A guest post by Erika Mayall
We are so excited to feature another guest blog from dance physiotherapist Erika Mayall. Her incredible knowledge and passion for dance made her the perfect fit for our Rhythm Jewellery Blog Posts. If I am going to bring you content that hopefully helps you, I want to make sure that I am bringing you information from one of the top experts in that field. I can assure you that Erika isn't just another pretty face. As a registered physiotherapist with a huge interest in dance medicine and dance injury prevention she has a passion for working with performing artists in all disciplines. She has multiple degrees under her belt including a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, a Diploma in Advanced Manual and Manipulative Physiotherapy and a Masters of Physical Therapy degree. She has been invited to speak about dance medicine both nationally and internationally....trust me... this girl really knows her stuff.
When Can I Start Pointe?
Historically, in the world of ballet, young dancers were considered ready to start training en pointe at 12 years of age. However, this age had more to do with tradition than any biological or technical requirement. With advances in dance science, we now know that there are many complex factors besides chronological age which can help to determine when it is safe for a dancer to progress en pointe. So, what are these factors and how do you know when you or your child is ready to progress?
Although chronological age is no longer used as an assessment, biological age must be taken into consideration. Musculoskeletal maturity and motor development vary greatly among young dancers, and it is critical to know where a dancer falls along that continuum to truly assess for readiness. A series of dynamic tests can be used to provide an accurate assessment of a dancer’s readiness to safely begin pointe work. These tests will challenge a dancer’s trunk and pelvic stability and control. Trunk stability is just as important (if not more important!) as foot and ankle strength to minimize the impact of the pressures through the foot.
Dynamic tests might look like:
- Grande pliés
- Balancing in a retire/passé position
- Single leg hops
In addition to the dynamic tests, a dancer must have sufficient range of motion at the foot and ankle joints in order to achieve the necessary alignment while en pointe. They must also demonstrate excellent strength and control through the foot and ankle to handle the increased pressure through this area.
Foot and ankle tests might look like:
- Single leg rises
- Foot intrinsic muscle control – doming, piano key toes, etc
- Pencil test
In addition to the physical tests to assess for point readiness, it’s important to ensure the dancer has an adequate dance training history sound ballet technique.
The checklist below is the minimum requirements that are used clinically when assessing a dancer for pointe readiness. The decision to begin pointe work is a major milestone in any young dancers training, and one that will always be made in collaboration with the ballet teacher, who ultimately has final say in the matter.
Pointe Readiness Checklist:
- At least 4 years of ballet training
- Ballet class minimum of twice per week
- Sufficient range of movement at ankle and foot
- Sufficient strength of ankle joint and intrinsic foot muscles
- Sufficient stability and control through trunk and pelvis
- Excellent ballet technique with correct alignment
If you know a dancer who loves pointe above all things. Here are our two best gift suggestions for a pointe lover.
The Little Slippers Necklace
Soul Slippers Necklace
Erika is featured wearing our The Count Necklace.
You can follow Erika on her Instagram or visit her website.
Richardson M, Liederbach M, Sandow E. Functional Criteria for Assessing Pointe-Readiness. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2010;14(3):82-88
Shah S. Determining a young dancer’s readiness for dancing on pointe. Curr Sports Med Rep 2009;8(6):295-299
Shah S. Pointe shoes complicate biomechanics of ballet. Lower Extremity Review. April 2010.
Weiss D, Rist R, Grossman G. Guidelines for Initiating Pointe Training.
Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2009;13(3):90-92