"There is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe if she can not do anything when she gets there!"
- George Balanchine
Most young ballet dancers are anxious to start dancing on pointe as soon as possible. After all, when they see live ballet performances or view online videos, the ballerinas they seek to emulate are dancing on pointe, so they naturally want to get to this "ideal" as soon as possible.
The problem is that pointe work requires a certain minimum level of physical development, as well as the strength and conditioning necessary to work on pointe safely. Without the proper level of bone development, muscle strength, and hip-knee-ankle-foot alignment there is an increased risk of injury. In addition, dancers must commit to a minimum of three days of ballet training per week in order to maintain the level of technique, strength and flexibility necessary for pointe work.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of instant gratification. In an effort to placate students (and parents) many ballet schools agree to start students on pointe before they are ready. The truth is that there are no short cuts in developing the strength and technique necessary for pointe work. Allowing a dancer to start before they are ready is a disservice to the student.
One of the major benefits of ballet training is that it teaches students the value of hard work and discipline - lessons that serve the student well in all aspects of their lives. Dancers should view starting pointe work as a goal to be achieved after a rigorous pre-pointe training process - not something that happens automatically when she reaches a certain age.
An excellent and well researched paper from the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science gives detailed guidelines for determining whether a dancer is ready for pointe work. It is well worth reading.
I'm Allan Redstone, one of the co-owners of Opus. I'll use this blog to post news items about Opus, as well as dance and music related items that may be of interest to our school community