Q: When can I begin pointe work?
A: En pointe refers to performing dance steps on the tips of the toes. This technique is used only by female dancers. Trying pointe work too soon can lead to risk of sprains, fractures, and growth plate injuries. Most experts believe that a dancer is ready to try pointe work when the following criteria are met:
- Age range 9 to 15 years; 12 is average (assuming other criteria below are met)
- Three or more years of classical ballet training; 2 or more classes/week of preprofessional training (Instructors who have trained professional dancers can usually determine when a dancer has the necessary experience, technical skill, and strength to go en pointe.)
- Sufficient bony maturation
- Adequate strength in arch, ankle, leg, hips, trunk muscles
- Adequate balance and control
- Adequate supervision and training, including carefully graded skill progressions and monitoring
Q: Can I improve my turnout?
A: Turnout refers to the ability to externally rotate the hip. Not all dancers can achieve optimal turnout because they may be limited by their bony anatomy. For example, the depth and angle of a dancer’s hip socket may affect how far he or she can rotate his or her hip. However, most dancers can improve their turnout with appropriate exercises. For example, turnout can be improved by stretching the hip joint and the muscles on the inner side of the hip joint.
Optimal turnout allows dancers to stand with their feet pointing opposite directions while their knees are positioned directly over the feet. If turnout is not done correctly, dancers are either unable to hold this position or they “cheat” by twisting their knees or forcing their lower legs to the outside. When the hip, knee, and foot are not in alignment, leg and low-back injuries can occur.
Q: How can I safely lose weight?
A: Dancers of all ages face tremendous pressure to be thin. The pressure may be based on aesthetic or performance requirements. At times, targeted weight goals may be unhealthy. Not getting enough calories and nutrients can contribute to less energy, impaired brain functioning (like poor concentration), and increased risk of illness and injury. When unsafe weight loss practices are used to reach a desired appearance, health risks can include serious illness, hospitalization, and even death.
Dancers who want to lose weight should use a medically supervised strategy. This includes working with a medical professional to determine how much weight loss is safe, how quickly the weight can be lost and how nutritional and energy requirements will be met. It may also be helpful to work with a registered dietitian. It is essential to have regular medical monitoring to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the weight loss program.
For answers to additional questions about injuries, injury prevention, and safe training practices, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist.