What's the Pointe ?

The topic of when / if someone should start doing pointe work is assured to start disagreements, and that's just about how long they have been dancing before considering the cultural stuff that impacts on the 'suitability' of someone to take pointe class.

If you are going to object to my use of the 'singular they' to refer to dancers throughout this piece please click away now and enjoy some kittens.

If we consider the young dancer first, regardless of their gender identity and physiological make up, there is an effective lower age limit often given at 11 or 12 years old, this has a physiological basis, to do with the ossification of the bones in the feet. The bones of the hands and feet in small children up until early signs of puberty are far more cartilaginous than actually bony, in part because of the amount of growing they have to do between birth and puberty. So putting a child on pointe before their bones are sufficiently ossified runs the risk of deformity, much in the way that foot binding did in China. 

Awarding bodies and ballet competitions attempt to limit  this risk by setting  minimum ages for awards / competition classes that include pointe work; E.g. RAD have age limits on  their exams and the minimum age for Intermediate Foundation, which is their first award that incorporates any Pointe work is 11. In the Intermediate Foundation exam the candidate is in their pointe shoes for only a few minutes and much of the assessed pointe work is at the barre, the assessed centre work includes only a limited number of releves and echappes  and the classical walks and pointe reverence are flat/demi work while wearing point  shoes.

So what about the teen or 'working age' adult beginner to pointe? Generally  bone health isn't going to be an issue assuming they are fit and healthy and have a decent diet with enough Vitamin D and Calcium to keep those bones healthy. I say beginner to pointe because this dancer will not be a beginner to ballet in the vast majority of cases. Generally teachers are looking  for someone to have reasonable grasp of technique  and be confident and competent on demi in the centre and display decent core strength...

I got the nod after a year and half of class, it was after starting to regularly take a second class each week with a different teacher. Yeah I was scared, i'd also been a naughty girl (a bit) and I'd been and been fitted before I had the nod  from a teacher I regularly took class with - although I had had the nod from a friend who is an ex pro) that fitting wasn't good though; no names no pack drill  but the shop is no longer operating... 

Despite a poor fit I bumbled through my first few pointe classes and actually did all right... But soon realised I was not in the correct shoes... so a few enquiries  led me to a fitter who has experience with 'hard to fit' dancers... fortunately my feet aren't that big (I wear uk 7 or 8 in street shoes) and i got refitted basically from scratch... and ended up a Grishko Girl! 

These new shoes were a complete revelation and I've gone from strength to strength with it despite what could have been (and has been for other dancers who are trans) a game changing reaction to starting a GnRH analogue - fortunately my Testosterone level remains detectable and at the lower end of female norms).

Unfortunately, for some people in the dance community any discussion of adults who did not dance in their youth and manage to get en pointe then brings them out in the vapours... and various concern trolling ensues  and the implication that 18 months/2 years /3 years of taking class  a couple times a week is far too little (Ignoring the  bony maturation issues that keep the  youngsters  off  pointe until they are 11 or so  and that being the main reason  it's 5 or 6 years of class  before the kids get their pointes).

It gets even worse  when the discussion turns to trans women or cisgender men taking pointe class with a whole raft of  sexist and transphobic stuff coming to the fore...  

There there is  fevered  lunacy of the trans exclusionists, apparently trans women and gender fluid dancers are going to exclude cisgender women from dance , trans  women who dance recreationally only do so to get access to  children - funnily enough I think the youngest person I've shared class with was 16 or 17 she was certainly in the sixth form / at an FE College, and at the first place I took class where there were kids classes going on around the adult class it was the custom and practice for adults to arrive and depart dressed for class with warm ups over or to change in the single stall toilet cubicles if you came directly from work/ studying and couldn't change before leaving there... 

Then  there is the 'Dangerous Agenda'  side of things, which I've all ready addressed here and here


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