Dancers have issued a warning about the dangers of pressurising young ballerinas to begin going en pointe too young.
Performers from the Royal Ballet, the Washington Ballet and the Staatsballett Berlin – who all trained under the Royal Academy of Dance – have joined forces to call on parents not to push their children into starting pointe work just because some of their peers might have.
The RAD said its plea follows several complaints by parents of young ballet dancers that their children were not dancing en pointe at the same age as their peers, with the organisation stressing that starting this earlier does not signal a “better dancer”.
The earliest age at which a child should be dancing en pointe is 11, but 12 and 13 is more common, the RAD said. It advised that a young dancer should have at least four years of solid training under his or her belt before dancing en pointe, and that it is imperative that an individual has matured physically and mentally enough to move to the next stage of their training.
Heulwen Price, senior lecturer in ballet education at the RAD, said a range of factors must be considered by parents and teachers to ensure that a child is ready to progress to dancing en pointe, including “the age of the child, the state of the bone development, the overall strength of the body, the length of the training they’ve had, their body weight and also the attitude of the overall student”.
She added: “Starting too early can cause enormous damage. There’s absolutely no reason at all not to start later.”
The RAD also called for more support for dance teachers in explaining this at the earliest stages of a child’s training to avoid disappointment and rivalry among peers.
Dancer Eliza Aber, who is backing the calls, said: “Starting pointe at a younger age does not, in my opinion, make oneself a better dancer. I have met girls who began dancing en pointe at the age of eight and a decade later have been plagued with injuries, such as stress fractures and malformation of bones, which have inhibited their careers.”