When you picture a ballerina in your head, I am sure you imagine a beautiful, slim lady in a tutu and dancing en pointe, most people do. This is classical ballet at its peak and what many young girls dream to be like but have you ever thought about what is going on with that dancer and her feet? Pointe work is hard, challenging and can be dangerous. How can you limit your risk when learning to dance en pointe?
No one should be forced into pointe work. If you're not comfortable with it and have a good teacher they will understand, I am sure they will still try to encourage you to give it a try but there is nothing wrong with not learning to go en pointe. If you do want to do pointe work it should only be considered after around 3 years of ballet, I'm not talking a 30 minute class once a week but 2/3hours + per week to build up the muscles and stamina used. Girls should never been en pointe before the age of 9, more commonly 11+ years will get their first pair of pointe shoes.
Strengthening exercises should be done in the months and weeks leading up to buying your first pair of pointe shoes, These can be as simple and standing on one leg at the barre and going from a pilé to reléve. It is also really helpful to have demo-pointe shoes, these look like regular pointe shoes but do not have a shank (the part which runs up the back of the shoe) so cannot be used to dance en pointe but as they are similar to a pointe shoe help the dancer transition from a soft shoe to hard.
Pointe work is placing the foot in a really unnatural and odd position. You are putting all of your body weight on the tips of the toes where it isn't designed to go. Good fitting Pointe Shoes will help limit potential damage to feet, please make sure you use a good fitter when choosing where to get your pointe shoes, a recommendation by a friend or dance teacher is best. If possible bring your dance teacher too as they can work with the fitter to get the best shoe for your foot type.
No matter how good a shoe it won't make up for someone who's technique is poor. If the dance cannot pull up out of her hips and keeps sinking into the shoe the box (a part of the pointe shoe) will break quicker as it is being forced to take more weight than it is designed for.
Here at Pink Pointes, we fit lots of pointe shoes each week and all our fitters have studied pointe shoes and pointe work.