Every young ballerina dreams of winning the roles of Clara in The Nutcracker Suite or Odette in Swan Lake. Each step she takes is graceful and flawlessly executed, perfectly timed to the classical music. It takes many years of self-discipline and dedication to reach that level of perfection. How long must a ballet dance wait before going en pointe and being Clara or Odette?
Ballet students will train for at least three years and be a minimum of eleven years old before attempting to go en pointe. Ballet teachers must assess the students according to strength, technique, discipline, maturity, and commitment. Each dancer’s training time before pointe will be different.
Some ballet teachers will allow dancers to go en pointe before they are ready or too young, but this puts them at risk of severe injury. The majority of ballet schools strongly condemn this practice.
How Long You Have To Do Ballet Before Pointe?
Students – and often their parents – are always keen to start pointe work, and it is disappointing for them when their teachers hold them back. But teachers are aware of the risk of potentially serious injuries from going en pointe too soon. It is not only a question of the dancer’s age, or the years they have been dancing.
Ballet teachers determine a dancer’s readiness to start pointe work according to their physical maturity, technique, strength, commitment, and attitude.
Many dancers are ready to start pointe work between ten and twelve. The foot bones don’t develop fully until a person is in their late teens. Suppose a young dancer starts pointe work before she is strong enough or lacks the necessary skills. In that case, the body weight and momentum could cause permanent damage to her feet.
Waiting until the dancer is ready for pointe work is the safest choice, and those who go en pointe later than their classmates inevitably catch up. Many adult beginners also take longer to reach the level of readiness for pointe work. Still, the risk of injury is much lower because their foot bones are already fully developed.
Criteria For Starting Pointe Work
Most dancers require between two and four years of ballet technique training before their teachers consider them ready to start pointe work. The teacher will also consider other important factors besides the length of time the student has been dancing.
Criteria For Going En Pointe: Commitment
The number of years a dancer has been training is not necessarily equal to the number of hours and good attendance required before going en pointe. The student who takes several hours weekly will likely begin pointe classes earlier than one who doesn’t attend as often. During the first year of pointe classes, you must attend three or four ballet classes per week.
Criteria For Going En Pointe: Health And Physique
A dancer should be healthy, not recovering from any injuries or illnesses, and should be a healthy weight. She should be strong enough to endure full ballet classes a few times a week. Her feet and ankles should be strong and flexible, with insteps arched enough to stand en pointe.
Criteria For Going En Pointe: Technique
The ballet student must be competent in the following techniques:
- Holding correct turnout when dancing from foot flat to half-pointe.
- Keeping her trunk straight and strong without tilting the pelvis.
- Performing all transitions with correct demi-plié.
- Performing relevés and piqués up to a balance.
- Able to do a minimum of sixteen perfect relevés onto a high half-pointe center floor.
- Using pliés correctly throughout her dancing.
- Knowing how to work her feet in tendu and other exercises where pointing the feet is required.
- Balancing on demi-pointe.
- Performing a pique passé with a straight leg – a bent leg signifies weakness or improper step training.
Criteria for Going En Pointe: Maturity And Attitude
The ballet student’s behavior will also indicate whether she is mature enough to start pointe work. Her studio etiquette must be impeccable. Pointe work requires immense self-discipline.
Pre-Point Classes Before Going En Pointe
Most ballet studios will offer pre-pointe classes to dancers aged ten to twelve who will go en pointe during the upcoming year. The classes are over and above their regular ballet classes. The students learn strengthening and stretching exercises and work on their turnout and other techniques required for pointe.
The student will do her pre-pointe classes in soft ballet slippers. Some instructors allow the students to sew ribbons on their soft slippers to make them look and feel similar to pointe shoes to keep the dancers motivated.
Sewing the ribbons on your first pair of pointe shoes is almost a rite of passage when you are finally allowed to go en pointe. When a student gets permission to go en pointe, the instructor will take her to get her first pointe shoes. They are not generic and need to perfectly suit the dancer’s foot shape.
Pointe shoes give the necessary support to enable the dancer to dance on her toes by allowing her to move some of her weight to under her arches and around her toes.
The shank is the stiff midsole that runs along the bottom of the foot, either part of the way or the full length of the shoe. The shank can have differing levels of flexibility. The fabric that covers the top of the foot is called the vamp. The toe box encloses the toes so that the dancers stand on an oval platform at the tips. These can come in different sizes and depths.
Once the correct shoes have been chosen, the dancer hand-sews her own ribbons onto her pointe shoes because each person’s foot shape is different. The dancer will place her ribbons in specific places to keep her pointe shoes from falling off the heels while dancing. Many dancers also add elastic to their shoes to further aid this purpose.
How Long Will It Take To Master Pointe Work?
Pointe work is demanding and can take five to seven years of dancing, several hours a day to maintain the strength and techniques to stay en pointe. Many ballerinas believe that it is impossible to “master” pointe. There is always room for improvement.
Training time is not the only consideration for going en pointe. There are other factors that a ballet teacher has to evaluate in her student before she allows her to progress to this level. This includes emotional maturity, physical health, and technical skills, but above all, a stoic commitment to hard work.