Starting En Pointe
Starting en pointe is one of the biggest rites of passage a dance student goes through. It is the one
thing that a lot of young dancers focus on as it is the stepping stone to move from being one of the
little ones in a ballet school to being one of the older ones.
In any ballet performance girls will see on stage, usually all of the female leads will be en pointe and
as they make it look so effortless and graceful all young dancers aspire to be just like the beautiful
women on stage.
Pointe work however is much harder than it looks and can be quite dangerous for young girls if their
feet are not strong enough, if they do not have the appropriate range of motion in the ankle or if
they lack the technical ability to control the rest of their body when dancing.
It is really a combination of physical and technical maturity and specific strength and control in the
foot and ankle that determines when a dancer is ready to dance en pointe.
Despite girls at the same school doing the same amount of classes and being the same age, often
some are ready before others. Whether this is due to genetically more mobile feet, stiff feet or
occasionally a lack of attention to correct technical instruction in class or some girls may also be
physically strong enough on testing however if they fool around in class the teacher may decide they
are not suitable for pointe until concentration can be maintained throughout the lesson.
At twelve depending on the maturity of the child, the cartilaginous portions of the foot bones that
are soft through childhood begin to harden and there is less chance of disturbance of the growth
plates and long term damage to the feet. However this by no means suggests that all dancers who
are twelve are ready for pointe. Let's look at some of the basic areas that determine a readiness to
go en pointe.
Toe swapping - is an excellent way to assess how much conscious control a dancer has over the small
muscles in her toes.
Doming - underneath the ball of the foot are tiny muscles called the lumbricals. This is an essential
area to gain control of in order to rise correctly from demi-pointe onto full pointe.
Ankle range - having adequate pointe range in the foot and ankle is obviously essential in being able
to dance well en pointe. Optimal pointe range for commencing pointe work is 0 to +5 degrees.
First toe extension - if the student lacks mobility in the big toe joint it will limit her from rising to a
good height at demi-pointe. Restriction is often caused by tension in the muscle underneath the big
toe and may often be resolved by gentle massage of the area.
Other considerations - 4 things to consider when assessing a student to go en pointe are hip control,
postural control, functional control, foot control. And other things to consider are age and
development, hypermobility, height and weight and their maturity.