Pre-pointe Assessment

What is a pre-pointe assessment?

Starting pointe work is an exciting milestone for a ballet dancer. A pre-pointe assessment is carried out to determine if the student has the required strength, control and mobility to commence pointe work, and to check that it will be safe for the student to dance on pointe. Having a pre-pointe assessment is not a foolproof method of preventing injuries, but it does significantly reduce the risk. A lot of musculoskeletal measures are performed during an assessment which can be useful to refer to if an injury is sustained. Dr Stacey Leong (chiropractor) will also discuss previous injuries and the student’s medical history.

There are range of tests performed in a Pre-Pointe Assessment.

What are the inclusions of this assessment?

Checking for swelling and discomfort around the feet, ankles and shins

Assessing range of motion/movement of the big toes (demi-pointe) and hip external rotation (turnout), as well as seeing how far the student can point their feet

Looking for calf and foot muscle activation

Checking alignment of the feet and ankles, including the big toes

Assessing ballet specific movements

Generally, more tests will be performed, as a pre-pointe assessment is thorough and will be tailored to the individual student. If a student has any injuries, these will be looked at, even if they seem unrelated (e.g. a sore shoulder or neck). The spine and upper body are often assessed in a pre-pointe assessment as well.

The student is usually given specific exercises at their pre-pointe assessment to help develop strength, control and mobility. These are tailored to the individual student’s needs.

The student will receive a report indicating how they performed on each of the tests which can be provided to their ballet teacher.

A pre-pointe assessment usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the needs of the student. In some situations, follow up appointments may be recommended.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does a pre-pointe assessment help?
A pre-pointe assessment is helpful as it assists in determining if a student is ready for pointe work. If they are not ready, students will usually be provided with a range of exercises to help them develop the necessary strength, control and mobility as well as good ballet technique. Waiting until the student is ready helps to prevent injury and ensures the dancer is off to a positive start when they commence pointe work. Preventing injury is important as injuries can be painful and affect progress as the student may require time off.

Also, young dancers must remember to look after their bodies so that they can continue to enjoy ballet as well as living a healthy life in the future when they may have stopped dancing.

At what age should a student commence pointe work?
The average age of students coming for pre-pointe assessments is 11 years of age. The youngest age is usually 10, and if the student is 12 years or older it is considered ‘safe’ to start pointe work.

However, everybody is unique in terms of their physical development and ballet technique. Not all students commence pointe work immediately after an assessment.

What happens if a student isn’t ready to go on pointe?
It is quite common for students to be deemed not ready to go on pointe in their pre-pointe assessment.

These students are usually given a range of appropriate exercises to help develop strength, control
and mobility until they are ready. Often students continue to work on these exercises even when they have started pointe work.

What happens when a student is ready to go on pointe?
The student should be supervised when starting pointe work to make sure their technique is correct. The student is usually given exercises at their pre-pointe assessment, and they should continue to perform these.
What should a dancer wear for a pre-pointe assessment?
Either a pair of shorts, crop top and a t-shirt or dance gear (leotard and tights). No ballet shoes are
required as we like to see the feet. If the student has already purchased pointe shoes, they should
bring these along.
What else can be done to help prepare for pointe?
Many ballet students and professional dancers benefit from seeing a chiropractor. Dancers need to have characteristics of elite athletes including good technique, muscular strength, flexibility and endurance. Since dancers push their bodies to the limits, there is increased risk of musculoskeletal injury, particularly affecting the spine and lower limbs.

By assessing movement patterns, posture and balance, chiropractors can assist in providing primary injury prevention. Many dancers, just life professional athletes, choose to add chiropractic care to their lifestyle to help them be their best with enhanced spine, nervous system and extremity joint function.

In addition, keeping a good balance between training and rest as well as balanced nutrition are important.

What is Dr Stacey Leong’s (chiropractor) background in ballet?
Canberra Spine Centre Dr Stacy Leong
As a teenager, Dr Stacey Leong attended the Marie Walton-Mahon Dance Academy and The Australian Ballet School for her pre-professional ballet training. At the age of 17, she decided to study chiropractic at Murdoch University. While studying at university, she taught ballet to children in Perth. Stacey graduated as a chiropractor in 2008 and continued to teach ballet until 2012 when she moved to Canberra. That year, Stacey commenced working at Canberra Spine Centre. She also worked at Bloch in Canberra from 2012 to 2015 and trained in fitting pointe shoes. Stacey continues to be involved in ballet, participating in classes at 6th Position in Civic.

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