When Can I Get Pointe Shoes?
Most dancers begin pointe classes between 11 and 13 years of age. It is very important that the following milestones are achieved before pointe work begins to ensure success en pointe. Children develop at different rates, and even children in the same training program may not be ready for pointe work at the same age.
1. A dancer ideally should have completed 3 years of ballet technique classes that have increased in frequency and difficulty. With the fourth year of technique classes, pre-pointe or pointe class may be added provided the student is taking 3-5 ballet technique classes a week in addition to the pointe class.
2. The dancer’s foot strength, ankle strength, and core control should be properly developed and evaluated by her instructors before starting pointe classes. Proper placement is a slow and gradual training of the entire body that is learned and developed over time in ballet technique classes. Control and coordination of the entire body, including the back, hips, thighs, legs, ankles, and feet is essential to rise en pointe correctly.
3. The dancer should be able to rise to demi pointe with shoulders back, hips square, bottom tucked under, core engaged, and knees straight in perfect balance while lifting the weight upward off the feet. The dancer should not sickle the foot or lift the toes. The toes should not have to grip the floor or curl under.
4. The dancer should have enough foot and ankle flexibility to achieve the range of motion necessary to ensure proper alignment en pointe. At a minimum, when the foot is pointed, the metatarsals or top surface of the foot should be parallel to the line of the tibia or front of the shin. If a dancer has hyperextension or a sway-back of the knees even more foot and ankle flexibility is needed for the range of motion necessary to achieve proper placement.
These milestones will arrive at different times depending on training, body type, growth of bones, and development of muscles. It is important to remember that there have been many famous and successful professional dancers that did not begin pointe classes until they were 15 or 16 years old to allow the body time to develop.
In addition to bone or joint damage, going en pointe with inadequate range of motion, strength, or control can cause stress and damage to the back, legs, feet, pelvis, and core.
“There is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe if she
cannot do anything when she gets there!”