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Pointe shoes what age?


Evie
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When a girl goes on pointe is a combination of several factors - some of them a matter of individual readiness such as technical capability but every bit as important is the readiness and maturity of the skeleton. One should never argue with the skeleton.

 

There are several places in the skeleton which takes many years to harden from cartilege to bone - and the toes are one of those places. There is a classic book: "Anatomy and Ballet" by Celia Sparger in which this is discussed in detail. There are pictures of x-rays of the bones of the feet at the ages of 4, 11, and 19. In the x-ray of the 4 yr old one can see actual open space between the joints of the toes - filled with in soft invisible cartilege. By age 11, the space is much reduced but still there is some space. By age 19, finally, the space is now bone.

 

I have always recommended - and firmly believe - that no child should go on pointe before the age of 12. There is nothing to be gained - there are no roles for children on pointe in the ballet. Going on pointe early may not injure a particular child - but how is one to know this beforehand? Is it worth taking the chance?

 

Going on pointe early means that many more years of stressing the foot which was not meant to be used in this way. The injury and damage may not show up for years. Such damage as: bunions, hairline fractures, tendonitis, hammer toes, arthritis, etc. Is it worth any of this just to go on pointe a year or two early?

 

In addition to the readiness of the bone structure the child should be have acquired the degree of technical proficiency to support pointe work. Not only physically - but mentally - able to use the technical knowledge intelligently - thoughtfully - and that takes a degree of maturity, too.

 

All too often parents and teachers would like to please the pleading (starry eyed) child. However, though a child may have had many years of dance classes and exhibit every asset necessary - one can't - and shouldn't - argue with the growth rate of the skeleton.

 

As a teacher - or as a parent - I would never be a party to the possibility of damaging a child - the damage of which may not be seen for years. I would want my child or student to be able to walk long after her dancing days are over.

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Definately be led by what your teacher tells you. Being on pointe is not an indication of how good you are as a dancer! You need to have a very strong core strength and good strong feet and ankles. Two of dds best friends joined White Lodge in year 7 (last year having never done any pointe work) my dd is 12 and only does two half hour sessions a week en pointe (working towards the new interfoundation exam) but also doing Intermediate to "push her". However I am in no hurry to push her to do anymore than her teacher recommends. There are so many factors to take into consideration. I would definately not allow her to be doing it at age 9 or 10 as it just isn't necessary. Most of the vocational schools don't start until well into year 7!

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First it is important to understand that pointe class never takes the place of regular slipper class - it is in addition to slipper class.

 

When first starting on pointe - as a general statement - pointe work is usually done at the end of regular class for about 15 minutes. This insures that the body is well warmed up. Pointe is done at the barre. Any center work that is done is not on pointe but in pointe shoes. This introduces the student to what it feels like to be in a pointe shoe, without a barre, just moving on a fully flat foot in the center. The balance is entirely different. This 15 minutes of pointe work at the end of regular class may occur perhaps twice a week.

 

Slowly the length and frequency of pointe work increases as does the amount of time in the center. Work goes from two feet on pointe to eventually one foot on pointe and from stepping up onto pointe (piqué) to rolling up (relevé) to springing up to pointe. Those are the three basic ways of attaining pointe.

 

Eventually this all moves out to the center. And, finally the entire class is done on pointe - which has the advantage of warming up the body and the shoe together.

 

But, even then, pointe work is in addition to regular class - even if regular class is taken in pointe shoes.

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At dd's Associate class they started pointe after 5 months of class and all the girls were 12. I know some girls had been put on pointe before that by their local teacher, but my dd hadn't.

 

For the remainder of that year, they only did 10-15 minutes of pointework following on from the 1hr ballet class. If I remember rightly there were lots of rises at the barre, then releves - that was pretty much it. It was another few months after that when my dd first did any centre work en pointe and then it was very basic, just the exercises for the old RAD Inter Foundation.

 

The whole process has been taken very slowly and steadily by both the Associate and local teachers, which I'm very glad about.

 

I know some teachers are happy to put children en pointe at 10 but as a parent I would have balked at that.

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it scares me at times at how young some go onto pointe, as a rule for me 12 is the min age and then i have to be very sure, the bar works lasts a while too but i know many teachers who think childrens feet and bones are 'strong enough' at 10 because the dancers are technically very good but in reality the rush to go onto pointe is potentially damaging and should be paced.

 

Some think there is a status to going on pointe at a young age, sadly it often results in later damage and is often an indicator of an inexperienced teacher who is potentially pressured or carried away with how good some dancers are.

 

I'm just very wary about the rush to go on pointe, i'm sure there are exceptions but i've yet to meet one that i'm fully happy with

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My DD started pointework aged 11 with about 5 minutes on pointe at the barre once a week (at the end of inter-foundation class), and her teacher also gave her exercises for ankle strengthening to do at home.

 

She's now been on pointe for two years, and does roughly half an hour of pointe twice a week, much of which is still at the barre.

 

Her feet had already stopped growing before she got her pointe shoes.

 

Her teacher doesn't usually put girls on pointe till about 13, and I know that my dd was very much the exception rather than the rule. I did spend a fair while poring over information (lots of it on this forum) and agonising over whether to let her do pointe so young, but, due to her strength, foot shape and physical maturity, and with advice from her teacher and two pointe shoe fitters, I eventually said ok).

Edited by taxi4ballet
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My teacher felt I was ready at 8 but I waited until I had my 10th birthday to get my first shoes because the shop assistants were wary of selling shoes to me. However some people in my class were advised to wait until they were 13/14 before going on pointe and a few girls in my class who also got pointe shoes at the same time as me, started on pointe when they were as old as 16! It really depends on the bone structure and strength of the feet. How often you do class and how your teacher feels!

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Good grief ,I would never put a child on pointe at aged 8.The whole body is involved in going on pointe and not just how strong your feet are ,one must take into consideration whether the pupil can hold their turn out on demi point . One thing that makes me so sad is when you have a pupil that is a beautiful dancer and finally gets to the age and capability of being able to get their first shoes yet alas the anatomical design of their ankle and foot means they just cannot get onto pointe ,my heart really goes out to them x

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Is there many that cant go on pointe because of the anatomical design?

 

In my experience - not very many. In fact I knew of only one girl who absolutely could not because her feet literally had no arch at all. On the other end I knew of another who's feet were so soft no amount of support could keep her feet from splling over. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. In both those cases, it was indeed sad. Both of those girls were very dedicated. The problems were obvious long before they were of an age to go on pointe. In both cases, however, when it came time I allowed them to get pointe shows because they simply had to try it to become convinced that it was not possible. It was a heartbreaker.

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