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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Too much, too little pointe work?


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My DD (13) attends a small studio run by an ex prima ballerina who is very old school in her training. She put my daughter en pointe at 10 (pre-pointe at 9) and all classes from start to finish are en pointe ( 5 classes a week 1 1/2 - 2 hrs each). Being a small studio my DD is in class with older girls and  often 1 or more of her teachers and/or principal dancers in the small company, dancing along side her. She would like to add another technique class but I wonder how much is too much pointe work at 13? She is in 4 full length productions a year, also en pointe, so all rehearsals are in points. Her flats only see the light of day when she was Clara, for summer intensives and auditions.  She honestly does better in pointe shoes than flats because they feel so foreign. I am researching pre-professional schools for high school and the drop in pointe work would be dramatic. She does well (but not top intensives) for summer auditions given she is often competing against girls who dance 20+ hours a week to her 8 hours. She does Pilates, but no other types of dance. I know at barre she doesn't look as good as the competition girls who are more stretchy and bendy, but is very competitive in center. I wonder if all classes en pointe is somehow hurting her flexibility (especially her calves). She hasn't had any injuries so that seems ok. I'm worried that increasing her hours en pointe could lead to trouble. Her teacher only allows flats if she's doing 2 classes in 1 day. I have been considering switching to a very well known pre-pro school in the area, but they offer a dismal 3 (1/2 ) hours of pointe a week. it is no surprise that they recruit their pre-pro students (and trainees) almost entirely from summer intensive participants from other parts of the country. When my DD auditioned for their pre-pro program a few weeks ago, they told her and other girls in her age group not to put on pointe shoes at all for the entire audition. Girls were lined up by age, and only 3 girls in the back line (oldest girls) got in. 2 extremes for sure. She has one more year of middle school and then she would like to audition for a residential school, so this next year in training is pretty crucial.  Are there real disadvantages and dangers to that much pointe work? In terms of getting into a good residential school, is it better to stick with her current school with an over abundance of pointe work rather than switching to a school with very little pointe work, but offering modern and character and a very prestigious name?  Thanks so much for your input! 

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I am a ballet teacher, at a well known residential program, not a parent of a ballet student. I can address your questions only from the stand point of a ballet teacher whose students are on pointe, in a separated pointe class for 30 minutes a day. They also are on pointe for an hour a week for their partnering class as well as an additional hour a day for repertoire. In our school, this is sufficient for a young lady of age 13-15. In our intermediate level, pointe work is offered 3 hours a week, 1 hour for partnering and an additional hour for variations. These students also have one to two hours a day for repertoire, depending upon the ballets being learned. The advanced level ladies have an additional hour of partnering a week.

I think you will find varying opinions on the subject of pointe shoes being worn in a ballet class versus a separated pointe class.

I am not sure what the rush is for pointe work. Your daughter is still very young. Since you asked, I would suggest she slow down a bit. Most of the more highly regarded training programs for classical ballet do not have 13 year olds on pointe for the hours your daughter is on pointe. It just is not necessary. She needs to study the vocabulary of ballet and learn how to do the movements on pointe, not learn them immediately on pointe. It is however wonderful that your daughter is in a ballet class 5 days a week at age 13!

As for the flexibility of her Achilles tendon, working in pointe shoes all the time at a young age is a known recipe for tendonitis and a lack of flexibility in this area.



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Just as a point of comparison, my 13 yo daughter is in a residential school attached to a company. They do two dedicated pointe classes a week which last 1.75 hours each. They also do pointe in their daily ballet class - maybe a half hour per day. So all together I'd say 6 hours per week. This is as part of a total of about 20 hours/week of dancing.

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Our students dance approximately 26-30 hours a week depending upon level.

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I can't imagine your pointe shoe bill each year!  As a parent, I think this is very excessive for feet that may still be growing and I would be worried about permanent damage in the form of bunions, etc.  Does your daughter currently have an opportunity to dance other styles - contemporary, modern, maybe jazz - that puts her in more of a connection with the floor and gets her used to freedom of movement beyond the strictness of pointe?  If not, her ability to pick up different styles may be limited.  Have you ever watched a class of strict bunheads try to do modern, contemporary, or even character?  It's painful if they have had no exposure to it.  So many companies now have mixed rep and look for those dancers who can float the genres.  For my kids, we lean more towards well-rounded than the singular focus.

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As the parent of a 14 year old, I won't offer an opinion because I am not a teacher, but I will share that she is dancing approx 17 hours per week (6 days), including jazz, pilates, & lyrical. Her schedule includes two dedicated 1 hour pointe classes and two other days where pointe is done as the last 30 mins of tech class, for a total of 3 hours per week. On top of that rehearsals are often on pointe, maybe 1, 2 or 3 hours per week..but that varies throughout the year. 


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When my DD was your DD's age, I think she was doing about 4 hours a week en pointe, not counting rehearsals. She'd have some classes all en pointe, but not every class. Sometimes they'd rehearse in flat shoes, even if the part was going to be en pointe. I think DD probably gets about 6 hours a week en pointe now, plus more for rehearsals. She is at a very small school that is not attached to a company. 

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I'm sorry, but I will just plain disagree with students doing all of their classes on pointe at 13 and even older. It's too much.  Counting hours, rather than number of days and classes is really not productive. It is the quality of the training in their hours, assuming that they have an adequate amount of classes for technique and pointe according to their level.  I find separate pointe classes to be more productive and less dangerous, especially for growing teens.  Our recommendations have always been 3 classes (1.5 hours minimum) per week prior to being on pointe, and then 4 to 5 to 6, depending on level, with added pointe classes on at least 2 to 3 of those days. Some of their pointe classes might be variations or pas de deux.  If they also have rehearsals on pointe, that is a plus. 

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I am not a teacher either.  However, my niece was had an injury when she was around 15/16.  She had broken a little tip of a bone in her ankle and it was floating around for probably several months, if not a year or more before she did something about it.  This was in both ankles.  She went en pointe very young (imo) and started around 9 yrs old.  They started off only doing 15 minutes a few times a week, but given that she ended up with this injury, I can't help but wonder if that early start exasperated the situation.  I feel the same as Victoria.  I do wish my daughter had full focussed pointe classes after her tech class more than just once a week though.


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I'm so glad I asked the question. My gut was telling me it was too much pointe, and that she needs to be a more well rounded dancer.  I guess I just needed to be hit over the head. I have a lot of respect for her teachers, as does she, which makes this tricky. But in the end I am her mom and I have to do what I think is best based on an informed decision. Now I feel better informed. 

Thank you all for your input!


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