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Guest amdewitt

How long before pointe?

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Guest amdewitt

Hello Everyone!

 

I'm 32, and I know I have so much to learn, but I have pretty good flexibility and strength in my legs, and have taken dance on and off through the years. I'm new to this message board and have read through some of the topics on how much ballet training one should have before beginning pointe work.

 

I, like so many of you, returned to ballet after many, many yrs (some basic training in childhood, and some in college) with hopes of "going en pointe". Regarding when to begin pointe work, some say 3 yrs, some have said one. I'm one of those whose instructor said, "after a yr, you should be able to begin pointe". Is it a bad thing to begin pointe work after a full yr of training vs. 3 yrs? Does the amount of time depend on how well muscles develop? What are the key things that an instructor looks for when determining whether or not a student is ready for pointe?

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Victoria Leigh

Hello Atti2de, welcome to Ballet Alert Online, and the Adult Students forum!

 

To answer your question, there are always a lot of variables in terms of pointe. Some people should never be on pointe, others can do it relatively quickly. Besides your own physique and strength, the question might be more one of how much training as opposed to one year or two years or three years. For instance, a student taking once a week for three years should still not go on pointe. But a student taking 3 or 4 classes a week with exceptionally qualified teachers, who also has good feet, rotation, placement and strength, might do it in a year without too much difficulty. So, it depends on you, but also on the quality and intensity of your training.

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Guest amdewitt

Thanks so much for the insight. It makes perfect sense. Unfortunately :), my adult class only meets once a week, so I found out quickly that I needed to supplement the class training with pilates and a ballet workout, which I try to do everyday. I'm currently using the NYC Ballet Workout DVD, which is helping me with balance and increasing my flexibility.

 

Regarding schools that teach pointe, mine doesn't. They recommend the Arlington Center for Dance. Are there any others in Northern Virginia that you recommend?

 

Thanks again. :)

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Victoria Leigh

That would be the one I would recommend in that part of Virginia.

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Guest Colleen

Victoria, is it possible that pointe work can help develop those qualities that should be present before pointe work starts. I've seen students who I'm sure wouldn't fall under the "ready for pointe" umbrella seem to blossom from the work. Sort of as if the new feeling forces the development of balance, strength, rotation etc. And could this work for the older student as well (if it works at all)?

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Victoria Leigh

It's a good question, Colleen, but I really don't think so. If a person is not ready for pointe, I don't want to see them struggling with it, whether a child or adult. I really feel that if a person does not have the physical facility or the technical level to be on pointe, then putting them there is dangerous and will force them to do things their body is not ready to do. I don't believe I could ever use pointe work that way. I really find that trying to look at someone in pointe shoes who does not have the feet or rotation or placement, or the amount of technique one should have is extremely painful, and something I just can't do. Pointe is not a "right" of everyone who studies ballet. And it definitely is not "right" for everyone to "have the experience" or any other reason they want to come up with for doing it. And I've heard a lot of them.

:) Perhaps, in a one on one situation, if the teacher is willing to go through that, it might be helpful. If you can do it, more power to you, I could not!

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Guest babygurlesq

Atti2de (cute name! :D)

 

I feel I must add as an adult student that strength and flexibility and technical readiness are all factors that should ABSOLUTLELY be carefully monitored - as a re-beginning adult I desperately want my teachers to be concerend about those things for me - so I hardly sugget dispensing with that in any manner.

 

But know this as well - the reality is: the ballet world can be quite elitist and oft times subscribes to a "natural selection" type of mindset - where teachers decide who will have a future and who will not. Many times these decisions are made based on the instructors own prejudices about who should and shouldn't be attempting to embrace what they consider to be "their" art.

 

As many of us who get butterflies at the idea of someday making it en pointe already know :) - doing pointe work is a kind of unspoken threshhold to the "serious" study of ballet - and the fact is - some folks who have the power to make those determinations about your physical readiness just don't want you to cross it. So under the guise of a lack of readiness they decide you shouldn't undertake pointe work. And if you spoke to them long enough you might often discover that they will never think you "physically ready".

 

As an adult your likelihood of encountering this mindset at least a little as you pursue your training is quite high. You may never encounter it at all - ever. If you don't you will be one of the lucky ones. But expect some resistance to undertaking pointe work as an adult.

 

Let me qualify all this by saying again - the physical readiness rpoblem is real. I don't want to be en pointe before I'm ready and I doubt you do either. :) But as adults we must be mindful that many people don't think we belong in class (!!) much less en pointe. They'll take our money - but they don't want us in their shoes.

 

Sorry for the semi-negative take on the issue but I feel it's a facet of the discussion (and your plan for your own progress) that can't be ignored.

 

Keep dancin'!

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Guest amdewitt

Thank you so much for this, Babygurlesq! I do not think that your tone is negative at all! You don't know how much I needed to hear someone give it to me straight from the hip!! :)

 

I mean, I realize that I'm no spring chicken and that I will never be a part of the NYC Ballet or anything of that magnitude, but I do have goals of going en pointe, and possibly performing at some small shop locally. Not to brag or anything, but I don't look my age, my body doesn't feel old and rickety (smile), I have no problem putting my leg up high on the barre, high arched releves are easy, and developpes are at least "hip high" and straight! (I can still do a pretty decent "russian" jump from my old cheerleading days, too :))

 

I hear all this talk about how adults shouldn't do this and shouldn't do that, but I can't possibly think that they are talking about ALL adults. We all have different backgrounds and abilities; some of us may not have taken ballet since we were 3, but we may have been involved in gymnastics or other activities that provided us with increased flexibility, poise, and muscular strength.

 

Since I've started back, I have become so much more fulfilled, my body is responding positively, and I can really get in "the zone". But, it's not totally "recreational" for me (that's the way they term it for "us Adults"). I really want to go as far as I can with this, knowing that there are the realities of ageism in this art(so unfair!!) which may present obstacles.I just want to say that I appreciate your candor and your encouragement. It was just the boost that I need to make me want to continue on and strive for the goals that I have set for myself.

 

Sorry for being so lengthy, but I, like you, have really strong feelings about this. The way that I look at it is this: I don't want to be a 70-yr old woman with regrets, wishing that I would have started back in my 20s or 30s so that I could experience it for at least 20-30 yrs.

 

We'll have to keep each others heads up!! :D

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Guest amdewitt

Oh, and I also have something else to share with everyone that I found on a website (don't remember which, sorry :), but it is from a ballet school on the West Coast). It is sort of a "checklist" or things you should be able to do in order to be recommended for pointe work.

 

Criteria for Pointe Work

 

1. The student must be 10 1/2 years or older.

 

2. The student must have at least 2 years of training.

 

3. The student must be taking a minimum of 3 classes a week consistently (for a total of 4.5 hours weekly).

 

4. The student must have sufficient strength to do the following:

 

• Be able to hold their turnout while dancing.

 

The most basic concept of ballet is turnout. It makes it possible to do certain steps that could not otherwise be done. Holding turnout while dancing is a good sign of strength. If the student does not have the strength to maintain their turnout, they are not strong enough for pointe, since it is much more difficult to hold turnout en pointe.

 

• Have a strong, straight back while dancing, especially the lower back.

 

Pointe work requires that the student use the muscles in her legs and feet to stand en pointe and not use the pointe shoes as a crutch. A weak back will throw the student off balance while en pointe and will make it difficult to do ballet steps. A straight back is also essential for pirouettes.

 

• Keep the heels forward toward the big toe (no sickling).

 

The most stable position for pointe work is to have the weight slightly forward over the big toe. If the weight is over the little toe, it is more difficult to stay up en pointe, and will increase the chances of strain and injury.

 

• Use plié while dancing.

 

Students must use their pliés while dancing because this is how they get up en pointe. If they don't use their pliés, they will have to bend their leg incorrectly in order to get en pointe. Pliés should be done with the knees pointing straight over their toes and with the heels down.

 

• Point their feet while dancing.

 

Students must point their feet while dancing in order to strengthen the muscles that pointe-work requires. These muscles need to be strong enough to support their body weight on the ends of their toes. If the student is not in the habit of using these foot muscles then they will not be able to support themselves en pointe and will probably knuckle over on their toes, thereby increasing their chances for injury.

 

• Pique passé with straight leg.

 

Student should have enough strength to push themselves onto half-pointe. This step is harder to do en pointe and a bent leg is usually a sign of weakness or improper step preparation.

 

• Be able to do 16 relevés in the center without stopping.

 

Strength for pointe work is achieved by repeating 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 must 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 preparing her calf muscles adequately, and will not have the strength for pointe work.

 

• Be able to hold a passé balance on half-pointe.

 

The student should be well-placed (hips square, back straight, legs turned-out), and have the strength to balance on half-pointe. This pose is more difficult to correct en pointe, as the surface area for balancing is smaller and the strength requirements are greater.

 

5. The student must be well-groomed, with her hair out of her face and in a bun. Ponytails are not acceptable! Short hair must be held back from the face with a wide band.

 

6. The student must be responsible enough to bring all the ballet equipment she will need to class. Pointe shoes require extra care and accessories.

 

7. The student must be in good health and able to take a whole class. If the student frequently needs to rest because of illness or injury, she is not strong enough for the extra demands that pointe work requires.

 

8. The student must pay attention in class and must work well. Going en pointe is a big step and requires commitment on the part of the student.

 

9. The student must be of normal weight.

 

10. The student must have enough of an arched instep to stand on pointe.

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Guest babygurlesq

Whew!

 

So glad you took that in the spirit it was meant! ;) And I'm glad I was encouraging to you. I can also understand that need for some kind of push where someone says: "Go with your gut. Go for it." I need that sometimes too. :)

 

As adults (and depending on our individual circumstances - some of us have WONDERFUL experiences) sometimes the only genuine encouragement you get is from inside or from other adults. And it's really important that we be aware of the stigmas - but just as important that we fight them tooth and nail.

 

Bearing in mind that health, safety, strength, good technique and training are all of paramount importance to me - I think all too often a factor that sways the decision IS primarily ageism - as you pointed out. Your technique, your feet, your alignment, your strength - all that could be in STELLAR and STILL you could well be told: "Sorry - but you don't want to hurt yourself do you?" When the true sentiment is: "What on earth do you want to be on pointe for at ______ (insert too old age here :D )??????".

 

So look for a great teacher and take advantage of the knowledge and training you have at your disposal. But to a certain extent you will have to map your own course. No one will come by (unless like I said your lucky, some folks are)and wave that magic wand that we want - the whisper in the ear at the barre "You are ready".

 

So - Use the guidelines that we hear - two years, 3 classes a week as a serious goal and plan of action for yourself in the present, work really hard and let the future take care of itself. Consider scheduling private sessions with a teacher you like once you get into it some more (I am!) But don't always take their word that you aren't "good enough" or "ready" ro "suited to it". :)

 

Never stop because someone else thinks maybe you should. I won't either. :D

 

Good Luck to you.

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Guest babygurlesq

That's a great list atti2de! I'm printing it out now so I can add it to my little book of guidleines! Thank you so much.....

 

babygurl

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Victoria Leigh

Sorry, dancers, but that list starts with two HUGE problems. At 10 and 1/2 years old and 2 years of training, there is NO WAY that a student will have all of the other things listed. That is absurd. Ten and a half is too young for pointe, and two years is not sufficient to train someone to be ready for pointe work, assuming we are dealing with ballet schools outside of an Academy where students have daily classes, like in Russia, and of course they have perfect ballet bodies to start with. :)

 

[ 10-12-2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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Jaana Heino

Ms. Leigh,

 

I do not think the list meant that most or even necessarily any 10,5 year olds who trained the mentioned amount have the other things. I took the first points to mean that no matter how good you are otherwise, if those points do not also hold, no way.

The list, I think, has separate and minimum requirements, not a description of a typical student starting pointe work. It does not imply that if you have the three first points on the list, you are likely to have the rest too?

 

(I hope I don't sound obnoxious or anything, I don't mean to be.)

 

As I do not know anything really about ballet :) and certainly fullfill the age requirement on the list ;) I would also like to ask how Ms. Leigh or other instructors find the technical requirements on the list. Are they all necessary, and are they sufficient, or would you add something?

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Victoria Leigh

Jaana, you are not being obnoxious at all! Just questioning, which is quite fine. :)

 

The problem with accepting the first two points on the list is that they imply that it's okay for a ten and a half year old to go on pointe if she meets the other requirements, and that two years of training is sufficient as well. While I might accept the two years IF it were in the type of school where the student has DAILY classes with highly professional teachers (such as the Kirov or Bolshoi schools), in other places a student might have one class a week for two years and think they should be qualified for pointe! And I don't believe that a ten year old should be on pointe under any circumstances.

 

As to the rest of the list, while not incorrect, I am not impressed with the way it is written and find it very limited. The section about hair and neatness has nothing to do with the subject of being ready for pointe and belongs with a list of what is expected for all ballet students.

 

[ 10-13-2001: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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Guest amdewitt

:confused: Ms. Leigh, I apologize if you feel that the list is in error. I did happen upon the web site where I had originally found the information. It is from the Pacific Ballet Academy and the posting date is 1999.

 

For more information, contact: director@pacificballet.org

Or you may reach us at: Pacific Ballet Academy • P.O. Box 765 • Los Altos, CA 94023

Telephone: (650) 969-4614 http://www.pacificballet.org/pointe.html

 

It did say 10.5 yrs "or older", and that dancers should have "at least" 2 yrs of training. Isn't it possible that this school has produced some exceptional dancers who danced since they were 8.5 yrs of age and progressed well enough to begin pointe work? (I understand your concern, because it is probably the exception, rather than the rule.)

 

However, I must say that I have concerns about how people are judged; it appears that many instructors tend to generalize the abilities of dancers. For example, in sports, some believe that players should not be eligible for the NBA until they have had some college training, but yet there are a few phenomenal basketball players who never stepped foot in college. Couldn't we make the same assumptions about other sports or arts, including ballet? Aren't there some really exceptional dancers whose bodies, form, alignment, and strength allow them to be able do some things (i.e. pointe work) before what is considered the "generally acceptable" time periods?

 

I, like babygurlesq, feel that I don't want to begin pointe work until I've had adequate training, because when I do go on pointe, I want to do it right, and I want to prevent injuries; I don't fear injuries because I'm an "adult" ballet student. But, because I am a ballet student who wants to develop my skills and abilities, I want to avoid as much injury as possible. I'm not interested in rushing into this, because truly, I want to learn proper technique. I don't want to miss out on adequate training. I have been told that I'm a perfectionist, so I'm probably harder on myself than the instructors (smile).

 

I realize that there are a lot of fun and hard lessons to be learned, however, my goal is to go on pointe. But I wouldn't want to do it by robbing myself of the journey. :)

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