Are you Ready to go En Pointe??


How do you or your ballet teacher know when you're ready to go en pointe?  This is often a very subjective issue, and different teachers and dance schools have different criteria for determining the answer.  

Some teachers are strict about the age at which dancers are allowed to begin pointe work, and some are more flexible.  Most dancers begin pointe between 11 and 13 years old.  Occasionally, someone will begin a little sooner or even later.  There is no magic age, although starting too soon puts you at risk for injuries if your bones haven't developed enough yet.  The most important factors by far are strength, flexibility, and motor control.  

In general, you need adequate flexibility on your feet and ankles to get your body weight up onto a fully pointed foot, you need a lot of balance and coordination, and you need enough strength in your legs, feet, and core to maintain proper alignment en pointe.  These things usually are developed slowly over at least 3-4 years of ballet training.  Many teachers know their students well enough to determine pointe readiness themselves.  Sometimes, an outside consultation with a doctor or physical therapist is requested to get a more accurate picture of whether a dancer is ready or not.  Occasionally, a school will even require x-rays to look at bone development, although this hasn't been proven in the scientific literature to be an effective strategy.  

The 3 movement tests most relevant to pointe readiness that a doctor or PT might use(3):

1. Airplane Test:  The dancer stands on one leg and bends from the hip so that the trunk is parallel to the floor while extending the back leg behind, also parallel to the floor. The arms are held straight out to the side. The supporting leg then bends and the hands are lowered to touch the floor, keeping the trunk and extended leg parallel to the floor, before straightening the knee and returning to the starting position.  This movement is done 5 times, demonstrating balance, trunk control, and maintenance of lower extremity alignment in 4 out of 5 consecutive attempts.

Starting and Ending position

Middle position

2. Sauté Test: This is 16 consecutive single-leg sautés with the non-supporting leg held in coupé.  The dancer should be able to maintain trunk control, a level pelvis, correct lower extremity alignment in landings, and be able to fully extend the knee and point the foot in the air during at least half the jumps.  This test is performed on both sides.

3. Topple Test: This is simply a single pirouette en dehors from fourth position. The dancer must get to full retiré/passé in 1 second, have a fully extended standing leg, good vertical trunk control, and a controlled landing.  One out of 2 attempts may pass.

The other things commonly looked for are calf strength, with the ability to do at least 15 single leg relevés in a row without pliés (1,3), and range of motion or flexibility in the ankle.  Ideally, you would have 90 degrees plantarflexion or pointing, and 30-40 degrees weight-bearing dorsiflexion  or plié(1).  These can be measured in a clinic, or they can be eyeballed while watching you relevé and plié.  

Most ballet teachers will make the decision about whether you're ready for pointe based on your classwork and their experience.  It should always be an individual decision, as every young dancer grows and develops at different rates.  Just because most dancers in a class are ready, doesn't mean every dancer in the class is ready.  Going en pointe too early can definitely cause injury down the line, as I know all too well myself.  So, don't be in too much of a rush.  Although it's a really exciting time for young dancers, waiting a few months or even another year until your body is ready can really pay off by making the whole experience a lot safer in the long run. 


  1. DeWolf, Andrew; McPherson, Alyssa; Besong, Kathryn; Hiller, Claire; Docherty, Carrie; Qualitative Measures Utilized in Determining Pointe Readiness in Young Ballet Dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 2018; 22(4): 209-217.
  2. Meck C; Hess R; Helldobler R, et al. Pre-pointe evaluation components used by dance schools. J. Dance Med. Sci. 2004; 8:37Y42.
  3. Richardson, M., Liederbach, M., & Sandow, E. (2010). Functional criteria for  assessing pointe-readiness. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 14(3), 82-88.
  4. Shah, Selina. Determining a Young Dancer’s Readiness for Dancing on Pointe.  Curr.Sports Med. Rep., 2009; 8(6): 295-299.


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