BALLET DANCERS EN POINTE – WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
Progressing to dancing en pointe can be one of the most exciting times in a young dancers life, it has always been a right of passage for every dancer. Often we cannot wait to put on our first pair of pointe shoes and show off our best arabesque en pointe and truly feel like a “real” ballerina. But when is the right time? How do you know that you are ready?
There are many factors that determine whether you are ready to go en pointe. Often this decision is made by your dance teacher depending on age, abilities, strength, how often you are dancing and how quickly the other students in your class are progressing. Some dancers will be ready to go en pointe at age 9, and others not until 14 and some dancers will never go en pointe and there are many factors which can affect this.
One of the factors to consider is the variably of growth rates in girls between these ages. Growth plates which are the areas of growing tissue at the end of bones begin to harden into solid bone between the ages of 8 and 14 and do not fully close until 16-18. Children grow at different rates and there is no way to tell how mature your bone is without further investigations such as x-rays. This means that a dancers’ feet and ankles must be very strong prior to commencing pointe to avoid any growth plate fractures or other injuries which could cause ongoing or permanent problems in a dancer’s career. Without strong ankles, feet and legs, dancers are at more risk of injuries during pointe work. Dancers must also have strong core muscles, hips and good mobility. And let’s not forget about turnout and technique!
Many weaknesses can be hidden in shoes during class and a beautiful technical dancer can have weak feet that are not ready for pointe. These days with the depth of knowledge available, more and more dance teachers refer their students to see a dance physiotherapist and seek guidance before progressing onto pointe to make sure they avoid any preventable injuries. This takes some of the pressure off dance teachers in knowing when the time is right to progress their students.
Following an initial assessment with a Physiotherapist, the Physio may provide strengthening and mobility exercises looking at the dancers’ feet, ankles, hips, core and turnout to make sure the dancer is able to withstand the demands of pointe work. There are a few checklists that the physio will go through with the dancer to make sure she is ready to start dancing on her pointe shoes. This, along with some consistent hard work and approval of her dance teacher, a girl can be more confident to start dancing en pointe.
Ferry Rd Physio and Functional Therapies