What is your feeling about adults (20’s and beyond) dancing on pointe? Some people (dancers and teachers) feel that adults cannot be successful on pointe, and that, indeed, it is risky because of their “advanced age”.
I have a group of 30-45 year olds who do quite well, thank you very much. They are strong, take many classes a week, and cross train with Pilates, etc. outside of ballet class. These ladies are doing double pirouettes, some of them are doing fouetté turns, hops on pointe, etc. They love dancing on pointe.
Are there any studies you know of that link additional risks associated with pointe work due solely to age?
I’d love to see the topic of myths and misconceptions about older dancers dealt with on your site, as well as tips for dancing safely as the years go by.
Thanks so much!
Great questions! Margot Fonteyn danced the role of Juliet at age 43. Did she do it in her bare feet? I think not☺ She did it in pointe shoes.
As is the case with most physical activities – how you do it – is more important than what age you do it at. I remember hearing when I was growing up that running will hurt your knees. (tell that to the 69 year old woman who took up running and did her first marathon shortly after)
I also grew up with the idea that all dancers will get ugly feet and arthritis the longer they danced.
Why? Because the majority of my teachers talked about their aching feet, I saw their huge bunions, and listened to their complaints of how their hips hurt!
Not a very pretty picture of aging dancers, is it?
Alignment and muscle balance are keys to optimal functioning in any chosen physical activity. Your group of 30 – 45 year old dancers sound like smart dancers by cross training outside of dance class and maintaining a good relationship between strength and flexibility.
In fact, I would venture a guess that the older dancer is even more particular about their training over the late teen, early 20’s ballet dancer who feels more invincible and much less concerned about the physical effects of poor training – especially if they have accepted myths such as bunions are inevitable. (Which they aren’t – sorry for my bluntness)
If your older dancers are paying attention to their alignment and proper training and conditioning for pointe work they can work as long as they choose to – or until other challenges such as osteoporosis might crop up. On the other hand, continuing to dance is a great way to decrease the chances of osteoporosis along with good nutrition.
If they begin to have problems associated with doing pointe work they’ll handle it the same way as a younger dancer. By checking out their alignment and technique first and then correcting any muscle weaknesses (Lisa Howell’s, The Perfect Pointe book is a fantastic resource for teachers and dancers. You can purchase it through my website .
There are other interesting aspects to challenging yourself as you age. The Berlin Aging Study looked at men and women over the age of 70. This research was looking at how people feel about aging and comparing that to their vitality and resiliency. Your older dancers (although not truly very old) are engaging in an activity that makes them feel younger and better about themselves!
In unpublished research based on the Berlin Aging Study, they found that people who feel younger are less likely to die than
those who don’t, given the same level of chronological age and equivalent physical health.
“Feeling positive about getting older may well be associated with remaining active and experiencing better health in old age.” “Thus, studies on self-perceptions of aging can contribute to our understanding of potential indicators of resilience in older adults and the aging self.” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081202153521.htm)
Bottom line – continuing to dance is good for our bodies, mind and spirit! Your dancers will know when to hang up their pointe shoes – and it doesn’t sound like it is quite yet!
“Education is the key to injury prevention”
PS: Remember any order this month will receive a FREE copy of Tune Up Your Turnout: A Dancer’s Guide or if you order an ebook or downloadable product, I will see a FREE copy of the 440 page Dancing Smart: Tips to Improve your Technique