Guidelines for Initiating Pointe Training
The initiation of pointe training for dance students should be determined after careful evaluation of a number of factors. These include: the dance student’s stage of physical development; the quality of her (or his) trunk, abdominal and pelvic control ("core" stability); the alignment of her legs (hip-knee-ankle-foot); the strength and flexibility of her feet and ankles; and the duration and frequency of her dance training. For students who meet the requirements related to all of these factors, began ballet training at age eight or later, and who are taking ballet class at least twice per week, pointe work should be initiated in the fourth year of training. Students with poor core stability or hypermobility of the feet and ankles may require additional strengthening to allow them to safely begin pointe training. For those who are only taking ballet classes once per week, or who are not truly pre-professional, pointe training should be discouraged. No student with insufficient ankle and foot plantar flexion range of motion or with poor lower extremity alignment should be allowed to do pointe work.
The young dancer asks, "When can I begin pointe work?" The answer usually given, almost without thought, is "at 12 years of age." It would be better if the response were "What kind of dance student are you?" Starting pointe at age 12 presupposes that the child is beginning her fourth year of ballet classes at a dance academy with a program designed to train professional ballet dancers. Acceptance to such a program would indicate that, at age eight or nine, the child had sufficient anatomic facility. The program itself would consist of classes progressively increasing in difficulty and frequency over the first three years. By age 12 the student would be taking four classes per week. Her feet and ankles would be strong, her trunk and pelvic control would be good, and her proprioceptive skills would be properly developed. Pointe work would begin with 15 minutes of exercises at the end of each class. [1-6]
This student should be distinguished from the child who began classes at age five at a local dance school and now, at age ten, takes one ballet and one tap class a week. She is small for her age, with weak feet and ankles. She is very "loose-jointed" (hypermobile) in her spine, knees, feet, and ankles. Her teacher wanted her to start pointe work two years ago, but the mother thought she wasn't serious enough about her dancing. Her cousin began pointe work at age ten and she wants to know why she can’t start now...
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This Resource Paper was written by David S. Weiss, MD, Rachel Anne Rist, MA, and Gayanne Grossman, PT, EdM, under the auspices of the Education and Media Committees of IADMS.