Ballet is an art which students should begin to study by the age of 12. The reason for the early start is to strengthen the muscles, tendons and skeletal components in the feet for a smooth and strong transition from a soft ballet shoe to the pointe shoe. British and Russian methodology will pace and test the child for proper development and readiness to roll onto point.
A technically sound pointe program will be under strict supervision from qualified ballet instructors to ensure the student is physically and psychologically ready for advancement. There are dangers of sickling, or rolling the ankles inward in a struggle to keep the body steady over the box, which can seriously impair the dancer's potential for progress. Proper alignment allows for a deep arch in the metatarsal area and permits the dancer to easily roll or, in the Russian style, jump to pointe.
The best age group to begin pointe is in the early teens, as younger ballerinas have not reached full maturity, dexterity, or body weight. However, older dancers that are late on pointe have their own unique advantages, including better muscular development and greater manual dexterity for mastering the steps en-pointe. Weight plays a crucial role in the dancer's tolerance for and adaptability to dancing on pointe. While slim to normal weight is sufficient for many other forms of dance, the ballerina can feel the difference with a minor shift in weight which can slow a pirouette or lower a grand jete. Ballet demands a lithe and limber body; the thinner you are, the easier it will be.
When buying your pointe shoes, be sure to leave extra room in the toes for padding; you don't want to dance without this. The inside of the pointe shoe can be quite abrasive and will draw blood if you do not use proper insulation. A jelly toe or one-piece flexible gel pad is the favorite for most dancers, as these afford the foot maximum mobility inside the shoe. However, be sure that the gel pads do not make the shoes too tight, as this will constrict your toes into numbness and disable your feet in class, especially if your classes last longer than an hour.
Exercises to stretch your arch are necessary to sculpt your foot into the perfect pointe position. This may be done with dance bands made of latex or rubber positioned in the arch of the foot while you point. In addition, there are stretches where you insert the foot into a vertical position and hold. The first few times on pointe, you may not be able to straighten your legs, but that can be quickly corrected by stretching the foot. Studying ballet is no walk in the park, girls; if you're a whiner or a complainer that can't take some serious pain, you'd do better to trade your pointe shoes for tap. However, for the diligent lover of this exquisite art, you are on a lifelong journey toward excellence and mastery of your craft.