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When Is The Right Time To Put A Student On Pointe?


Teacher article



There are many pressures to put a student on Pointe. First of all, of course, the students themselves are always very eager, especially if one of their friends is doing it or if they have the perception that they are ready to take the big step! Next you have the parents who will come to you to ask if their daughter can begin Pointe lessons because they don't want them to be left behind. Finally you, as a teacher, have the pressure of saying no or yes to a group of your students some who you may feel are ready and some who may not be. Included in this group are the dancers who either have feet that are not suitable for Pointe work or bodies that would preclude them from going on Pointe because of structural weaknesses or weight issues. Age is, of course, an important factor as children below the age of 12 or in some cases 11 are generally not mature enough in the development of their bodies or minds.

Very often if I have a child who is a good Ballet student and one that is eager to start on Pointe but not totally ready, I will have them come into the class but do it all on Demi Pointe. This way the student is learning the exercises and will be continuing to strengthen their bodies until they are ready to actually buy the shoes and take that important step. Of course, every little girl who takes Ballet has dreams of swirling around on Pointe like a princess. The reality is that if they are not ready physically or mentally the whole experience will end up being a nightmare for the child, the teacher and the parent.

So how do you explain to the child and parent when their daughter is not invited to go on Pointe? The first thing that needs to happen once you have decided that the child is not quite ready is to sit down first with the parent and then with the child. I always explain my reasons in clear terms:

1) The child may not be old enough.

2) She may not have adequate physical strength in her legs and feet or her upper body or both.

3) Because there needs to be a certain tolerance to pain the child may not have developed a sufficiently tough pain threshold.

4) I always make suggestions to help the dancer get ready to go on Pointe such as: take the Pointe classes in flat shoes, perhaps take a few private classes to help strengthen technique and focus on their child's particular needs.

5) Most importantly I explain to the parents the possibility of the child sustaining injury not only in their feet but in the ankles, knees, and entire spine.

I try to make them aware that there is no rush and that sometimes injuries do not manifest themselves until the dancer is in their twenties. My prime concern is always the well being of the child. Many schools do not have separate Pointe classes. I personally find, especially with beginners, that it is much more helpful to put them in a separate class. Not only to actually do the exercises but to be able to spend time, especially in the beginning, with showing them the correct way to sew on the ribbons and elastics and give them tips on how to take care of their feet and even how to tie their shoes. Obviously a beginner can only go on Pointe for short periods of time initially but I have found that the more preparation I give them the smoother everything goes. As the students become more advanced they will do part of their Ballet classes on Pointe as well as having their Pointe classes and become more accustomed to dancing in Pointe shoes.

If a parent is not convinced by all the information that I have given them I will then suggest that they see an Orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and will ask them to have the child's feet examined and xrayed to see if there are any growth problems or abnormalities not evident to the observer. Once again, I think it is a good idea to always emphasize to the parents that it is the child's health that is important to you as a teacher. The fact of the matter is that not all dancers are suited to Pointe work and it is kinder to them to steer them in a different direction. From your standpoint as a teacher you will know that you have not bowed to pressure and put yourself into a difficult position by letting them go on Pointe if they do not have the correct requirements.


Angela D'Valda Sirico

Angela D'Valda Sirico

Originally from England, Angela spent her early years in Hong Kong where she studied with Carol Bateman. She continued her training at Arts Educational Trust in England. After moving to New York City she continued her studies with Martha Graham and Matt Mattox. She appeared with the Matt Mattox Company and toured with the first Disney On Parade working with Disney and N.B.C. Contracted to the Teatro National of Buenos Aires she performed for one year and spent an additional year as a featured soloist at the Teatro Maipo, Argentina. Travelling to Madrid, Spain she worked for Spanish television in a weekly variety show Tarde Para Todos and from there decided to form her own Dance Company. With the Company she choreographed and performed throughout Spain in theatres, and on television. Angela met her husband Steve while working together on a television special The Valerie Peters Show filmed in Tampa, Florida. In 1979 they formed the Adagio act DValda & Sirico appearing in theatres, clubs and on television shows such as David Letterman, Star Search and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1982 they were contracted to Europe and appeared in a variety of shows in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy before going to London, England where they appeared as Guest Artists for Wayne Sleep (formerly of the Royal Ballet) in his show Dash at the Dominium Theatre. Angela and Steve have owned and directed their dance studio in Fairfield, CT. for the past twenty two years and in 2005 added music and vocal classes to their curriculum. Angela served as chairperson for the tri state panel of the Royal Academy of Dancing and is Co-author of a Partner syllabus currently used for teacher training by Dance Educators of America. She continues to adjudicate and teach for major dance organizations and choreographs for theatre, television and conventions and was commissioned by Boston Ballet 11 to choreograph the highly acclaimed Brother Can You Spare A Dime? DValda & Sirico are currently in production choreographing the opening to the National Speakers Association convention on Broadway at the Marriott Marquis for August of 2008. Angela is co-owner of Dance Teacher Web designed as an online resource for teachers worldwide.

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