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It is so hard to tell an eager young dancer that she is not ready for pointework, but sometimes we must. Some teachers face tremendous pressure to put students en pointe very young. Parents demand it, or perhaps the other studio down the road allows pointework to begin early and the teacher fears that her student will defect.
is the risk?
A Teacher's Criteria for Starting PointeBased on criteria developed by Rima Cooke, Director, Pacific Ballet Academy, Mountain View, CA.
Things to look for in class are:
Students should use (point) their feet while dancing because this uses the same muscles as pointe-work. These muscles need to be strong enough to support the student's body weight on the ends of her toes. If students are not in the habit of using these foot muscles, she will not be able to support herself en pointe and will probably knuckle over on her toes and increasing the chances of injury.
Students should have enough strength to push themselves on half-pointe. This step is harder to do en pointe and a bent leg is usually a sign of weakness or improper step preparation.
Student should be able to do 16 relevés in the center without stopping. Strength for pointe work is achieved by repetitive exercises. Relevés are excellent for building up calf muscle strength which is vital for pointe work. This exercise is more difficult to do en pointe because of the extra height, so strong relevés on half-pointe is a good sign of strength. The student should also go up as high on half-pointe as she can since pointe work demands this ability. A student who keeps her heels very low to the ground is not using and preparing her calf muscles and will not have the strength for pointe work.
Student should be able to hold a passé balance on half-pointe The student should be well-placed - hips square, straight back, legs turned-out and have the strength to balance on half-pointe. This pose is more difficult to correct en pointe as the balancing surface area is smaller and the strength requirements are greater.
DO NOT PRACTICE AT HOME! Pointework should be done in a space intended for dance and supervised by your teacher.
And when you are ready to go en pointe, congratulations! This is a special time for you! You have worked hard for this moment!