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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Grades and Pointework

Orange Blossom

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Hi everyone,


I guess I'm looking for some wisdom regarding age/pointework. I've read some very useful information here already, but am hoping to get some insight on my DD's situation if possible? I think I might be concerned for no reason, but I'm not sure!


My daughter (11yrs) will be doing Grade 4 in the RAD syllabus this year. She also was selected for an extension program at her ballet school which teaches the Vaganova technique. She is very happy about this! Next year (when she'll be 12) she will presumably be in Grade 5. At her ballet school, all students are required to do a year-long pre-pointe course alongside Grade 5, then after a strict selection process, pointe work may begin the following year (when she turns 13).


She has just changed ballet schools and after her initial trial, we were told that they were trying to decide between placing her in Grade 4 or Grade 5. They decided to put her in Grade 4 saying that they expect she will do a very strong exam in this grade. I fully trust their judgement on this. She will, however, most likely be one of the oldest and also strongest dancers in her grade, which was also the case in her previous school. She seems to sit on the 'cusp' of almost being in the grade above but not quite. It seems she is always about a year behind where others her age generally are? Almost in the next grade but not quite, if that makes sense?


My query is this: Is there a way to 'catch up' and get over the cusp, so that she can be in a Grade where most students are about her age? Also, is starting pointe work at 13 uncommonly late for someone who (at this early age!) says she might like to dance professionally? Am I just overthinking this whole thing?!


Thanks for any insight- I am a non-dancer but treasure this forum so much!

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I can only give insight from a parent perspective. My DD is 11 1/2 with an August birthday. She is at a very small school with a pre pro and recreational program. She is one of only three 11 year olds in the Pre Pro program and she is the youngest. She has been in the program and the youngest for 3 years. It is very difficult for her in some ways (though the advantages outweigh the cons) being the youngest in the program. She too has been on the cusp of leveling up (ABT) for the past couple of years.

In my 9 years as a dance mom, I have seen girls go on pointe very young (different studio) pushed too quickly and have injuries. I have also seen girls go on pointe when older and due to their existing strength and technique, progress quickly naturally and safely. It used to be more common for pointe work to begin at age 12 or 13. Our old school wouldn't even entertain the idea until the girls were 12 at least and quite a few of those girls have gone on to dance with well known professional ballet companies.

I would like to add. My DD went to a 3 week summer intensive last year and was the oldest in her placement. It was actually a good change for her for a while.

Edited by Melody
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Thanks for the reassurance Melody, and for the reminder that starting pointe later can be a positive due to the increased strength and technical ability. I guess I just want to make sure her training 'timeline' won't be too far outside the norm, thus putting her at a disadvantage further down the track. I have trust in the teachers at her school to place her where they know she fits.

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I completely can relate Orange Blossom, and I'm so happy to hear reassurance from others that late doesn't hinder. I want my dd to be successful, but it's hard sometimes to not wonder if there may be hindrances, etc. She seems to trust the school's decisions, so I am trying to also have faith.

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Tinydancer, I think you have mentioned something important- our dancers usually seem to have an internal 'knowing' of when they are in good hands in terms of their teachers/training. I do believe that we, as parents, need to take this (amongst other factors of course) into strong consideration when contemplating or questioning their 'training trajectory'.

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Orange Blossom, I am the parent of a 13+ but wanted to share her experience.


We do not do the RAD system so I can not speak to that but my DD did start pointe work on the later side, just a couple months shy of her 13th birthday. I have to say that the later start only helped her to progress more quickly. Our studio has a policy of starting girls in pointe when they are 12-14. They are very careful in making the decision because the bottom line is the girls' safety. But the added bonus is that most of the girls take right to it because they are really physically ready.


Earlier is not necessarily better when it comes to pointe work :-)

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Noodles, thank you! It is reassuring to hear of your daughter's experience. I think sometimes, even when we logically know better, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like our DDs are 'behind' if they don't hit certain milestones when others of their age are achieving them. Your daughter's experience of starting pointe on the 'later side' but progressing quickly because of her physical readiness is a good example of exactly what you just said: "earlier is not necessarily better when it comes to pointe work"! Thank you for sharing :)

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