Podiatry in Frankston, Hastings, Narre Warren, Pakenham Lakeside and Chelsea.

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Pre-Pointe Ballet AssessmentBallet has been a popular and very common pastime for generations of graceful pre-teen girls. It is so easy to get swept up in beauty, elegance and poise that is ballet; for me this passion started when I was seven years old.  

Every young ballerina dreams of the day when she can strap on her first pair of pointe shoes and dance across the room. For some this dream can take longer than others and pointe is unfortunately not something that all can do or will be good at.

When it is time for your child to start looking at their first pair of pointe shoes, it is vital that they are assessed to make sure that the time is correct. There is no definitive age when pointe work can be started and there are many factors that determine whether  your child is ready or not. Dance classes are designed to improve coordination, skill and musicality but are not typically structured to improve and increase strength and stability to the desired level for the performance load of en pointe work. Many common ankle and foot injuries can be prevented and often happen as a result of poor muscle strength and/or improper technique.

The purpose of a pre-pointe assessment is to identify any of these weaknesses or any incorrect techniques that could be harmful once en pointe. By determining adequate strength, control and technique this will help to minimise the risk of injuries as pointe shoes place a large amount of stress and pressure on the feet and lower legs.

Areas assessed when completing a pre-pointe assessment are:

 

Range of motion:

The range of motion and movement required through the ankles and feet needs to be sufficient, as does control and a straight ankle alignment. Feet and ankles that do not possess enough movement and flexibility decrease your ability to be able to raise yourself onto and over the block of the pointe shoe correctly. Decreased ankle and mid foot flexibility will have you on the back edge of the box, while decreased motion through you big toe joint, 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint, will have you placing all the pressures through your lesser toes while on demi.

Strength and control:

A certain amount of strength is required through your calf muscles as well as your hip and gluteals, turn out muscles. This is so you have the ability to get up en pointe and hold the correct positions without tiring easily. Inadequate strength will lead to muscle fatigue and increase the risk of injuries. Pre-existing injuries can cause muscles in the area to be weakened, a strengthening program can be developed to help improve any muscular imbalance. The amount of strength needed to move from flat, to demi, to en pointe is much larger in pointe shoes compared to flat to demi in soft ballet shoes. The progression through soft shoes, to demi-pointes, to pointe is often recommended.

Technique:

It is important to be able to do all movements and exercises well and properly before attempting them en pointe. A small error while in soft shoes or demi-pointes can quickly become a large one once en pointe. Rising onto pointe correctly has you going up and straight through demi, through your big toe. Should the pressure move more to the outside, laterally, and through your lesser toes, then once en pointe you will increase your chances of ankle sprains.

Balance:

Poor balance and/or proprioception can place ballet dancers at a much higher incidence of injury. Proprioception is the ability to know where your body is in space. The block of a pointe shoe has a very low surface area that can come in contact with the floor; therefore this area is very small for a person to balance on. Poor balance and proprioception will be heightened once en pointe leading to higher chance of injuries.

X-rays:

It is not vital for x-ray of the feet to be taken before starting pointe work. The growth plates in the feet of girls don’t fully fuse until the ages of 16-18 while pointe work normally starts earlier than that. Should the dancer experience pain in the front of the ankle while performing a plie or experience pain at the back of the ankle when pointing her foot or up in demi, then an x-ray may be warranted to see if there are any impingements or accessory bones contributing to this pain.

It is best to have your pre-pointe assessment 2-3 months before commencing pointe work, this ensures that any problems can be overcome before going en pointe and therefore helping to prevent injury. An assessment takes roughly 20-30 minutes and should it be required, exercises will be provided to improve strength and stability allowing your daughter to achieve her dancing goals.

Tania Vascon
Podiatrist - Narre Warren and Hastings

To make an appointment and book your daughter in for a pre-pointe ballet assessment with Tania, please phone 8790 3755.