Most little girls dream of being ballerinas when they grow up, and many have the opportunity to attend ballet classes, even if just for a short while. For a large number, though, the chance to participate in ballet class never comes, so we decide to attend a class when we are adults. Ballet comes with many challenges, from forcing your body into new stretches to having to dance en pointe. But, if you are beginning your ballet career as an adult, you may be asking the question: Can adults learn ballet en pointe?
Adults can learn ballet en pointe. They should be given sufficient and correct training before attempting the technique. Teachers of adults need to assess each student’s suitability for pointe work and only allow those who are ready and able. Adults benefit from having stronger feet than children.
If you are an adult considering joining a ballet class for the first time, or even the first time since childhood, you are likely concerned about the prospect of dancing en pointe. It is not common for adults to learn ballet en pointe, but it is not impossible. In fact, it is quite possible.
Let’s look into the details of dancing en pointe and understand how adults can learn ballet en pointe.
Can Adults Learn Ballet En Pointe?
It is possible for adults to learn ballet en pointe. While they should not be taught using pointe shoes from the beginning, they can progress to the stage of using pointe in their repertoire. We chatted to the director and ballet teacher at Forte Dance Academy, Lindsay Da Silva, to ask her opinion on the subject. She explained the difference between learning ballet using pointe and learning to dance en pointe. “I would never teach an adult beginner in pointe shoes.” She mentioned.
“The muscles required to support one’s body weight and execute all the movements, positions, and direction changes are specific to ballet and our years of training.” Lindsay explained. This fact means that when an adult learns ballet, it should be a priority to know how to do the movements and positions before progressing to pointe.
Lindsay, and ballet teachers like her, believe that it is only through careful training and preparation that teaching a ballet dancer en pointe is safe enough without risking injury. Teachers use criteria to ensure that their students are ready for pointe. The requirements include enough dedicated ballet practice over enough time. The typical amount of dedicated time to work towards pointe work is two to four years.
How Old Really Is Too Old To Start Pointe Work?
Many adult ballet students ask the question of how old is too old. The answer, it turns out, is not as simple as you may think since there are many factors to consider before deciding. The primary consideration is really if the dancer’s feet are strong and flexible enough.
Flexibility is often an issue for dancers who start ballet as adults. When children practice ballet, the ligaments of their feet are stretched, helping to create the flexible ankles we see in ballerinas. Adult naturally flexible dancers will find that their ankles can adapt to the correct foot positions for dancing on pointe.
Adult ballet students who have a strong desire to dance en pointe can do exercises to stretch their ligaments. Those who are diligent with them have been known to show good improvement. Adult ballet students have the benefit of their growth plates being fully fused. This means that their feet are naturally stronger than younger dancers’.
While adults are typically heavier than a regular tween or teenager, weight should not be too much of a problem if the dancer is of average weight. Lindsay from Forte Dance Academy stated: “There should be no reason why – with the correct and thorough training and strength development – an adult cannot dance en pointe along with her younger counterparts. The question is not about age, but rather strength and experience.”
How Do I Know If I Am Ready To Dance En Pointe?
Ballet teachers use a list to ascertain if their students are ready to begin dancing en pointe. Each student is different, so the list we will share with you is not conclusive. Instead, it is a general guideline to see if you are on the path to being ready. Before purchasing your pointe-shoes or trying to dance en pointe at home, chat with your teacher and allow her to help you with the decision.
Here is our list of criteria that many teachers use to guide their decision regarding your readiness for pointe.
- How long you have been practicing. One general rule is that you should have been practicing and attending ballet class for two to four years before you will be ready to try dancing on pointe.
- Your attendance. Some students may say they have been doing ballet for three years, but in truth, they have attended a class now and again for fun. If this is the case, the time frame does not count, as your attendance marks hours spent learning, practicing, and perfecting the techniques needed for a safe introduction to pointe.
- How well you take correction. As with most art forms, your ability to take and use correction will, in part, determine how well you progress. If you are diligent, listen to your teacher and apply the corrections she gives you regarding your ballet work, you will be able to progress and enjoy the privilege of dancing on pointe when the time is right.
- You are not too heavy. This one might be a little bit of a touchy point, but if you are severely overweight, you will struggle to dance en pointe. As ballet teacher, Lindsay Da Silva explained to us: “To support one’s full body weight perched on the tips of one’s toes is not natural.” To allow your toes to support your entire body weight, you will need to ensure that you are not too heavy.
- You have good technique. Pointework is not an easy technique. It requires constant effort and strength as when you balance on demi-pointe on one leg. Some techniques to work on before attempting to dance en point include:
- Legs: maintain turnout, be able to pull up your legs and knees while dancing, have good calf and ankle strength, show good plié technique while dancing
- Feet: balance well on demi-pointe, have strong relevé technique and be able to do around twenty at a time, show proper tendu technique, use the correct foot position when pointing your feet
- Body: You need to have and maintain a strong core for dancing en pointe
Knowing what you are working towards to ensure you are ready to dance en pointe is good, but the best option is to chat with your teacher. She will give you realistic expectations and a possible timeline based on your practice and skill level.
The question: “Can adults learn ballet en pointe?” comes down to the individual ballet student. If you demonstrate a good work ethic, regularly attend classes, work on stretching your feet, and maintain a strong core, there is a good chance you will be able to learn to dance en pointe, no matter your age.
We can counteract the physical limitations we experience as we age through hard work and dedication. Speak with your ballet teacher to ensure you have realistic expectations of your ballet journey and keep working hard to reach your dreams in the ballet world.