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Damages of dancing en pointe too early


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I'm not a mum nor a young dancer (That's why I don't post this question on those boards) I don't even have a little sister, but I'm still curious about the dangers in dancing en pointe too early.


I realise that this question may not even fit on this board since it's somewhat a medical issue.


There are lots of information on the Internet about pointe and NOT to start too early. Having read this very often my question is: What exactly are the damages that may occur when you dance en pointe too early (before 10 years of age)?


I read somewhere a reply by Mr Johnson about a dancer in a big company who had to wear very hard shanks in her shoes because of the damage early pointe dancing gave her. Why did she have to wear those shoes, what was the damage?


Where can I find information about the dangers and damages?

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  • Redstorm


  • Mel Johnson


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In the 'pointe shoe topic' at the top ('readiness' thread... It may even be a sticky):D

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It is a "Sticky", as is "Facts of Life about Pointe Work". Both should be read.


Basically, Suzie, it can be dangerous in many ways. If the student is very young, the bones have not ossified enough to be strong enough to support the weight on pointe. The damages from working on pointe too early, ( which is not only a question of age, but also of technical readiness), can be anywhwere from bunions to deformities of the feet, ankles, knees, and even hips. There are students who are never harmed by it, however the odds of this are not terrific. Most who do it prior to being both physically and technically ready will suffer consequences at some point in their lives. Sometimes they don't show up until later.

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And it was Lupe Serrano (ABT) who had to wear double-shanked shoes because she said too-early pointe work had damaged the plantar fascia (the connective tissues on the soles of her feet). I saw her in soft shoes, and you couldn't prove it by me, but then I didn't have to live with those feet!

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Guest grace
What exactly are the damages that may occur when you dance en pointe too early (before 10 years of age)?
if i might be permitted to offer an answer from a slightly different perspective, firstly i would say that how one defines "too early" is a slightly complex issue. (one could be "too early" en pointe at 14 or 15 or 16, if there is not technical readiness.) however, leaving that aside, my answer would be that there simply is no research to give us a direct answer to the question (nor could there ever be, as the risk to the experimental group would not be an acceptable risk to take.) there may be anecdotal 'evidence', however such stories can never isolate out the true 'cause' of any injury, because life and bodies are too complex.


so, what we are left with is principally common-sense: that, given what we know about body development - especially puberty related ossification of cartilagenous material at the ends of the bones - too much pressure on such tissue SEEMS LIKELY to cause problems. those signs or symptoms named above (by victoria), are the signs or symptoms we might expect - or blame - on pointe work.


but there is no proof. nor can there be, as far as i can see.


please - don't anyone imagine that i am in any way belittling the risk, or that i don't take this issue very seriously - because i do. but i think that, on THIS board where so much is said authoritatively (because we have moderators and posters who are ABLE & ENTITLED to speak that way), it is important to be really transparent about this, especially when speaking with other adults.

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Of course, experimentation would be abominable, but there is sufficient clinical information (not anecdotal) already extant which allows some conclusions to be made about too-early pointe:


Perhaps these links could provide more information:



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Guest LEB

Maybe this should be a new thread....but going to the opposite end of the spectrum, at what point is a dancer considered too old to go on pointe? I've noticed a wide spectrum of ideas concerning adults on pointe...from it's a ridiculous concept, to what's the harm?

What would be the health risks of an older dancer begginging pointe - assuming the strength is there? Secondly, at what age would it be too late for a pre-professional dancer to go on pointe, and still have a chance of developing good pointework skills?

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LEB, I don't think you can place an age on either of those situations. Every dancer is different, in terms of strength, facility, physical attributes, and especially training. The safety factor in terms of adults would include the above things as the major criteria, as opposed to age. As for pre-professional and pointe, again, impossible to say. I'm sure it has been done by some who started very late, although that is certainly not the "norm". I would not want to put absolutes on either of these things.

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For adults en pointe, I believe the technical readiness issues are paramount. The fact is that if you haven't achieved a certain technical proficiency by adulthood, you probably won't.


I'm not saying that adults can't learn; this could just be due to the simple fact that adults don't usually have the kind of time needed to develop the proficiency.


Once you eliminate all the adults starting en pointe who didn't have the technical readiness --- and consider only adults who never danced en pointe as children AND are now technically ready --- you've got a vanishingly small sample size. So it's hard to say much.

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Guest grace

mel - could you please tell me which link to follow - up? i went to IADMS (which of course i am familiar with, as an organisation - and their work), but i didn't know which way to head, from there. advice would be appreciated. :D


i agree with victoria and diasagree with citibob. plenty of adults in ballet want to develop pointe proficiency, and are willing and able to put in the time.


in fact, my own personal opinion, based on wide reading in the field of osteoporosis in general, and treatments for it, suggests to me that pointe work would be excellent bone-loading exercise for pre-menopausal, peri-menopausal, or menopausal women. post-menopause, if osteoporosis is established (or younger of course, WITH osteoporosis) CAUTION would have to be exercised, but i would imagine that the same would apply.


since i am a 'younger' woman with osteoporosis, maybe i should be my own first experimental subject! :)

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citibob, I began an adult pointe class over 20 years ago with a group of very enthusiastic ladies, most of whom had never studied ballet as children nor had they been on pointe previously. I was not terribly enthusiastic about it to tell you the truth, actually I was frightened to take on this responsibility, but I was very young and a new teacher. Pre-requisite was that they have studied in our school at least three years, were studying ballet at least four days a week and that I, the teacher had the final say as to who was able to do what. It was not a class one could sign up for, no instead, one was invited to take the class. To make a long strory short the class was a smashing success for the students and for me. I learned one heck of a lot and so did the students. I do not know if any of these ladies are still dancing on pointe today or if there were any long term physical problems that were a direct result of beginning pointe work after the age of say 35 ( I even had one who was in her 50s). I doubt it. How could one know? That would be like saying I developed dibilitating problems because I began tennis at a late age in life. We built class up to an hour one day a week eventually after 3 years of study, but mostly we did barre work and walking in the centre with a few releves on two feet. I can tell you however that the ladies were thrilled to be working on pointe and they did it well. They were able to develope their technique and artistic abilities in classes in general perhaps because they now had a better understanding of what it was to stand as tall as can be. I do not really know but I do know they became instantly more self-confident and so proud to be successful at something they had always dreamed of doing but for various reasons had not done previously.


I am not saying any of these ladies miraculously had ballet careers, but the pointe work was not physically harmful to them, no on the contrary it was an uplifting experience.

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I would start with the Harkness Center, then move to the Nureyev Foundation, and so on down the various medical sites. Most sites can be searched, and inquiries via e-mail are also possible. At least we've moved from the whole world down to one page - like a shelf in library terms - as to finding specific clinical information about dance medicine and injuries.

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I also agree that pointework for adults can be a reality. Instead of the x-ray to determine ossification for young people, I would substitute a bone denisty test. In addition, I have found that it's often necessary to take into consideration the 'fear factor'. Young people, with innate exuberance, have a feeling of 'entitlement' that life has 'trained out' of the adults;) I remember standing in a class of precocious 11-13 year olds who never entertained the possibilty that the intense combinations with beats and multiple turns couldn't be 'theirs'!

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Guest grace

thanks mel, but if you mean what i think you mean, then i'll save myself the 'bother'. ;)


what i'm getting at is, to my knowledge, there isn't any evidence, (and therefore one can't say with authority that it CAUSES anything), principally because in retrospect it's mighty difficult to assign causation, what with us human beings being such complex animals, and all.......... i'm not saying there couldn't possibly be one single case in the whole world - just that i'm pretty sure it's not worth my time to look - but please do let me know if i'm wrong. :cool:

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In science, it's always possible to question the evidence. Nothing is ever TRULY PROVEN.


How long did the tobacco industry hide behind this fact of science, claiming there was no PROOF that cigarettes cause lung cancer or heart disease or are addictive --- meanwhile, millions of addicts were dying each year.


And of course you CAN design controlled experiments regarding early pointe work --- just do it on animals (although that can border on unethical as well, depending on your view of animal rights). In any case, I think before we discounts the studies, we should read them carefully.

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