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what is the best age to start pointe work?


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My dd is 11 in a couple of months time, she has been doing inter found ballet for over a year now, and her teacher mentioned about her starting pointe work from sept. I dont know what to think about this, is she too young yet? She is a rbs ja so dont want her feet sore for ja classes! Dd is quite small for her age but also strong & flexible, should i get a second opinion from her ja teacher or let her try out pointe work as it is only 10 mins at the end of the class.help!

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It depends if you're going to vocational school in year 7. If so, don't start pointe work as the schools like to train pupils in pointe work from the beginning. If not, then 11 is ok if she's doing at least 2 ballet classes a week, and has good posture, strength and control. As she's a year 6 (?) JA she's probably fine to start pointe but it wouldn't hurt to double check with DD's JA teacher.

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I would worry about her starting point when she's only *just* 11. My dd started the month before she was 12, but for the first 3 or 4 months or so it was literally a few minutes at the end of Associate Class, doing rises at the barre in parallel and in first. She took her I.F. Exam 11 months later.

 

Just to play Devil's Advocate, If it were my dd I would ask if she could wait 6 months or so. My dd learned the whole Inter Foundation syllabus in soft shoes and then mastered the small amount of pointe a couple of months before the exam.

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Every child is different and I don't think that this is the place to be asking for advice about an individual readiness as none of us know your daughter. 11 can be too early, but it is also fine for some. I think asking her JA teacher is an excellent idea as she will have a very good idea about whether your dd is ready or not and you may also be able to see the RBS physio at the beginning of next term. The general advice would be to start as late as possible as there is no great advantage to starting early, other than being able to take certain exams!!

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Definitely best to wait til after auditions etc because like others have said there really is no rush and I do know that vocational schools much prefer starting children on pointe without them having done it before. George Balanchine is known to have said, "there is no point putting a girl en Pointe unless she can do something when she is up there!".

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It is not simply a matter of strength or how long the child has been dancing - it is a matter of the skeleton being mature enouh. . Xrays show that before the age of twelve the joints of the toes are connected by cartilege which has not as yet ossified into bone. Though it will be a few years after 12 when this process is fully completed - generally by 12 yrs. of age it has ossified enough to support poine work.

 

There is no reason to start pointe work earlier than 12. Balanchine was correct - there are no roles on pointe for a child. Starting early also means than many more years of pointe work stressing the foot which is being asked to perform in a way for which it was not designed.

 

Many of the problems do not surface until later - even many years later: bunions, stress fractures, arthritis, tendonities, hammer toes, etc.

 

You can check out the rate of ossification of the bones of the foot in Celia Sparger's book: "Anatomy and Ballet." She shows a series of three pictures of the feet: at 4 yrs old, 11 yrs old, and 19 yrs old. (pages 75, 76, 77). It is possible in these x-rays to see that there is a large amount of space between the joints of the toes in the 4 yr old; a still visible amount of space - but less so - in the 11 yr. and then fully matured in the 19 yr old.

 

Remember, the toes are being asked to carry the full weight of the body in a way they were never designed to do. Therefore, every precaution should be taken to insure that undue stress is avoided whenever possible. Waiting a few months more is a small price to pay to err in the direction of caution.

 

Even at 12, pointe work should be done slowly and carefully - assessing the foot all along the way.

 

One should not argue with the skeleton.

 

As a teacher, I always asked myself - do I want to be responsible for possibly adding a chance for damage to a student when it can easily be avoided?

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When my daughter first started vocational school, all the girls started point work together. The only thing was my daughter was a summer birth, so was actually only just 11. As it turns out in the long, long run of things there really is no rush. What is important is that the child is taught how to be safe and to use correct technique at all times. What is the point excuse the pun of seeing a child doing advanced moves on point only to see that they are not fully over and clomping down on landings.

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What concerns me is that you say your daughter is quite small for her age. This may potentially mean that her development is immature for her age meaning that her skeleton is not that of an 11 year old, but a 10 or even 9 year old. This was the case for my daughter! If you're being given no choice by your teacher and you're still concerned, it might be worth checking it out with your doctor.

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Dd although 11 in sept is quite small her feet are only just a size 1. Teacher not putting pressure on dd to start pointe, has left it with me to think about, after reading the replies i'll let dd wait until the year 7 auditions are finished.

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There is a very good resource paper produced by the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science on this topic here: http://www.iadms.org...tart_pointe.pdf

 

Interesting that the article quotes Celia Sparger's book which I referenced above. And, my edition is the 5th -which the article also mentions as the latest.

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I started when I was 10 and I haven’t had any negative outcomes from starting at what is considerd quite young.

I think it depends on the strength of dd's feet, if her teacher feels she is able to sustain a good standard of Pointe work then I would trust their opinion.

however if she does not feel stable at any point, due to injury or just nervousness then band exercises will increase strength and mobility in her feet.

:)

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I wonder if your teacher is just talking about doing very gentle excercises at the barre. I think it depends to what extent your childs teacher intends regarding the pointe work. I think it would be best to communicate with her as she should know your dd best. My dd started pointe work at 11. When she went off to vocational school they were all started on the same level of pointe work regardless of how advanced or not the student was.

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I would listen to your dds teacher and then go with your gut instinct, you know your child best. I also think that that the teacher who teaches your dd the most will know her best. You could then ask the JA teacher her opinion and then make your decision from the information of all parties.

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It is not simply a matter of strength or how long the child has been dancing - it is a matter of the skeleton being mature enouh. . Xrays show that before the age of twelve the joints of the toes are connected by cartilege which has not as yet ossified into bone. Though it will be a few years after 12 when this process is fully completed - generally by 12 yrs. of age it has ossified enough to support poine work.

 

There is no reason to start pointe work earlier than 12. Balanchine was correct - there are no roles on pointe for a child. Starting early also means than many more years of pointe work stressing the foot which is being asked to perform in a way for which it was not designed.

 

Many of the problems do not surface until later - even many years later: bunions, stress fractures, arthritis, tendonities, hammer toes, etc.

 

You can check out the rate of ossification of the bones of the foot in Celia Sparger's book: "Anatomy and Ballet." She shows a series of three pictures of the feet: at 4 yrs old, 11 yrs old, and 19 yrs old. (pages 75, 76, 77). It is possible in these x-rays to see that there is a large amount of space between the joints of the toes in the 4 yr old; a still visible amount of space - but less so - in the 11 yr. and then fully matured in the 19 yr old.

 

Remember, the toes are being asked to carry the full weight of the body in a way they were never designed to do. Therefore, every precaution should be taken to insure that undue stress is avoided whenever possible. Waiting a few months more is a small price to pay to err in the direction of caution.

 

Even at 12, pointe work should be done slowly and carefully - assessing the foot all along the way.

 

One should not argue with the skeleton.

 

As a teacher, I always asked myself - do I want to be responsible for possibly adding a chance for damage to a student when it can easily be avoided?

 

Anjuli, do children in US regularly get their feet X rayed prior to starting pointe? I must say that I have never heard of this here! I know that part of the audition process for vocational schools is an examination with a physiotherapist which I presume checks suitability/readiness for pointe but hundreds of children at regular recreational classes will go up without any such checks. I am not saying that is the right way to go, but it seems to be the norm here!!

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Anjuli, do children in US regularly get their feet X rayed prior to starting pointe? I must say that I have never heard of this here! I know that part of the audition process for vocational schools is an examination with a physiotherapist which I presume checks suitability/readiness for pointe but hundreds of children at regular recreational classes will go up without any such checks. I am not saying that is the right way to go, but it seems to be the norm here!!

 

I personally do not know of a school which requires x-rays - but I have heard of it done - yes. As I recall it was in a thread such as this many years ago. I first took part in a ballet board such as this around 1998 - and this question pops up every couple of months. It was in one of those "conversations" that it was mentioned that there are some schools and/or teachers who require it. I don't recall where or even what country.

 

The maturation of the human skeleton (knitting of the cranium, for instance) is fairly even (or so I've read) across time and place. It is one of the ways archeologists assess from a skeleton how old the person was when he/she died.

 

As for me, I could never see the harm in erring on the side of caution. So, if everything else is in place: sufficient ballet classes per week, sufficient technical accomplishment, workable basic foot construction, normal maturation process - then the last prerequisite was to be at least 12 yrs. of age.

 

In all my years of teaching, I never once heard of a girl who started at 12 - or even later because of some unusual circumstance - was subsequently told she had started pointe too late.

 

I had many, many adults who started pointe in their 20-30-40's - and yes, even 50's! - who did very well with it - even performing to a fairly high standard.

 

So, why rush a young girl who has only a matter of months to wait?

 

Did this cost me money when mothers and daughters who insisted that they begin poine work before the age requirement had been met? Yes, many times. But that's ok - I don't need that kind of money.

 

And, I always made it part of my contract with a school so everyone knew the requirements. I never had difficulty fnding employment. In fact, just the opposite.

 

So, I don't spend my retirement wondering if I ruined some young girl's' feet.

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I definitely do not think any child should begin pointe until they are ready however as Anjuli quite correctly pointed out, the human skeleton does not completely ossify until very late teens! While there is a difference between age 4 and age 11, I really don't think that there will be vast difference between age 10 and age 12. It's not like suddenly a girl turns 12 and overnight her bones have hardened up. It's a gradual process which is not complete until late teens. So the argument about skeletal maturity is kind of null and void here - HOWEVER what is more important is that the child has strength, control and maturity. There's certainly no rush!

 

FYI bunions tend to be caused by a longer 1st toe, and 'fishing' or winging the foot en pointe. Stress fractures are just that; overuse with insufficient recovery (often compounded by a lack of oestrogen), tendonitis of every kind is also an overuse injury that will be related to inefficient biomechanics ie misalignment/poor technique subjected to repeated trauma. Most dance injuries are caused by faulty alignment, either very slight faulty alignment subjected to overuse with insufficient recovery or major, sudden faulty alignment such as falling, twisting or spraining.

Edited by drdance
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But there other factors here; the differences in strength and technique between 10 and 12 are vast.

 

And although ossification is not complete until the late teens, it is an ongoing process, so it stands to reason that the process will be further along at 12 than it will at 10.

 

I just don't see the need to put a child of 10 en pointe; there is plenty to still be learning at 10. It's not as if a child will be bored and waiting to start pointe because there's nothing else to learn. What's the harm in waiting?

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Too true! At 10, my dd looked like a little girl, albeit a very slim one. She's grown over 4 inches this year and because her strength and muscle tone have improved so much, she now looks like a very toned but still very slim young woman. I look at photos of her and can't believe the difference.

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And one who can wrap your husband round her little finger....

 

Oh - that wrapping around the finger business starts much much earlier. I've seen it done with great premeditated skill at age 5!

 

That 5 yr old may have had the body of a child - but the mind was already that of a woman with a plan. :)

 

By the time she got through with her father he was happy to be her "victim."

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Pointe work isn't exactly good for you at any age, obviously because its completley unnatural! So with the amount of problems it causes to mature, proffesional dancers, there should be no rush to start it at an early age! That being said it is a natural step for an aspiring dancer and everybody is "ready" at different times, I know 11year olds that are much more stable and safe on point than some 14 year olds, I understand your concern but I would trust you're DD's teacher, as she will be the best judge of your daughters capibilitys and anatomy, you shouldn't have any doubts if you respect her as a teacher, talk to her to put you're mind at rest though, if you are still worried :)

Like you said 10 minutes at the end of class should be fine, they will be strengthening excercises introducing your daughter to the basics of pointe work.

Hope this helps

 

Xx

Edited by Lula-belle
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