Do you have a dancer at home who is getting ready to transition to pointe work? Maybe you are a dance teacher and you have a student and not quite sold that they are ready for pointe. The question of when to begin pointe work is a common inquiry from many dancers and parents of dancers.
A dance teacher’s expertise is best to determine when it’s appropriate for their dancers to transition to pointe work since they know the dancer’s age, movement capabilities, technique, and skill level, as well as their years of ballet training. One challenge with age and years of training is that they do not represent the range of musculoskeletal maturity levels or the dancer’s motor skill development.
Researches from The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries conducted a study with a goal to evaluate if objective, functional tests can be used in conjunction with dance teacher’s expertise to determine a dancer’s pointe readiness. These objective tests examined muscular control of the trunk and legs, muscular strength, ankle range of motion, dynamic alignment, and balance. Of the tests performed, there were three tests significantly predictive of the teacher’s classification for readiness for pointe work. These tests are called the "airplane test", the "topple test", and the sauté test. They concluded that these tests can be used to compliment the dance teacher’s assessment and can help enhance wellness and performance.
From a Physical Therapy point of view, these test results can also help identify areas of improvement and subsequently allow the provider to give recommendations to help the dancer improve control, alignment, strength, and balance necessary for dance. These could be vulnerabilities or imbalances from one side of the body to the other that may elevate the dancer’s risk to injury.
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Richardson, M., Liederbach, MJ, Sandow, E. Functional Criteria for Assessing Pointe Readiness. JDMS; 14(3): 82-88.