This page contains some basic guidelines for your readiness to start Pointe work. Please do not worry if you are not yet quite ready to begin, it is much healthier and safer for you to take slightly longer preparing your body, allowing some skeletal maturity to have taken place, than to have started at a too young an age, maybe causing you damage that could bring your dancing to an early finish.
Assessing your readiness for pointe work
There are some important things to consider before starting pointe work and buying your first pair of shoes.
1: Have you had permission from your Teacher?
2: How strong are you ? When you dance on pointe you not only rely on the shoe for support, but also to dance 'out' of the shoe needing huge strength in your legs, hips and abdominal muscles.
3: How many classes do you do each week? To do Pointe Work, you should take a minimum of 2-3 classes per week, and have studied Ballet for the minimum of 4 years.
4: Have you started your periods, or had your second growth spurt? This is because the bones are much stronger after the 2nd growth spurt which occurs around the same time as menstruation.
5: Can you hold your heel forward towards the big toe, when you pointe your toes with NO sickling?
6: Can you hold a passé balance on demi-pointe without any wobbling?
7: Can you hold your heel forward towards the big toe, when you pointe your toes with NO sickling?
Question: Turnout muscles are essential for correct pointe work, how easy is it for you to hold your turnout muscles?
Question: Can you use the small muscles of your feet? Using these tiny muscles helps make Pointe work easier.
When you pointe your toes they need to be long and straight not clawed. Clawed toes can lead to pointe shoe problems such as blisters. When you pointe your toes focus on using your ankle, if you curl your toes it could be that you are putting to much tension in your toes tips. Many dancers have to retrain their feet and learn to use those tiny small muscles correctly. Practice by doing a tendu, make sure your foot has contact with the floor as you reach out for the tendu only springing the toes at the very last second, as you spring the toes off the floor think about making an outward arc shape with your foot, reaching away from your body and not down to the floor. tendu is one of the most important balletic steps and it is a good exercise to do to train your foot correctly.
Any rolling inwards of the feet MUST be corrected before Pointe work commences.
How to help correct any rolling
Rolling ankles can be strengthened with work. I like to get the dancer to use imagery to help with this, I will ask the dancer to imagine that she has a triangle drawn underneath her foot and that the three points are placed perfectly on the floor. I will also recommend using a Metatarsal lift Exercises to build up your foot strength. A weak foot may look like the shoe is twisting off your foot, by building up the strength you will certainly reduce this, and learn to lift out of the shoe correctly.
It is very important with Pointe work that you do not just think of feet. Your core stability is as important, it does not matter how strong your feet and ankles are, if your body is not correctly aligned, and your core stability is not strong enough, dancing on pointe could be more difficult for you.
The wearing of Demi pointe/soft block shoes in class will certainly help to strengthen you, these shoes are one of the best ways to prepare your body as to balance in them without any wobbles takes considerable muscle strength
Taking Pilates or Gyrotonics classes will considerably improve your core stability.
In the book Anatomy and Ballet By Celia Sparger she states, "The ability to do Pointe work is the end result of a slow and gradual training of the whole body, back, hips, thighs, legs, feet and general co-ordination of movement, and the placing of the body, so that weight is lifted upwards off the feet, with straight knees, perfect balance, a perfect demi-pointe and no tendency of the fee to sickle in or out, or the toes to curl or crunch".
Risks on Pointe
Injuries can also occur when Pointe shoes have reached the end of their life. An experienced Dancer will know when her shoe is worn out, as it has become too soft, and no longer supports the foot when on pointe. If you are new to Pointe work please ask your teacher for advice when you feel that the shoe is no longer supporting your foot on pointe or you feel that you are sliding down the shoe when on pointe. Never dance in shoes that have become too soft as the shoe could collapse and maybe cause you to roll over when on pointe.
The potential dangers to a child from being placed on pointe before she is ready are many. The Teacher will consider each individual child's growth and development before they allow that child to begin pointe work. When dancers begin dancing on pointe, they must start slowly and build gradually to avoid overuse injuries.
You may wear your new shoes covered with a pair of socks around the house to break them in, but NEVER attempt to climb stairs with the shoes on your feet. I know it's tempting but please do not go up onto full pointe alone if you are an inexperienced dancer.
Please do not wear second hand or a friends old Pointe shoes. NEVER EVER buy Pointe Shoes to grow into.