Getting that first pair of pointe shoes is a momentous occasion in a young dancer’s career! Did you know when dancing on pointe there is up to 12 times the dancers body weight going through her toes?
Dancing en pointe requires significant strength and discipline, so advancing too quickly without adequate technique may increase the risk of injury and hamper athletic development. For this reason, ballet dancers should have an assessment from a health care practitioner to ensure they are physically prepared for safely progressing into their new shoes.
It is recommended that a dancer be at least the age of 12 before commencing their pointe training. Contrary to many beliefs, there is no evidence to suggest a correlation between growth plate injury and dancing in pointe shoes. There are however, studies which suggest the risks of a dancer being placed on pointe too early has less to do with actual bone damage and more to do with inadequate range of motion, strength and proprioception.
So, what will your practitioner be looking for in a pre pointe assessment?
Hypermobility: Yes, having flexible muscles and joints is seen as advantageous in ballet dancers as it helps create beautiful long lines. However, these dancers often lack adequate strength and control to support their flexibility, predisposing them to injury. We will encourage the dancer to work on strengthening the entire lower limb including the intrinsic foot muscles with exercises such as doming, toe swapping and piano playing.
Hypomobility: Dancers who are unable to attain enough range through plantar flexion will be unable to achieve proper alignment when on pointe. Inability to reach approximately 180 degrees of plantar flexion (pointed toes) may cause the dancer to compensate and overload other structures in their body.
Proprioception and Balance: As George Balanchine, the original director of the New York City Ballet, has been reported to have said, there is no reason to get a young dancer up on full pointe if she cannot do anything when she gets there! Your practitioner will assess your pirouette, relevé, and sauté with a few extra challenges like an airplane test! We will also look at your calf rises to assist in developing the perfect technique. Our CSSM team will use the latest video recording technology to assess your ballet technique at 960 frames per second to break down your movement patterns and detect any biomechanical faults.
Spinal, pelvic and core stability: Not only will we look closely at the foot and ankle joints but we also need to make sure your pelvic, core and spinal muscles are strong enough to support you! Although approximately 48% of ballet injuries occur in the foot and ankle, 12% occur in the knees and 15% in the spine.
Training regime and experience: A dancers training load is taken into consideration. We look at how many classes the dancer is taking per week, if they have started a pre-pointe class and how many years they have been training. Ideally the dancer should have at least 2-4 years of experience prior to going en pointe. It is expected that young dancers show a good work ethic and attitude before advancing their careers.
It is important to remember that every dancer’s development is different. Our goal is to help you achieve your dancing dreams timely and safely. We will provide you and your dance teachers with all the information and support you need to get you into your new shoes!
For more information on our pre pointe assessment program please contact CSSM on 9889 1078.
CSSM’s Pre Point Assessments are conducted by CSSM Podiatrist, Genevieve Scott and Osteopath Nicole Owen-Tighe who are both members of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Genevieve and Nicole have a special clinical interest in dance injury and management.
CSSM has a dedicated space fitted with mirrors, barre and sprung floor reserved for dance assessments.
About the author
CSSM Osteopath Nicole Owen-Tighe has a strong passion in working with both amateur and professional dancers. Nicole has over 15 years of classical ballet training, therefore has a deep understanding of the physiological demands, the common musculoskeletal injuries, and how to support and manage these injuries when they arise in dancers. Nicole is a member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science and is committed to keeping up to date with the latest research in dance injury and management. At CSSM, Nicole provides pre-pointe assessments for aspiring young dancers.
Weiss, D. S., Rist Ma, R, A., Grossman, G. (2019). Guidelines for Initiating Pointe Training. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. IADMS.
Donna M. D’Alessandro M.D. and Michael P. D’Alessandro M.D. (2015). What are the considerations for a dancer to begin pointe training? Paediatric Education.
Novosel B, Sekulic D, Peric M, Kondric M, Zaletel P. Injury Occurrence and Return to Dance in Professional Ballet: Prospective Analysis of Specific Correlates. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(5):765. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16050765
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