Determining When a Dancer is Ready for Pointe

There comes a point when every dancer wants to know when will she achieve her pointe shoes. As a teacher, I love the eagerness behind the question. Most often it means her heart is really in it! There is no pat answer. A typical age range for a dancer going on pointe is ten to fifteen. Therefore, a dancer in this age range and her parents should understand her instructors’ process of determining when she will be ready.

Before setting foot on this determined path to pointe, her feet should be examined. Does the foot have a natural arch or is it flat? Is the foot narrow or wide? How do the toes align? Have the bones begun to ossify? Some of these answers will be apparent while others, such as ossification, may require a visit to the doctor. While nothing can be done to speed along the ossification of bones, other obstacles, if any, can be knowledgeably approached so that they do not keep a dancer from succeeding.

A dancer of proper age and with understanding of her feet needs to study ballet for at least two consecutive years prior to pointe. The better part of those years should include attending class at least twice a week, as this consistency of study will continue once pointe work has begun. During this time the dancer will build technical training that includes strength in the feet and ankle, correct alignment and ability to maintain turnout while dancing. A dancer should also be at a healthy weight.

Attitude and maturity are also a determining factor in going on pointe. Dancers working towards and on pointe attend class so frequently there must be a sincere enjoyment in dancing. It’s not unusual for even the most enthusiastic dancer to feel a bit of discouragement by the difficulty of pointe work in the very beginning. Pointe dancers need to manage their time outside of class wisely. Feet often need a little tender love and care before and or after class. Beyond ballet, dancers are a part of a family, have academic studies and often other activities.

Just as ballet is not meant for every dancer, pointe is not meant for every ballerina. While pointe shoes are symbolic of ballet, ballet exists separate from pointe. Sometimes there is a physical reason a ballerina should not go on pointe such as weight or the anatomy of her feet. Other times, there is not the interest or time to devote to pointe specifically. Ballet Academy of Fremont is among schools that allow dancers at the same technical level to study in class together regardless of being in pointe shoes or in slippers studying on demi pointe. There are also technique classes separate from pointe classes. This format of study is particularly ideal when dancers have been in class for years with the same girls. It’s to be expected some will be ready for pointe before others. Allowing them to continue in class together aids to limit division among dancers or personal discouragement.

Given the heart is so involved in dancing, I hope parents can use this information as a source of understanding an encouragement to their dancer. I approach this decision as one of my greatest responsibilities. It is a thrilling moment for all when a dancer is told she is going on pointe and I look forward to helping each dancer reach this goal!