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One might think that the natural progression for every ballet student is to progress from a pre-pointe class to a pointe class. That is true for many, but there is a demographic of dancers who are either not ready, not anatomically built for and don’t have adequate enough technique and body awareness to enter such an advanced and challenging area of dance. Furthermore, there are dance students out there without the persistent dedication and commitment to enter the world of pointe.....and that’s OK. The dance world is big enough for everyone and not everyone has to be a prima ballerina...and in reality they won’t be.

As teachers and studio owners, one might feel the pressure from students and parents to succumb to the wishful requests of starting pointe. However, just like an authoritative parent should be, your priority is the student’s best interest and objectively assessing whether this is the right avenue for your young dancer. As much as you might be looking at it from a business standpoint, no amount of revenue for adding unprepared dancers to a class will make up for the aftermath you will deal with should a dancer become injured or worse. The fallout is never pretty and you will lose credibility from knowledgeable peers when they see your dancers on pointe, who are clearly not ready.

When students are approaching the age to be considered for a pointe class, there are many pre requisites which should be adhered to......

First, going on pointe should NEVER be assumed as a definite progression. Studio owners and faculty should ALWAYS be inviting the dancers who they deem ready in all aspects. As much as a dancer may want to because all their friends are, this should not be a case of, “All my friends are on pointe, so I should be too.”

Second, you should be requiring a sign off from an orthopedist as well as a set of X-rays demonstrating that anatomically, the dancer is physically able and ready to advance. This should be held in the student’s file. Appropriate shoe fittings and pointe shoe care should follow even before they enter class.

Third, enlist the recommendations from your ballet teachers. They are the ones seeing students week in and week out and know best where they are at. Their recommendations and reasoning for holding off or advancing a student will prove to be invaluable.

Fourth, take serious pause with dancers you have selected to go on pointe who constantly complain about the pain, ask to wear socks with their pointe shoes, ask to take them off ten minutes into class, can’t stand straight on top of their box holding the barre, etc. Remember, just because you put them on pointe doesn’t mean they have to stay there. A meeting with parents to discuss whether or not this is the best path for their child is imminent. Offering alternative classes you feel the dancer will shine in is always a better option. When the struggle is evident, the desire to work through discomfort and the commitment is clearly absent, it’s time to reassess.

Remember, everything we do for our dance students comes from a place of care and concern for our dancers’ well-being. Pointe is a wonderful, exciting step to take in a young dancer’s training, but there are many other wonderful and exciting steps dancers can take as well, if the shoe just doesn’t fit. ;)

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio,


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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