Pointe work is an advanced level of dance that must be approached only by those who are physically and mentally ready. Not until several physical specifications are met can rising onto pointe be done safely and successfully. Consistent mental focus is needed in order to be consciously aware of your body while en pointe. Premature pointe work can lead to structural defects and injury, inhibiting further growth as a dancer.
Here are the physical specifications that must be exercised in order to make proper pointe work possible:
Abdominal Strength and Neuromuscular Control
While standing and in motion, dancers must maintain proper body alignment in order to ensure proper weight distribution and avoid injury. The dancer must engage and control their core muscles in order to maintain proper body placement and to provide support for the entire upper body.
Leg Strength and Neuromuscular Control
Adequate leg strength is also needed in order to support the body en pointe. The ability to consistently and correctly align the lower extremities under the weight of the upper body demonstrates neuromuscurlar control.
Ankle Strength, Flexibility and Neuromuscular Control
The ankles must first be strong in order to support the weight of the entire body on such a small point of contact with the floor. In addition, adequate ankle flexibility is required in order to position the foot properly on the platform of the shoe.
Dancer demonstrates “sickling” en relevé
Lastly, dancers must be able to correctly distribute their body weight across the metatarsals while en relevé and on the tips of their toes while en pointe. Sickling (favoring the outside of the foot) and pronating (favoring the inside of the foot) welcomes injuries from the foot up to the lower back.
Before advancing to pointe work, it is generally recommended that the dancer is at least 12 years of age and has taken ballet technique classes for at least 3 years. In addition, it is optimal for the dancer to have consistently taken ballet technique class 3-5 times a week for at least one year prior to beginning pointe. Since the pointe shoe retailer can only provide a minimal evaluation, it is best to first consult with your ballet teacher before purchasing a pair of pointe shoes. Your ballet teacher can provide you with a full evaluation based on your performance in the classroom setting. Getting the teacher’s approval first will guarantee their help and support with the dancer’s pointe shoe endeavors.
Chicago Dance Supply strongly recommends the following:
* Please consult with your teacher before making a decision to train en pointe.
* Since pointe shoe fittings are usually quite time consuming, it is best to call ahead and make and appointment. An appointment ensures that both the dancer and fitter have adequate time to devote to the fitting process.
* Dancers should be injury free at the time of the fitting.
* Directly following a ballet technique class is the best time to be fitted for pointe shoes. At that time the feet are generally swollen as they would be during pointework.
* Dancers should make sure that the toenails are cut to an appropriate length. The toenails should not extend over the edge of the toes.
* Wear or bring a pair of tights equal to those you will wear while dancing in your shoes.
Following these recommendations will help to ensure a successful pointe shoe fitting!