Pointe shoes are the dream of every ballerina. Getting your first pair is a major milestone and incredibly exciting. But going en pointe isn’t as simple as turning a certain age or reaching a particular ballet level. Dancing on the tips of your toes is an athletic skill that places demands on the body. Dancers have to be truly ready…and that readiness depends on training, strength, technique, commitment and physicality. The timing is different for everyone.
Generally, the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) recommends dancers do not begin pointework before the age of 12. They also recommend the dancer has been doing at least two hours a week of ballet for four years prior, which is generally from the age of 8.
These recommendations line up with our SFD syllabus, which sees students reach Level 3 around the age of 8, when they must attend two classes a week. This is about building up the strength you’re going to need before going en pointe. Dancers must have been training enough, for long enough, before they can get their shoes.
Dancers must have core strength and strength in their legs, especially their calf muscles and feet. Flexibility is important too. There’s no point putting a dancer en pointe if they have tight hamstrings as it will cause more problems. It’s important to be able control your turn out. If you can’t control your turn out on a flat foot, you will have a lot of trouble controlling it on demi pointe and even more fully en pointe.
Your technique needs to be good before you move into pointe shoes. If a dancer doesn’t have good technique, it won’t improve on pointe. In fact, everything gets harder. Generally, our syllabus ensures dancers have enough technique to progress safely.
Training en pointe is not something you can jump in and out of. If you’re regularly missing class, or have existing injuries, it’s not a good idea to move into pointe shoes because of the risk of damage.
Physicality & Assessment
Students must be assessed by a teacher or a physiotherapist before they can move into pointe shoes. There are many factors about growth and physicality that must be taken into account. It’s really important that we first, do no harm.
Timing is different for everyone
There is no set age or grade to get your pointe shoes. Because the timing is so individual, dancers won’t all get their shoes at the same time. This can sometimes cause problems in a class if one dancer gets them before everyone else. But remember the goal isn’t getting the shoes: it’s getting them and then being able to dance in them safely.
Right from the beginning, dancers are trained towards going en pointe. From Levels 3-5, your rises and releves are preparing you to developing that beautiful pointe line and balance on the top of your toes. Particular pre-pointe work will start around Level 6 where we do more work in rise and specific conditioning exercises as well. Our pre-elementary level has a pointe component in the exam, so if you are working towards this exam you’ll need to be performing well in your shoes by then.
I hope this helps you know when you will get your pointe shoes. It will be sometime after you turn 12, on an individually-assessed basis. In the meantime, you can work towards your goal by working hard in class, concentrating on corrections, being committed to class and keeping fit and healthy.
And when you do get your shoes, congratulations! This is a special moment and you deserve to enjoy it!