You’ve been studying ballet for a couple years now, and can’t wait to get your first pair of pointe shoes. But how do you know you are ready? If you ask any ballet instructor when you will be able to get your pointe shoes, they will probably give you an easy answer such as, “When you’re 12.” The truth is, the answer is more complicated than you might think. Here are some things to think about if you have been dreaming about your first pair of pointe shoes.
1. Dancers should be at least 12 years old when they begin pointe. While each dancer hits their growth spurt at a different time, in most cases the bones in your feet are formed by the age of 12. By the age of 12 the growth and development in your feet has slowed down significantly, and your growth plates are no longer shifting. If you begin pointe before your feet are strong enough, there is a good chance you may be injured.
2. Have you been taking ballet for at least three years? This does not include studying ballet from the age of 3 until 7. In order to be ready for pointe shoes, you have to have strong ballet technique. You should be studying ballet at least twice a week for three years. It is important that you have proper alignment, muscular strength, and technique in order to be strong enough to rise on pointe shoes.
3. You have to continue taking at least 2-3 ballet classes per week. Are you ready to dedicate 2-3 hours (or more!) per week to ballet? Once you are strong enough to start pointe work, it is essential that you continue to build strength and grow in your technical ability. Two hours of ballet per week will help to maintain your ballet technique, and three hours per week will help you build strength, stamina, and the different musculature required to stay on pointe.
4. Are you ready for the challenge? Ballerinas who get their first pointe shoes can’t just put them on and magically rise up on pointe and execute everything as they could on flat. It can sometimes be shocking to a strong ballet dancer when she receives her first pointe shoes, and all of a sudden she feels like she is starting from scratch. When you get your first pair of pointe shoes, you will have to have enough patience to stay at the barre, performing exercises to learn how to rise, lower, and even stand on pointe properly. It can be frustrating, but the hard work definitely pays off once you begin working in the center. Dancers have to be mature enough and responsible enough to handle intensity of pointe and work hard in every class.
Just because you are 12 doesn’t mean your teacher is going to tell you to go get your first pointe shoes. Ballet instructors look at your technical ability, strength, and maturity as well as your age before nominating you for pointe. So before you ask your teacher when you are going to be on pointe, ask yourself if you are on the right path to being ready to dance on pointe.