Every young ballerina’s dream is to slip on a pair of pretty pointe shoes and learn to glide across the stage on their tippy toes.
The goal of pre-pointe screening is to identify injury risks and correct problems before an injury occurs and to base recommendations regarding pointe work readiness on sound scientific evidence rather than age alone or class registration. Ideally, screenings should be done prior to registration in pointe class to allow time to assess properly and prepare for pointe work. However, it can be completed after your dance teacher recommends you for a pointe shoe fitting. Screening can also be utilized after an injury to assess whether a dancer is ready to return to pointe work after rehabilitation.
How to determine readiness for pointe work
This starts by ensuring you have the maturity to progress to pointe work. Does age matter? The minimum recommended requirement is 12 years old but keep is mind that this is about ballet maturation as opposed to bone maturation. Age 12 assumes that you have entered a pre-professional program at age 8-9 and has at least 4 years of ballet training with progressively increased class difficulty and frequency. Do you participate in a minimum of four classes per week? A minimum of two of these should be ballet technique to ensure you have the ballet background needed to progress to pointe work safely.
Every pointe readiness exam should include an objective exam include testing to evaluate ankle mobility, calf strength, single leg balance, abdominal strength, movement control, lower extremity alignment and ballet technique. Here are four tests that you can easily do on your own. We recommend booking an appointment with a physiotherapist who has knowledge in orthopaedics and dance to complete a full assessment and help guide towards safe pointe work.
How to prepare for the exam
- Novella’s pencil test for adequate ankle flexibility
- Pencil must be parallel to the floor to pass (NB: photo shows example of not passing)
- Distance measured from anterior talus (ankle bone) to the pencil aligned with the tibia (shin bone).
2. Single leg relevé (calf raise)
- Must not use momentum, keep knee fully extended, rise to full demi-pointe
- 20 each leg in parallel (must perform 16/20 without loss of heel height)
3. Modified Rhomberg test
- Arms crossed over chest, single leg balance in parallel
- Eyes closed for 15 seconds; Must not touch down
4. Airplane test
- Body and leg parallel to the floor, foot in parallel, maintain neutral pelvis
- Bend supporting knee (plié) to reach floor with fingertips. Knee should be aligned with second toe
- 4/5 repetitions per side
How did you do? These tests are just a few of the ones that would be completed to ensure you are safe to progress to pointe work. Looking for a full pre-pointe assessment? Booking an assessment with a physiotherapist with a special interest in dance medicine offers you confidence that you will be screened correctly to reduce injury risk.
Physiotherapists should also discuss assessment findings and provide you with professional recommendations related to pointe readiness. Manual therapy can also be beneficial to improve foot mobility and develop beautiful feet. Finally, exercises should be given to you to improve mobility, strength, and control to better prepare for pointe work. Pre-pointe assessments can be completed in-person or through TeleHealth, ensuring geography is no longer a barrier to access! Happy dancing!
About Geneviève Renaud
Geneviève, a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, is a registered physiotherapist with 13+ years of experience in sport rehabilitation. She holds her post-graduate Diplomas in Sport Physiotherapy and Advanced Manual and Manipulative Therapy. Geneviève is the co-founder of Pivot Dancer and the creator of the Strong Dancer program which provides dancers with strength training and education to prevent injuries and improve performance. Her involvement with sport physiotherapy has brought Geneviève around the world for multiple International multi-sport events including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Games. Find out more about Geneviève on her Website, Instagram & Facebook.