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straceydor
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Hello straceydor,

 

Gosh, painful wrists could have many causes. Is there a particular time when they hurt? Is it during dancing? Have you sought medical advice?

 

Regarding ankles, yes, strength is indeed required for pointework, but also a degree of flexibility at the front of the foot at the ankle. There are many Theraband exercises which can help prepare for pointe, but these really should be prescribed by a teacher and even possibly a dance physio.

 

Sorry not to be much help but it does sound as if a good chat with your teacher is in order. :-)

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Sometimes pain in the wrist can be growth related - I used to have really painful wrists, inexplicably so, during adolescence. When do her wrists hurt? Unless you're doing a lot of acrobatic or gymnastic work I wouldn't worry about strengthening them.

 

As for ankles, you can never do too many rises... They are one of the best conditioning exercises I know (done properly, of course). Teachers are expert at being able to tell when you're strong enough to go onto pointe, and its not always to do with just the ankles.

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Here is a reply I made in another thread on the subject about assessing readiness for pointe:

 

POINTE – ASSESSING READINESS

 

 

Assuming that the ballet student has reached at least the age of twelve years, has sufficient skeletal maturity, mental focus and the desire, the following are some of the criteria I try to apply in assessing the readiness of the student for pointe work.

 

How is the weight placed? It is important not only for the weight to be placed correctly but the student needs to understand some of the principles behind correct alignment. I look to see if the student is standing with optimum stability within the confines of individual conformation. The body should be balanced forward, heels in contact with the floor, but the weight mostly on the balls of the feet. The weight should also be evening divided between the two feet. The stance is also in most part borne by the first three large toes of the foot.

 

In assessing balance, I look for the ease with which the student has learned to align the body for proper balance – how innate has it become? When the student rises to demi-pointe there should be little rocking forward. The body comes forward in one piece. The balance is easily attained. The communication “to balance” comes from the mind – not “when the body is ready”. It is mind directed.

 

The student should also be well able to control the descent from demi-pointe, with no rocking backward onto the heels. This should be assessed not only in static positions, like a simple releve’, but also in moving positions, as in coming down from a pirouette. The student should come down from that pirouette still very much in control of the balance and weight and ready to go on toward the next step. The ending for one being the beginning for the next.

 

But, besides this it is necessary, in my opinion, to assess the conformation of the foot, ankle, knees and legs. The amount of either bowl or hyper construction of the knee will very much affect how the student is able to rise to and dance on pointe. Extremes of either could be very detrimental and might put the knee at risk. Ankle either pronating or sickling could be another cause for caution before proceeding. Past injuries should be taken into account. Elongation of the second large toe is considered by many to be untenable for pointe work, although I have found this not always to be the case.

 

And, finally the shape of the foot itself. I would hesitate to place any young student on pointe who already has a bunion. The weight of the body was not meant to be borne on the ends of the toes, therefore many stresses will be created by being on pointe and a bunion can result from these stresses. So, if I saw a student with this formation before pointe work even begins I would really hesitate to initiate pointe work for this person.

 

There are basically three kinds of feet. One with a tight, strong construction that has almost no arch at all. This is not aesthetically pleasing, and for the ballet that is a consideration. But in addition to that it can inhibit the possibility of the student from fully achieving the ability to attain full weight placement on the platform of the pointe shoe. This will throw the weight back and stress will be added to other parts of the body to compensate. It will be very difficult for the student to work with a straight knee and therefore not only will the knee be stressed but also much of the vocabulary of the ballet will be impossible to accomplish. In order to be fully up on pointe a “bend” has to occur somewhere and if the flexibility of the foot does not allow it – then the bend will occur in the knee or the spine, which is unacceptable.

 

The second type of foot has a more flexible instep that proceeds from the high part of the forefoot – almost from the ankle. This allows the dancer to be fully up on the platform of the shoe, does not stress the knee, allows the body’s weight to be forward over the platform of the pointe shoe, and is aesthetically pleasing. While it is not as strong as the tight construction, it is strong enough to support pointe work.

 

The third type of foot is extremely flexible. Here the instep is much lower down on the forefoot. When this person is on demi-pointe the foot is out over the toes. This type of foot is a weak construct, and literally spills over and even out of the shoe. It is a beautiful foot, but very difficult, sometimes even impossible, to work with. I knew someone with this kind of foot, and she found pointe work impossible, even sewing up the vamps of her pointe shoe, she literally spilled out of the shoe. She found pirouettes extremely difficult even on demi-pointe. The weight was thrown too far forward and there was a lack of strength in the foot for any real control.

 

Most of us are somewhere in between on the scale of these three types of feet. It is up to the teacher to assess the feet of the student and suggest the appropriate shoe for the student’s level and physical needs.

 

It may take a while before a suitable shoe is found. This fit should be continuously re-assessed as it often happens that the dancer’s feet will change with time and use.

 

I hope this is of some help.

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Starting pointe late is not necessarily a hindrance, in my opinion. I feel that a late pointe starter can catch up quickly if the rest of their technique and strength is good. I would rather someone start pointe a bit later, to be honest. Of course if you a looking for a professional career you'd need to catch up to quite an advanced level by aged 16, but I wouldn't say it's impossible.

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Anjul Bai, may I ask? If you start pointe work later (e.g. 15) is that a real problem or just one of those things

 

 

 

Sorry for the Hijack, Straceydor, I hope you don't mind

 

I've had adult students start pointe work as late as 50 yrs old - as long as all the other components were in place: technique, strength, conformation of foot, etc.

 

The only problem I can see for the vocationally bound younger student is if the auditions include pointe - but even then many vocational schools do not require this particular proficiency upon audition. It is amazing how quickly a "late" starter catches up. There are many advantages to starting later (15 or so) and many disadvantages for starting earlier than 12. I've never known anyone held back by starting later.

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Thanks; that's reassuring

 

DD went from virtually no Ballet to Grade 5 in 8 months (although she was a keen dancer in other genre) & now a further 8 months on the teacher is starting point work.  We have a year until auditions I guess.

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Katymac, my advice would be to remember that pointe work is a long slow build up so don't let your DD get disheartened if she finds it hard at times or it is taking some time to do it confidently. It has taken several years for my DD to gain strength and confidence in pointe. Eventually finding good shoes has made a difference especially as DD has very difficult feet for pointe but mainly it has been perseverence. Ask your ballet teacher for an honest appraisal of your DDs feet (Anjuli has explained the basic foot types very well in another thread). This will help give you and DD realistic expectations for how pointe work will go. If your DDs feet are not ideal for pointe it does not necessarily mean she will never manage it but it will take hard work determination and some heart ache along the way. Don't rush it especially as in other posts you have said you DD has been unwell.

Edited by robin64
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