Going en pointe is one of the most exciting things for a young dancer however it is important to make sure you’re fit and ready to go en pointe as it does place extra stress and pressure on your muscles and joints.
This can be assessed by doing a pre-pointe assessment, which is completed by a physiotherapist.
There are many things your physiotherapist will look at to make sure you are safe and ready to go en pointe, but today I’m just going to highlight the most important.
The most obvious one is your ankle range of motion. It is important to have at least 180 degrees of “point” in your ankles. This means that with your leg straight, when you point your foot, there should be a straight line from the outside of your shin bone, all the way down to your little toe. This is very important because when you go en pointe, your body weight is going to be on a very small platform and if you don’t have 180 degrees, it means the platform won’t be flat and you may fall off!
The next thing we look at is strength in your calves. We look for a minimum of 25 calf raises on each leg ensuring the ankle goes to its full range of motion (so the heel goes all the way up!). If you’re not strong enough to go up to the ball of your foot repetitively, going up onto your toes will be so much harder. Additionally, if your muscles get tired quickly, this can mean you don’t get up on your platform all the way (which means you’re likely to slip) or your other muscles are working double time to compensate and they can get injured too.
Another important thing we look for is good balance. Even when a dancer is not en pointe, balance is important to stay up right, to turn, to stay on one foot and lift your leg in the air. When wearing pointe shoes, there aren’t many steps you do that aren’t on the platform of your shoe. This means your balance has to be strong so you don’t fall. We look for 60 seconds balance on both feet as a minimum with no sway in your body or gripping of your toes.
Lastly, we look at your turn-out strength in your hips. Being able to hold your legs in turn out positions is important in every aspect of ballet and is one of the first things you learn. It is important to have strong turn out muscles to be able to hold you up on the platform as it is a smaller surface and can be slippery. If your turn out is not controlled properly from the hips, you are less steady on your feet and may come off your pointe.
Going en pointe is exciting, however we want to make sure you’re safe and strong so you can reach your best potential! Not every physiotherapist can do pre-pointe assessments, so make sure you check before you book in! We do them here at Bodyfocus, just call and ask for Lucy for more information.
By Lucy- May Pitt