If your child takes ballet classes and expresses an interest in dancing en pointe, there are several factors both you and her instructor need to consider. Otherwise, your child is at risk for injury or even doing permanent damage to the muscles or bones in her foot. Pointe work, which only female dancers do, is a difficult dance technique to master and takes adequate strength to pull off since the dancer's ankles, feet, and toes must support her entire weight.
Amount of Ballet Training
To develop the proper technique, your child should complete at least three years of ballet training to prepare for pointe work. Some girls may need more. Pointe training requires lots of commitment, which means your child must take two or more ballet classes a week. Along with developing her dance skills and technique, your child will be working on posture and strengthening her foot, leg, and trunk muscles.
The Age Consideration
Since children develop at different rates, it's difficult to say for certain at what age a child can safely begin to dance en pointe. Although the average age is 12, if your child is still growing and starts too soon, the pressure that pointe puts on the toes and foot can injure the bones and joints in the ankle and foot.
Importance of Muscle Strength and Body Build
Dancing en pointe requires strong abdominal and back muscles, as well as strong leg, ankle, and foot muscles. The muscles surrounding your child's ankles must be strong enough to hold the ankles in the correct position when dancing. High arches and weak ankles can be a problem, as they can lead to ankle sprains and foot pain.
Over pronation can cause injury or foot problems such as bunions, calluses, and plantar fasciitis – damage to the ligament along the sole of the foot. Over supination can also lead to plantar fasciitis or ankle sprains, shin splints, and stress fractures to the heel, toes, or shinbone.
Weight is another consideration. If your child is overweight, she is at higher risk of injury because of the additional pressure those extra pounds put on the toes.
Since the en pointe technique requires your child to support her body weight on her toes, having a long big toe may cause some discomfort while dancing. Having a second toe that is longer than the big toe may be more painful because of the pressure the pointe technique puts on that toe. Depending on how big the difference between the length of the two toes, your child may not be able to dance en pointe.
Safe Pointe Training
Taking into account your daughter's strength and level of maturity, and seeing that she gets the proper instruction can help keep your young dancer from being injured. Encouraging her to practice the proper technique and not allowing her to push herself beyond her abilities will go a long way toward preventing foot and ankle injuries. To find out more, speak with someone like Northside Foot & Ankle.