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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Putting Adults on Pointe


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I'm curious how other ballet schools handle the issue of putting adults on pointe. At one of the schools in town, I've seen women with 6 months ballet experience taking beginning pointe. Another woman who has danced far longer does her Adult Class barre in pointe shoes, even though she cannot get onto the box and sickles her feet on pointe. The instructor's only comment is to applaud her for trying. Is this really a good idea? Putting people up on pointe when they've only just started to learn ballet? Not addressing (what appear to me as) form errors?


I always thought that one needed appropriate flexibility, strength, and technical ability flat before going on pointe. Is this just for children, or is this particular school overly lenient when it comes to adults?

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My studio (driven by an old-school ballet diva) has a thriving adult group. There are several students that started as an adult that have worked up to doing pointe. The last girl I knew was in her mid-20's, had been taking three hours of ballet a week for at least a year and a half, and had been deemed finally "strong enough" and sufficiently trained enough to give it a try. And then, she was only doing pointe at barre.


There are several older adults who had either been on pointe in their youth and are back at it OR adult students who worked through being on pointe at barre and finally had the confidence to move on who also do centre on pointe.


My goal is to get back to a pointe where I can ask to try it at barre.

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Well I am 31 yrs old and have been taking ballet for 6 years now (started at 25), and just started pointe this year, so I can tell you how it was handled at my studio. I never really considered it a possibility until my teacher brought it up to ask if I was interested. It wasn't my goal and so it wasn't something I was working towards, but over the years I've built up the technique to be able to take intermediate classes with the teens. (There are only a couple adult dancers at this level at my studio, but none on pointe.) My requirements were the same as for the other girls wanting to start pointe, at least 3-1.5 hr classes a week plus a 45 min pre-pointe class, and an evaluation halfway through the year to determine strength, placement, turnout, etc. I was warned that it may take me longer than the rest of the class to be ready, however I was cleared at the same time as everyone else. I am doing well, however it is a huge additional strain on my body and I have to be very careful in and out of class to take care of myself, do additional theraband and core strength exercises, and listen to my body. I've noticed it takes me longer to recover (eg: soreness gone) from class than the teens, and certainly to heal from any injuries, so caution is in order.


Pointe is a serious undertaking, and while very rewarding I'd say all the same hazards apply to adults and children as far as demanding proper technique and teacher supervision. Practicing any movement incorrectly, in pointe shoes or otherwise, is detrimental and possibly dangerous. Even though adult feet do not have issues with bones still growing and hardening, the risk for injury and the longer recovery time outweigh any advantages in that respect.

Edited by loohoo44
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Gayle, I would say that "overly lenient" is a gross understatement. :)


Loohoo44's post states very well how it should be.

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In my opinion, it sounds like that school is way too lenient when it comes to adults en pointe, but it happens a lot, from what I've seen :thumbsup: . Fortunately adults' feet have stopped growing and the damage that can be done to the feet themselves MAY be less, but it is still very dangerous.


The first teacher I worked with when I re-started ballet would not allow anyone (child or adult) onto pointe unless they were strong enough. When that teacher emigrated, I went to another studio where I was almost immediately put en pointe for the first time - but at this point I'd been back at ballet for 15 months, with 3 classes a week usually, and I had had good training until I was 13, so I had regained some of my former technique. In my case, I feel that the adult pointe issue was handled well.


But there have been other women at my studio who were put en pointe within 6 months of returning to or starting ballet :) I need to qualify that one of these women had done ballet before, until the age of 12/13, but was only going to 1 or 2 classes a week when she was put en pointe. The other women had extensive contemporary dancing experience and dances contemporary frequently, but with only attending 1 ballet class a week, IMO I don't think she should have been put en pointe, at least not so soon into starting ballet training (within 3 months of starting).


Basically, I feel that the whole adult pointe thing has been handled badly at our studio. This is strange, though, because this is a studio where younger girls are kept off pointe until each individual girl is deemed strong enough and has the technical ability to manage pointe work. It is also unheard of to put girls en pointe earlier than the age of 12.


Furthermore, adults in open classes would not be permitted to wear pointe shoes to class. If they wished to do pointe work, it would be necessary for them to join syllabus classes (like myself and the 2 other women mentioned above) in which they would be carefully monitored and corrected all the time. At least in terms of the actual training of adult pointe work, it seems thorough at my studio. But I disagree with the policies regarding putting adults en pointe.

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At my school (all adults, all open classes), responsibility is left to the student nearly all of the time. I do find this very problematic. Dedicated pointe classes are only offered for a small part of the year, and there are certainly students there who attend them who could [ahem] better spend their time developing their basic technique... These classes are open, too, and stay at the barre, but I do wish that the faculty would at least be more proactive about recommending AGAINST them when appropriate.


Some students do wear pointe shoes during full open classes -- some just for barre, and some also for centre. Most of these students are ready for it and capable. There is only one I can think of who really should be told to switch to flat shoes. She makes me VERY nervous when she moves to centre and is unable to get up on her platforms even at the barre.


I began pointe in the dedicated pointe classes. I had been taking ballet classes for about a year,* most of the time taking 2+ classes/week, but I asked the teacher (who I had taken regular class with for several months by then) if it would be OK for me to join (assuming, actually, that the answer would be no!) and she said without hesitation that it would be. I can't remember our exact conversations, so I wonder now whether she knew how new I was to ballet? One of my strengths is, well, strength, and I do have suitable feet for pointe, so she may not have realized?


*I started in registered classes at my university, not at this open school. It was more appropriate to the absolute beginner. That program offered pointe briefly, by invitation and to much higher level students, but I believe low enrollment ended it pretty quickly.

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I don't do pointe, never did it, and have NO desire to ever do it. However at the studio I go to, all adults, there are some adults that do pointe. There is a pointe class and then private classes with the instructor for a few students on pointe. Most of the adults on pointe are professional dancers or have been dancing for years. They need permission from the instructor to take pointe.


The school mentioned in the opening post is overly lenient. I don't think it is in any studio owner's best interest to put adult students on pointe who don't have the strength or technique to do it.

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At our studio, all pre-pointe students, regardless of age, have to take at least three classes per week, for a minimum of three years before considered for pointe, unless coming in from another studio, then a personal consultation is required. We only wear our pointe shoes for the last 45 minutes (or an hour is the teacher is feeling magnanimous) of the intermediate adult class. We change into our pointe shoes after about 30 minutes or so of a regular class, then we have about 10-15 minutes at a barre wearing our pointe shoes, the remaining time is spent in center. If there are adult students in the class that are not wearing pointe shoes, they follow along in flat shoes.


As adults, we're encouraged to take additional classes during the week, as our schedules allow. I take a class on Saturdays, depending on my schedule, it's either the teen class or a beginning class (where 50% of the time I'm the only student :o ) If I am in a beginning class with an actual beginner, I will take the class wearing pointe shoes, allowing me to work on basic skills with an added challenge.

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There are no dedicated pointe classes at my studio, wish there were. However, I do take private lessons and work on pointe during my private lessons. I have been taking classes for more that three years, multiple classes per week (5-8 depending on the time of year - more in the summer). The ballet teachers are just as critical/hard on me as the kids (we aren't permitted to take classes with the kids). I have only been doing pointe since late last year, and am working slowly. I do wear my pointe shoes for the intro/beginner classes I take, to work on strengthening and only for the bar in these classes. Being a bit older I take it seriously, slowly, and do what my teachers ask, which right now is working at the bar. This summer I plan on adding another pointe class to my week. I love the challenge and want to do it right and feel I am fortunate to have two teachers who work with me. This is a great thread, can't wait to read more.

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Thank you, everyone, for your replies. It's fascinating to read about different studios and their requirements (or restrictions). Since more than one teacher is involved in the 'leniency' I see, I wasn't sure how questionable the practice was. For all I knew, that was just the way things are for adults. With the one woman who takes barre in her pointe shoes, her motive seems to be to strengthen her feet and ankles rather than to dance on pointe, and she often remarks on the improvements she feels. I don't know why the beginning student decided to jump in already. I doubt that she was invited to by the instructor, although she would have had to ask first.


All this leads me to another question: do dance instructors need to obtain a license or certification in order to teach or open a school?

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I have to say I don't agree with teachers/studio owners who will allow adults to dance on pointe without being technically and physically ready to do so. In my opinion, this just perpetuates the (mistaken) notion that "adults are just in class for exercise - they can't really learn to dance anyway - they don't want to work hard - etc. etc." I have taught at studios in which I was able to institute adult pre-pointe and pointe classes where there had been none before - with very good results. In the studio where I am now teaching, we have three teen/adult pointe classes per week. Intermediate pointe level teens and adults who are given instructor permission may take the two technique classes that are specially designed to be taken either in flat shoes or pointe shoes, and advanced dancers of course may take any class in their pointe shoes. In the summer, and several times during the rest of the year, we have workshops for teens and adults that include pointe work and variations for both beginning and continuing students (separate classes).


I also must say, that it has been my experience that taking a beginning level technique class in pointe shoes does not really help a beginning pointe student all that much. Pointe class is very different from a beginning level technique class, with specific exercises designed to build strength and technique for dancing on pointe. Regular beginning technique classes do not address these specific needs and if done incorrectly in pointe shoes, actually hinder a beginning pointe student's progress. I have asked (very gently) certain students to switch to their flat shoes when I noticed they were struggling with a class I am teaching. I have not lost a student because I have done this. I may in the future ....

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taking a beginning level technique class in pointe shoes does not really help a beginning pointe student all that much. Pointe class is very different from a beginning level technique class, with specific exercises designed to build strength and technique for dancing on pointe.

While this is true, I am fortunate that my teacher modifies the barre work for me in a beginner class (if I'm wearing pointe shoes at the barre) to specifically work my feet while I'm in pointe shoes, i.e., plies are done en pointe and yikes! Those are difficult. I do hesitate to wear pointe shoes at the barre because the exercises are modified and this can confuse the students, but the teacher makes it clear they are to pay no attention to what I'm doing and she has told me this can also help to keep a student focused on what he or she is doing and to not watch other students.

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This is a good discussion. My experiences with adults en pointe at two different studios:


Studio A is affiliated with a regional company and offers several adult ballet classes a week. There isn't a separate pointe class, although one will be offered on occasion following a technique class (this is by invite only, as it's intended for the apprentice dancers with the company). Even the intermediate technique class is very challenging and regularly attended by company members. There are a few dancers who wear pointe shoes at the barre and switch to flat shoes for center. If someone is taking an adult class as part of her audition for the company, she'll wear pointe shoes in the center as well. It's rare that one of the adult dancers takes the full class en pointe.


Studio B is a less-challenging intermediate class followed by a pointe class. Because this pace is a bit slower, more adults take the full technique class (or at least center) en pointe.


I can't speak for my classmates, but I started taking barre en pointe at Studio A after asking the instructor to give me the green light. His class is too challenging for me to try center en pointe - as I gain strength and improve my technique, maybe someday I will. I also have permission from the advanced beginning instructor to take her entire class en pointe (I'm usually the only one, as this class is intended for beginners). I also asked before joining the pointe class at Studio B and before doing this technique class en pointe. The pointe class at Studio B is structured depending on who attends - the teacher will give different levels of the exercises (ie, pirouette for more advanced, piqué for less so) and encourage dancers to only do what they're able to. However, there are dancers in this pointe class who don't appear ready for pointe work (legs are bent while en pointe, can't get over their box, etc.). I was reassured when one such dancer from Studio B attempted to take the class at Studio A en pointe and the teacher pulled her aside and told her she shouldn't be wearing pointe shoes, as she was going to hurt herself.


At both studios there's no set rule regarding if/when class can be done en pointe. As much as I love the teacher at Studio B, I wish he would encourage some students who are still working on strength and technique NOT to do pointe.


Why do some adults think being en pointe (when they're still struggling in flat shoes) is a good idea? Is it a status issue? ("I've been dancing for X years so I should do pointe.") A lack of awareness of the technique and strength required? A misconception that it's not really dancing unless you're on your toes? Some combination of these?


P.S. Sorry if this is a bit rambling and incoherent. I'm taking lots of cold meds at the moment. :wink:

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My primary studio does not have pointe classes for adults nor allows the adults to take class with the kids.


My "secondary" studio is very small (one studio) and though I don't know the owner's criteria for adults, she allows the girls on pointe at 10. They take one one-hour class a week until they are almost ready for pointework in the teacher's opinion, and then they add a second one-hour class. The girls I have seen are not, in my opinion, at all ready for pointework. They don't have the strength or body control I see in the students at my primary studio. The one adult I have seen in class once had her ribbons tied in a small bow on the inside and I was afraid she was going to fall off her shoes when she was going across the floor. I feel pretty confident that if I asked her she would allow me to do pointework.


This is my fifth year at my primary studio, though part of one year was spent with a broken foot. I have had the same teacher at least once a week for the past four years and this is the first year she isn't teaching adults which is unfortunate as she is AMAZING! I asked to be in one of her children's classes without luck :P I took two classes a week the first four years and have taken three classes a week for a little over a year. I have seen maybe two people wear their shoes in class in the five years I've been there (these are beginning and beg/int type classes). I don't think either of them should have been en pointe. The teacher for one class, who is a great teacher but more easy going, pretty much just tried to help her a bit in class. With the amazing teacher one of them was allowed to put on her shoes after class and she spent a few minutes working with her.


I had asked the director if they could offer an adult pointe class but their concern is that there is no way to make sure they take the required minimum of three technique classes a week, which I can understand. I then asked her if a person (me!) was taking the required minimum if I get a semi-private (with dd if she ever gets back to class regularly) or private class. Found out last week that I will be having a 45 minute class once a week with the amazing teacher after barre of one of the adult classes. Most surprisingly of all, she told me to go ahead and get fitted for pointe shoes!


The pointe shoe fitting is delayed by a week as my awesome pointe shoe fitter is under the weather and hopefully will be feeling much better soon! Between my teacher and my fitter they will decide if I am ready for pointe work or need a little prepointe work first.


I am SO thankful to have this opportunity to work with two such knowledgable and amazing women. They are both incredibly busy but are making time for a middle-aged woman to try something new and exciting. If these women feel that I am ready for it then I know that I would probably be allowed to do pointe work anywhere and even if I end up not caring for it, at least I have a chance to try it.

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gimpy, that's really sweet of them to do this. Sounds like your primary studio is trying to find a way to accommodate your interests, just like my secondary studio is. It's great to be in such a supportive environment, isn't it? :-)

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