When to start pointe work?
When am I ready for pointe?
The general recommendation for girls who want to start pointe is to be at least 12 years old, so the bones in the toes are “hard enough” to withstand the girl’s entire weight. This is because the process of ossification (bone formation) is not complete before an average age of 14, when the epiphyses (growth plates) close in the feet. That being said, there is no perfect age to begin pointe, as every girl is unique due to a combination of factors, including physical growth and technical capability.
Having sufficient flexibility in the feet and ankles is another important aspect of physical development. Girls with inadequate plantar flexion do not have the range of motion required to ensure proper alignment on pointe, leading to excessive stresses on the body. On the other hand, girls who have hypermobile feet and ankles without the required strength and control will also be prone to injury.
Risk of going on pointe too early
There are several risks involved in dancers starting pointe too early, whether it is because they are too young or they lack the technical ability to start pointe work. If girls start going on pointe before the bones in the foot ossify sufficiently, improper placement or lack of control while on pointe may lead to the epiphyses (growth plates) shifting, causing deformation and long-term damage to the feet. Accelerated bunion development is a possible consequence of starting too early, particularly if it runs in the family.
Poor technique will be amplified on pointe, leading to instability and increased risk of injury. The safety, comfort, and individual progress of the girl should always be a priority rather than the need to keep up with her peers.
Article by Vivien Koh, Physiotherapist and Sonata Senior Pointe Shoe Specialist
Illustration by Valerie Yeo, Dancer at Singapore Ballet