Saturday, September 22, 2007

When To Start Pointe Work - A Dancer's Guide

When to start pointe work is a worry for parents. How can you tell if your daughter is strong enough to dance in ballet pointe shoes? Get her a specific dancer's guide for this.

There are specific requirements for beginning pointe work that teachers look for.

** Familiarity with correct technique. This results from the time spent in classes combined with the ability of a child to retain information and work hard without constant prompting.

** Muscle strength. The time required to develop this varies, and depends upon the number of classes per week, the child's other activities, musculoskeletal health and general health.

If you watched students in the regular class, and then watched them do the same movements in the pointe class, you should not see too much difference in the effort. If they struggle hard, fall hard off pointe, or clench the barre, then they are not ready to do pointe work.

Some smaller and younger children work better than their peers and could be strong enough to do basic pointe work. Children who learn quickly need to be challenged with new work. If their technique is precise they could work safely in a pointe class.

Teachers need to know their students. I think it takes a couple of years to watch children work, adjust to growth, handle the pressures of life, and observe which students are going to tackle new work with discipline and precision. Enthusiasm is not enough, and yet it is the motivating force for participating in an art like ballet.

I have taught children who were born to do ballet, physically, and yet did not have the powers of concentration to work safely without constant supervision. These students look good for a few years, but don't make the best or most reliable performers. And they don't necessarily fall in love with ballet. Many move on to easier hobbies.

If you have concerns about your child's readiness to do pointe work, and her teacher wants her to, ask exactly what qualifies your daughter to do pointe now. The teacher should be able to tell you something specific that makes sense.

Give your child an expertly designed dancer's guide about when to start pointe work.

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