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School puts young dancers on pointe - need input


mamabear

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I've noticed that while many of the dancers at DDs school go en pointe at a fairly typical age (11-12), some of the exceptionally strong, committed girls are put up as early as age 9.5. This does not appear to be a case where the teachers are succumbing to parental pressure, since it's not a common occurrence. The girls in DDs class are a couple of years older than she is. Most of them will be going up this year. DD obviously will not, even though her instructor has told me she has the strength and turn out. However, next year (when she's around 9.5), she will be going up. She is currently doing 4X 1.5 hr classes per week in ballet, and they have been doing significant work on foot and angle strengthening exercises. In addition, DD works on these at home.

 

I'm still uneasy about all of this based on what I have been reading here on this forum. The advanced students in her school that have been up for several years, and also started pointe at a younger age, do not seem to have injuries or apparent foot deformities, but I still worry. My daughter is incredibly tall, and if she takes after me, she has a lot of growing left to do, and won't be at her adult height until she's about 13.

 

Her teachers are very understanding, and if I asked them to wait an additional year, I'm sure they would respect my request.

 

I've read so much about the perils of going up too early, and I'm wondering if there is another side? Are there benefits to starting pointe work at a younger age if a child has the strength, experience, and the requisite level of ongoing training, or do the risks outweigh the potential benefits?

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Talk to her pediatrician. It is best to wait until the growth plates are ready, which is typically closer to 12. Younger children are at higher risk for bone fractures when their growth plates are not developed enough, and the only one who can help you with that will be her doctor.

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mamabear,

Here are a couple of things:

First, I took my DD to a podiatrist & had her feet x-rayed. This is helpful. Unlike you, I am short with small feet and though my DD might take after me. This way we could guess as to how much more growing she might have to do.

Second, when girls go en pointe at your DD's school do they actually do much pointe work at first? At my DD's school the first 6 months en pointe seem to be restricted to the barre.

Good Luck!

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I see NO advantages whatsoever in putting a 9.5 year old child on pointe. I have said over and over again, on this subject, those who are older, stronger, and more trained will surpass those who get the shoes too early and can't do anything on them yet.

 

So, yes, in my opinion, the risks definitely outweigh the benefits.....but then I can't list any benefits! :o

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I am no longer in this group, but hope this helps others hear what Ms. Leigh is saying. I didn't find this board before my daughter went on pointe, but wish I had! My daughter was one of those who went on pointe at 9.5 years, as she is younger than the others in her level. Although we tried to do a little internet research, we really needed to get the second opinion of a professional (as you get on this board from Ms. Leigh & Ms. Schneider) rather than just seeing that she had flexibility in her feet and ankles. As they start out slowly at the barre for the first several months, she was actually several months into her 10th year when she actually began doing more, and never performed until after being on pointe 2 years. It was just about that time that she began to have problems with her feet due to what the ortho called overuse, causing inflammation at the growth plate. She has continued to have problems, and even had to sit out of Nutcracker this year, which really broke her heart! If I had to do it all over again, I would have, and my daughter agrees, waited until 12 to even begin. So what if she didn't appear to be progressing as quickly by going on pointe, at least here at 13 years of age she would be dancing!

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Thank you for sharing that information here, gotalot2learn. While some children who go up very early don't seem to have problems, many more do. Sometimes the problems don't show up in the early teens, but at some point in time, they will, at least with most dancers.

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My Dd is now almost 14 and started on pointe at 8 1/2. She developed early and was very strong. We were concerned about her early development and pediatrician had her wrist xrayed when she was 10 1/2. They told us her growth plates had closed and her bone age looked like that of a 13 year old. she has grown another 4 inches since the x-ray but at a much slower pace

So, not all as Ms. Leigh points out have problems, but some who are still growing at a rapid pace may. The other thing is that at DD's studio beginning pointe is typically no more than 30 min to 1 hour per week. DD only danced maybe 1 -2 hours tops until she was about 11 on pointe in class. She had a few tendinitis problems early on but not serious and it was a series of shoes that we had to go through to get it resolved. Her teacher does not routinely put young kids on pointe (but she tends to start them earlier then other studios) however she seems to know who is ready and who is not. We have seen older girls taken off pointe (came from different studios) because they did not have the strength to do it, so age is not always the answer. I think each dancer has unique growth and strength patterns and that is what has to be evaluated. DD is also very mature (at age 7 she wanted serious dance and we toured alot of studios before landing where she is today). She finds it difficult to be with less mature and less focused kids. Her last SI allowed her to be in a level of kids 1 to 2 years older than she was and it was a great situation for her both emotionally and physically... but not all kids are like this. I think when kids are put on pointe early you have to look at not only the physical but also the emotional needs of the dancer in question. For her going on pointe early was not at all a disadvantage and I am not sure she would have stayed dancing these last 7 years if she had not had accelerated.

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I see NO advantages whatsoever in putting a 9.5 year old child on pointe. I have said over and over again, on this subject, those who are older, stronger, and more trained will surpass those who get the shoes too early and can't do anything on them yet.

 

So, yes, in my opinion, the risks definitely outweigh the benefits.....but then I can't list any benefits! :thumbsup:

 

Agreed. Our kids teacher says that putting kids on pointe before they are done growing could very well result in fractures and foot deformities. She says 12 is ideal.

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mamabear,

Here are a couple of things:

First, I took my DD to a podiatrist & had her feet x-rayed. This is helpful. Unlike you, I am short with small feet and though my DD might take after me. This way we could guess as to how much more growing she might have to do.

Second, when girls go en pointe at your DD's school do they actually do much pointe work at first? At my DD's school the first 6 months en pointe seem to be restricted to the barre. Although, we've had some changes with regards to teachers and the director, so I do not know what the future holds.

Good Luck!

 

I think they start off slowly. I don't think there is very much pointe work each class, and it's all at the barre.

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I see NO advantages whatsoever in putting a 9.5 year old child on pointe. I have said over and over again, on this subject, those who are older, stronger, and more trained will surpass those who get the shoes too early and can't do anything on them yet.

 

So, yes, in my opinion, the risks definitely outweigh the benefits.....but then I can't list any benefits! :rolleyes:

 

Thank you for your reply. I am very much in need of some outside expert advice to help me in this decision.

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I am no longer in this group, but hope this helps others hear what Ms. Leigh is saying. I didn't find this board before my daughter went on pointe, but wish I had! My daughter was one of those who went on pointe at 9.5 years, as she is younger than the others in her level. Although we tried to do a little internet research, we really needed to get the second opinion of a professional (as you get on this board from Ms. Leigh & Ms. Schneider) rather than just seeing that she had flexibility in her feet and ankles. As they start out slowly at the barre for the first several months, she was actually several months into her 10th year when she actually began doing more, and never performed until after being on pointe 2 years. It was just about that time that she began to have problems with her feet due to what the ortho called overuse, causing inflammation at the growth plate. She has continued to have problems, and even had to sit out of Nutcracker this year, which really broke her heart! If I had to do it all over again, I would have, and my daughter agrees, waited until 12 to even begin. So what if she didn't appear to be progressing as quickly by going on pointe, at least here at 13 years of age she would be dancing!

 

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have already spoken to my daughter about this, and so far, she is on board with my thinking (that we'll delay it to make sure she doesn't injury herself, with the idea that she'll catch up really fast when she's older). I'm not sure how long she will continue to be on board when her classmates are all up, and her teachers are telling her she's ready, and it's just mean ole mama that's holding her back, but for now, all is well.

 

I'm really grateful to have found this board. This is helping to strengthen my resolve. I think deep down, I felt like it is too early for her no matter how strong she is, but the extra info makes me feel more confident in my decision. None of my friends have children that take dance quite as seriously as my dd, so it's good to have a sounding board outside of the school.

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My Dd is now almost 14 and started on pointe at 8 1/2. She developed early and was very strong. We were concerned about her early development and pediatrician had her wrist xrayed when she was 10 1/2. They told us her growth plates had closed and her bone age looked like that of a 13 year old. she has grown another 4 inches since the x-ray but at a much slower pace

So, not all as Ms. Leigh points out have problems, but some who are still growing at a rapid pace may. The other thing is that at DD's studio beginning pointe is typically no more than 30 min to 1 hour per week. DD only danced maybe 1 -2 hours tops until she was about 11 on pointe in class. She had a few tendinitis problems early on but not serious and it was a series of shoes that we had to go through to get it resolved. Her teacher does not routinely put young kids on pointe (but she tends to start them earlier then other studios) however she seems to know who is ready and who is not. We have seen older girls taken off pointe (came from different studios) because they did not have the strength to do it, so age is not always the answer. I think each dancer has unique growth and strength patterns and that is what has to be evaluated. DD is also very mature (at age 7 she wanted serious dance and we toured alot of studios before landing where she is today). She finds it difficult to be with less mature and less focused kids. Her last SI allowed her to be in a level of kids 1 to 2 years older than she was and it was a great situation for her both emotionally and physically... but not all kids are like this. I think when kids are put on pointe early you have to look at not only the physical but also the emotional needs of the dancer in question. For her going on pointe early was not at all a disadvantage and I am not sure she would have stayed dancing these last 7 years if she had not had accelerated.

 

 

You make a good point about the emotional needs of the dancer. I will definitely keep an eye to ensure that I help her continue her accelerated pace of training in other areas if I insist that she delay her pointe work. Her rapid growth right now (she grew four inches in the last eight months, and is now the same height as her older brother), is another reason that I think she needs to hold off for a few years.

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With that rapid a recent growth spurt, she should not be considered for pointework for quite awhile. I say follow your instincts- trust your gut. Perhaps it may be a good time to investigate other offerings in your area? Try this forum for ideas of schools in your region: Finding a Professional Ballet School

 

Also, a wrist xray may not be enough to fully diagnose her bone growth. Do check with her doctor as I am not one, nor do I play one on tv!!

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Do you happen to recall the type of specialist that we should consult? I've seen podiatrists mentioned as one avenue of getting advice, and there is another type of specialist, I've seen mentioned - I think it starts with an "o", but the name is escaping me.

 

I'm curious about your suggestion that I explore my options for other schools. Thus far, I've been very happy with the calibre of instruction and mentorship that my dd has received. There aren't many established professional ballet schools in my area, unfortunately, and my dd's school is not one of the ones listed in the other forum, as it's very small. I don't know how reliable an indicator the results from the Cecchetti exams are as a means of evaluating a school, but they do have quite a few students achieving honours (including dd) standings. Also, a number of the older students have been accepted into excellent SIs, and a couple of their alums (it's a relatively young school) have gone on to pursue professional careers. I'm wondering if you think that this early pointe thing is an issue that should be raising red flags about the school in general?

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Mamabear, perhaps you are talking about an orthopedist (the "o" specialist you mentioned).

 

As a parent of a 14 year old I can tell you that a student beginning pointe at 9 1/2, younger than 9 1/2, or even any age younger than 11 1/2 - 12 1/2 is insignificant in light of how many years are ahead of them. In fact, the earlier a student begins pointe the greater the chances are that they will not only develop an injury but a bad habit which leads to an injury because their little body is still developing the requisite strength needed not only for pointe work but first and foremost for their overall foundational technique while their feet are still flat on the floor. It is critical to remember that unless they have achieved their full physical development -- and then some as the body shifts with its new size, shape, and weight distribution -- the body is constantly in a state of flux wherein the student is challenged by one of the most basic concepts in ballet -- spinal and hence postural alignment. Without it the entire body is thrown out of position putting strain on the joints. Dancers of every age have to keep their alignment in check and this is much more challenging for younger children of age 9 1/2; even more so for every student in the range of puberty who have trouble finding their center of gravity until well after their peak growth has been achieved.

 

My daughter stopped pointe work for roughly 4 months last year as although it was determined that she had reached her full adult height she had a lot of tightness and weakness to address as a result of how rapidly the final 4" of 9" of height increase were experienced. It benefited her greatly to shift her focus towards other adjunct actions as means of rebuilding her strength and flexibility. Now she is the strongest she's ever been on pointe.

 

To conclude, each child is different but 11-13 year old's typically have achieved more bone growth, muscle development, and development of technique than 9 year old's, and although many within that age range have yet to experience puberty they are more often than not working on rudimentary pointe work. The effects of pointe work on an 11 year old prepubescent child can also be vastly different than on a 9 year old, and later along this journey you will see that as "the playing field" levels out it will be impossible to know at what age each dancer began pointe. It is more important to support the child's growth and development, and to find a school where the teachers encourage the health of the same with one aspect being a firm policy on when pointe work begins (even for those who may seem to be an exception) so that children are not doing too much too soon.

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