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Size and Pointework


BusyBee
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I'm looking for other teacher opinions on this subject.

I currently have a few pupils of various ages, but at the same level that are due to start Pointework in the next few weeks. But, one of the group is a little overweight and I feel a bit too large to be starting Pointework.

If you have to tell a parent their child is not strong enough physically to start Pointework (as they do develop at different rates) and that it would be better to wait and start when they are ready, it is easy to explain this and the parent and child are generally ok knowing that when the child is stronger they will start Pointework.

But to tell a parent their child is not starting due to their weight, I think in this day, where everything has to be positive and encouraging teaching, they would take it the wrong way. When I started pointework 30 years ago, it was known within the school that if you was overweight you wouldn't be allowed to go on pointe. As far as I know my teacher was able to tell a parent that their child would not be starting pointework due to their size, without any repercussions. I certainly wouldn't want to fall out with this parent over this, the child is a good dancer and though has no plans to make a career of it, she really enjoys her classes, and there is no reason why over the next few years, her shape may change.

I have decided how to approach this, but I would appreciate any thoughts or comments from other teachers on how they have dealt with similar situations.

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Ooh, I don't envy you for having to deal with such a delicate situation in the current climate of anxiety about girls' self esteem and mental health. At many schools going on pointe is a rite of passage rather than something that only a select few are allowed to do (like vocational classes). You could just be frank with the mother and leave it to her to decide how to handle the issue with her DD. Your alternatives are (a) to keep fobbing the girl off with explanations that she is not physically strong enough (which may prompt her to keep asking how she can improve strength and when she will be ready to go on pointe) and ( B) to let her start pointe work (which is mainly at the barre at the beginning) but keep her in the beginners class and hope that she loses interest (or loses weight).

 

I've just noticed that you are looking for opinions from teachers rather than parents and I am a parent. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Edited by aileen
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How overweight is she? I have known a number of "larger" students be able to successfully manage pointework. (It would however be especially important to ensure that the bones in the feet have stopped growing, if more weight than usual is to be placed on pointe, so the "physically ready" argument may in fact be a perfectly valid one to use at the present time.

Edited by youngatheart
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She is 13 years. I have already decided that she won't be going on pointe as yet and this is mainly due to the fact that she has knock knees and sway back legs, so lacks the strength to cope with her shape. I do have a couple of other girls in the same class that are the same size as her, but they are very strong and will cope very well with Pointework. I was just interested in how other teachers would approach this situation.

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Crumbs that's tricky. Could you explain it's a balance between weight and strength (which is partly determind by her bony anatomy) which will determine when someone can go en pointe? That softens the blow a bit as there is more than one area to work on.

 

From my observations as a parent and health worker I think sometimes people are too afraid to tell parents their children are overweight. And we do not do children a favour by avoiding the issue.

 

Good luck!

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Not always, but often, those with hypermobile joints have "soft" muscles as well as ligaments, find it hard to gain strength, and also put on weight easily.  It is always better to err on the side of caution when starting pointework, but it can be hard for pupils to accept.

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A parent not a teacher but I think your posts on here already suggest suitable wording - you do not need to refer to her being overweight - just tell her as you say that she is not yet physically strong enough and that it is different for everyone and that for her it is mainly down to her swayback legs.  Especially if you can get a compliment in there re her legs

 

There was a girl in the group below DD's who was rather overweight and she did not get her pointe shoes at the same time as her friends.  She was given the explanation of lack of physical strength in ankles, legs and knees by the teacher - her mother told her it was because she was overweight and that upset her far more than  her teachers comments and not being able to start pointe work.  Two years of growth later and she is on pointe and now wishes she wasn't!!

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Yes, it seems that you can truthfully say that she is not yet ready for pointe work because she lacks the strength needed. Mothers can be extremely sensitive about their children's weight but if there are girls of a similar shape starting pointe work then this mother will not rush to the conclusion that her daughter is being denied the opportunity to start pointe because of her size.

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Crumbs that's tricky. Could you explain it's a balance between weight and strength (which is partly determind by her bony anatomy) which will determine when someone can go en pointe? That softens the blow a bit as there is more than one area to work on.

 

From my observations as a parent and health worker I think sometimes people are too afraid to tell parents their children are overweight. And we do not do children a favour by avoiding the issue.

 

Good luck!

I agree! Sometimes by trying to be delicate and gentle we are not helping at all!

Explaining it as a balance between weight and strength is a good idea - you still say what needs to be said but in a gentle way.

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Would it help her if you made a point of giving her specific exercises to do regarding the strength issue ? If she (and her mum) understand that you are trying to help her overcome the weaknesses that are currently preventing her from starting pointe work it may be easier for you all. And yes, throw in the compliment about the sway back legs (2dancersmum) because then she has something positive to go with...in her own mind and that of her dancing peers. It's very important. 

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I don't think you need to mention her weight at all - whether she is overweight or not is irrelevant. Is she strong enough to safely go onto pointe, and to be able to dance when she's up there? If the answer is no, then she isn't strong enough! I've seen many girls who are too weak to go onto pointe and are skinny, conversely I've seen girls who have more body fat who are strong and able dancers. Leave weight / body composition / fat out of it.

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I don't think you need to mention her weight at all - whether she is overweight or not is irrelevant. Is she strong enough to safely go onto pointe, and to be able to dance when she's up there? If the answer is no, then she isn't strong enough! I've seen many girls who are too weak to go onto pointe and are skinny, conversely I've seen girls who have more body fat who are strong and able dancers. Leave weight / body composition / fat out of it.

 

I agree with this. If she's not strong enough to go on pointe yet then she isn't strong enough. Her weight is not the reason so no need to mention it.

 

There were a couple of women in the adult class I used to go to who were overweight and did very well on pointe. I also have a friend who was considerably overweight and passed her intermediate ballet (including pointe work) and went on to be a teacher. She may have continued with higher grades, I'm not sure. Anyway, she had the most amazing feet and was very strong on pointe.

 

From my observations as a parent and health worker I think sometimes people are too afraid to tell parents their children are overweight. And we do not do children a favour by avoiding the issue.

 

Do you think the parents don't realise that their child is overweight?

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Invisiblecircus - i think many don't realise or at least realise what normal is anymore. The children get weight and height checked in Y6 round here. On 2 occasions in the changing rooms at dance I've heard Mums bitterly complaining that the school nurse had told them child was overweight. Both these Mums are substantially overweight as are their kids. It's sad.

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The International Association of Dance Medicine and Science have written a resource paper called 'When can I start pointe work?'. I am only a parent but found it really helpful and I hope that others do too.

 

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

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What evidence/ research is there to say that weight has an effect on readiness for pointe? If the student has a strong core, ankles & there are no balance issues why should weight matter?

 

If you're overweight, it tends to put excess strain on the knees, doesn't it?  I can't see that being good for pointework, with all that weight and force being channelled into such a small area on the foot.

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