe it all and make your own mind up based on what your DD's teacher is saying and what she learns from other teachers.

 

As for other training things such as netball and Athletics, I can't advise as no experience there, but gut feeling would say that sport would be good for fitness and stamina and being a rounded person with other interests than ballet.

 

In terms of what's the point of pointe... I should imagine your daughter excited and really happy and proud to have got to this stage .. Such a huge and wonderful milestone since dancing age 4!! Good luck to her :)

Edited by annaliesey
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I'm a dance teacher and from my experience decisions about pointe work should be made on a child to child basis. I've had students who have danced from a very young age go on to pointe aged 10, yet other members of their class simply haven't been ready. Maturity plays a huge part in it, I go along to all first pointe shoe fittings and soft pointe fittings, and you can establish a lot from the responses kids give to pointe shoe fitters. 10 is the absolute youngest I've ever had anyone on pointe and in the 13 years I've been teaching I can only recall 2 students who were mentally and physically able.

 

I always do a year in soft pointes prior to pointe work to strengthen and train the feet (and the mind) before they get full pointe shoes. For some girls the soft pointes are enough and they never progress beyond soft pointes, every little girl starts dancing with the aim of going onto pointe but sometimes the reality, dedication and money required behind pointe work is too great especially when there is no long term dance goal.

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Excellent advice from hfbrew and Bluebird22.

 

There is no rush to start pointe, even if a child has aspirations to dance professionally. Therefore, in my very humble opinion, there is no need for anyone to start pointework younger than Year 7, regardless of how tall they are.

 

If your dd's teacher is suggesting pre-pointe classes - i.e. working in demi-pointes/soft-blocks (these are pointe shoes without the shank and with a much softer box), doing foot, leg, and core strengthening exercises for a year, that is fine and worthwhile. If teacher is suggesting buying pointe shoes and starting work in them aged 10 and with the "wrong feet", I would say a firm No thank you.

 

With regards to "wrong feet", this could mean several things - varying from an overly mobile foot prone to injury, to a foot with too little range to get fully "over" on the platform of the pointe shoe. If the latter, you need to find out whether there is a physical - e.g. bony - impingement stopping the full range of motion when pointing, or whether in fact the achilles, hamstrings and backs of the legs are engaging with the required strength to keep the foot fully pointed.

 

I suggest a chat with the teachers to find out what is "wrong" with your dd's feet, and then seek further advice before letting them start your daughter en pointe.

 

Oh, and welcome! :-)

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No rush to start pointe, really! I have a couple of professional dancers in my family - neither started pointe till about 12. I started at 13, but was very strong and stable from the start. There is plenty of time!

 

And as for the "right feet" for a professional career ... well, maybe at the moment they're not naturally those "banana feet" that look so beautiful, but on the other hand, a lot of the "banana foot" is muscle which any dancer, going in to pre-professional-level training will develop. And less typically "ballerina" feet can be stronger and cause fewer difficulties in a dancing career.

 

At 10, a child's body still has a LOT of changes to go through. Unless there are obvious things in the proportions of the body which are not part of the classical ballet aesthetic (eg the proportional relationship of legs to torso, small head etc) no-one knows how a 10 year old will develop by 14 with the right slow & steady clean technical training.

 

And I always hope that young people (especially girls) will learn over their teen years that there is a whole lot more to the dance world, and the performing arts in general, than the "ballerina" role. There is some wonderful, powerful, expressive & creative contemporary dance out there, a lot of it being made by strong, creative, and technically amazing female dancers - I can think of Charlotte Vincent and Jasmin Vardamon straight off the top of my head (or see the Wim Wenders documentary on Pina Bausch, to see what a career in dance can be). Contemporary dance values technical skills and creativity as well as the body beautiful. So when she's a bit older, make sure your daughter sees some contemporary dance as well as ballet.

 

Lots to play for!

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I fished this out of an old post. I have tested the link and it still works.The International Association of Dance Medicine and Science have written a resource paper called 'When can I start pointe work?':

 

 

 

http://www.iadms.org/?185

 

 

Hope you find it helpful.

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My DD started pointe at 12 and was carefully assessed before hand, not just her feet, but also for strength of ankle and knees as the muscles supporting the leg need to be strong.  I also know dancers that didn't start pointe until 14 due to strengthening.  Personally I think 10 is too young, but it is the ballerina's dream to be on pointe and it is hard to say no to them.  As everyone has said, each child is different, but a good teacher should have assessed before inviting a child to do a pointe class.

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I would have thought, as Bluebird says, that 10 would be the youngest age for pointe work to begin safely - and that pointe work should only ever start, whether at 10 or older, once a teacher with the requisite knowledge and experience has assessed a dancer on an ongoing basis for her readiness physically and emotionally. Many girls including those going to vocational schools start pointe work just before they turn 11 so that they can be entered for Intermediate Foundation which includes (I only know about RAD) very basic pointe exercises. DD was very carefully assessed in terms of feet, legs and core strength by several teachers who knew her well and had taught her and observed her for some time, including an RAD vocational examiner, before going en pointe at 10 years 8 months to prepare for Intermediate Foundation and her progress with pointe work was only allowed to be very slow and steady. She was more than ready for the challenge of moving on from the children's grades to vocational grades at 10, but had she not been considered ready to start pointe work then she would have continued to learn the pointe exercises on demi pointe; several of her friends did just that as they weren't given the go-ahead for pointe work. There is a lot of discussion at DD's school from the time the girls get to grade 3 or 4 about the need to be assessed individually for pointe readiness with regard to different factors as they get to the level of being ready for IF and they are under no illusion that there is an automatic move to pointe work on the basis of age or grade, which seems to avoid any problem of girls thinking they must automatically be allowed to go en pointe.

 

If your DD has been told that she has the 'wrong' feet, I'm sure the teacher will explain what is meant by that and why she has nevertheless been invited to start pointe work. Certainly there is no rush and if you are at all uneasy then it may be best to delay it for a while.

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I should add that sports have never interfered with DD's dancing development, although her teacher would prefer her not to play netball as she feels that the 'stop-start'  nature of the sport is hard on the knees. Nevertheless DD has remained very sporty, including netball and her arabesque defending, used so that she can defend closely whilst remaining 3' away feet-wise, is legendary ;) She is also the most elegant natural high jumper and a very fast sprinter, although it must be said that her running style is very - well, balletic! as she seems to run solely on the balls of her feet and appears to 'spring' along.

 

Conversely, ballet can only help your DD in sports as she will be able to jump high, use nimble footwork and core strength, take instruction and criticism well and concentrate amazingly well....

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The talk of sports and ballet reminds me of dd's comment about the hurdles. She'd been reminded not to simply grand jete over them, "you have to stick your leg out like a dog having a wee " she explained.

Being size 7 feet doesn't seem to have hindered her with pointe work. Although she's also 5 ft 8 so looks a bit similar to a lampost.

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DD explained to me earnestly why she's so good at netball 'Well, it's just like an easy group dance. You have to know where everyone else is without looking at them, know exactly where your space is, and be able to run and stop immediately, then turn on the spot. The only new bit is the ball, and that's what keeps it interesting'

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