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Hi, I’m Dr. Sherri Betz, and I’ve had the privilege of working with these two young dancers for the past two years, getting them ready to dance on pointe, and also helping them to prevent injuries. So this is Emily and this is Mami, and they are 12 years old, and getting ready to dance on pointe for Louisiana Delta Ballet. Missy Crain is their director and teacher, and she has determined the last couple of years that they’re ready to go on pointe. And we’ve had lots of discussions about whether or not dancers should be going on pointe if they are a certain age. So should it be an age-based assessment or should it be a skill-based assessment?
So I believe in skill-based assessments for children who want to dance on pointe. So I use the Harkness program developed by Richardson, Liederbach, and Sandow, and they published a paper on functional training and preparedness for dancers to dance on pointe. And they found that the airplane test, the topple test, and most importantly, the sauté test, which is a jumping, test were some of the best indicators for dancers to go on pointe. So we are gonna share that test procedure with you. It’s called the pointe readiness assessment.
And we’ll also link to that PDF in the resources on the Pilates Anytime website so that you can have both the paper and the readiness assessment screening form with the pictures and how to do the assessment. So you have lots of resources to try with your tiny dancers. So thank you. Let’s get started. All right. So our first test is gonna be the pencil test. And what we do is we have the dancer pointe, and pointe as much as you can across the top of your foot, not with your toes squinching or anything, you wanna keep your toes lengthened and see how much plantar flexion the ankle joint has.
Now at first, Emily did not pass this test when she first started working with this one and Mami was a little off on getting the perfect score for this, but we should be able to lay a pencil across here. So if she was tight, what would happen? Go ahead and come out of it just a little bit, now pointe like that, there would be a space under the pencil if she did not have the full-dose plantar flexion required to get up on pointe. So let’s try Mami here. Yes, that looks good.
You’ve got even extra there. So as they dance longer on pointe, they will get more and more and more plantar flexion. So you’ll see that typical dancer plantar flexion. So they pass this test with flying colors, looks good. All right.
And our next test is gonna be the double leg lowering test for the abdominals. This is their favorite, right? (chuckles) Okay. So go ahead and lie down on your back. And I want you to extend your legs up into the air, and I’m gonna go get my truth-telling tools here. So we’re gonna put the strap underneath the low back.
So we can do it first and then I’ll show you how to do it with a strap under the back. So extend the leg straight up, cross the hands over the chest, mm-hmm and like this, mm-hmm, that’s right. And then keep your back flat as you lower to a 45 degree angle. Yes. Like that. And you hold your pelvis in the right position using those abdominals.
Excellent. And you hold it, hold it, hold it. And then come back up. All right. Now, Emily, put this underneath your low back. And Mami, put this one underneath your low back.
And these are just yoga straps. Or you can use a dog leash or anything that’s a strap that goes right under the belly button and that represents the apex of the lumbar curve under their back. Okay, now I want you to press the back down and then developpe your legs up. Lower the legs down, keeping the back flat. Oops, there we go.
So she’s not quite getting to 45 degrees. Now, Mami is the one who loves core work. She actually enjoys doing it, I think. And Emily, not so much. (laughs) So we’ll see.
So yeah, she’s almost at that 45 degree angle and then the back comes up. So we wanna work a little bit more on that core and let’s try Emily here. I’m gonna pull from the back so you can see what’s going on. So I can just take the strap and pull, and I know that she’s doing it right. Good job. All right.
Lower the legs to 45 degrees. And then I always want them to lower even more than that so we go beyond that too. Good job. There. That’s where her breaking point is. That looks good. All right.
Well done. Now go ahead and put your feet down, lift your hips up and I’ll take those out of the way. And now we’ll come to standing. And we can just get the mats out of the way. Okay.
Now we’ll continue on with the standing part of the assessment. I’m gonna step aside. And what I want you girls to do is a parallel plie standing on your left leg, right leg passe, right. And then do 20 heel raises. So let’s try those.
And if you lose your balance, just stop, regain, and continue. Okay. Ready and rise. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. Excellent. So each one was as high as the last one or the first one and the last one were the same height and they didn’t bend their knee during it or use any kind of compensation.
So that was really good. Well done. Other leg now. Find your focus and rise. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20. Excellent. Well done.
All right. Now our next test is the modified Romberg test. So you’re gonna be in same position, parallel passe, and then eyes closed for 15 seconds. Okay. Right leg passe.
And when you’re ready, close your eyes. And if you lose your balance, just open your eyes, regain, and try to continue. Okay. All right, here we go. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.
Good. So yeah, you do have to step down and regain your balance, but being able to do that when the stage gets dark, right, and you’re doing fouettes on the stage and suddenly the lights go out and you have to keep your balance, right? All right. So that’s really applicable to your dance performance. Okay.
Other side, passe left, standing tall. Find your focus and then close your eyes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. Almost made it there, Emily. Good job. All right.
So just one bobble, each that was pretty good. So what I would do if they were having a lot of trouble with that is I would let them use the dowel, which we used for several sessions over time as they were practicing these skills. And they don’t need it today. So that’s really good. Okay.
So now our next test is going to be the single leg passe with releve holding for 15 seconds. Okay. So now, same thing, passe, and then you releve and see if you can hold that position. And like I said, if you have trouble, you can use the dowel, okay? So rise up, just a small releve on that left leg, hold two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
All right. So we’re gonna go ahead and give them the dowel. I think they might be a little nervous. So try it with the dowel on the left hand. So you always put the dowel in the side that you’re standing on. So when you lift your right leg, you put the dowel in your left hand.
Mm-hmm, that’s correct. Right leg passe, and then rise up, mm-hmm and hold. Two. So you can just put the dowel down and press into it. Yeah. You don’t have to pick it up.
You can hold it. Yeah. So that can help you with mastering that. And as soon as you get better at it, then you can start to lift up the dowel. So feel free to stay with that position. Yeah. That’s okay.
Keep the dowel down and then just lower and go back up again. So see if you can not topple over and just try to go down and then back up again as you work on your balance. Yes. Nice. Mm-hmm. Good. All right, let’s go to the other side.
You could use a little more and more work on that one. All right. Left leg lifts. Passe. Rise up and let’s hold, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12. That’s okay.
13, 14 and 15. All right. Well, you see we really need to work, right? On that retire where you’re balancing on one leg. All right. Now we’re gonna do this single leg step down with the stool.
So we might use these again in just a moment if we need them. All right. So bringing this stools out. I’m gonna put ’em this way first so you can see where the trunk is positioned and then we’ll turn them the other way. Okay. So stepping up with, yeah.
So stand in this middle of the stool so it doesn’t topple over. Yeah. There you go. All right. Now you’re gonna stand tall, flex your foot that’s in the air and bend your left knee and touch, oh you’re gonna bend your right knee, Emily’s gonna bend her left knee, and touch the heel to the floor. Now you can bend forward in your trunk to get there if you need to.
Yes. Nice. And try to keep the pelvis from dropping on one side. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And this is a nine-inch stool that should be for the test.
One more. Okay. And you can just go ahead and step right over to the other side and you don’t have to turn around necessarily. Okay. Yeah, that’s fine. Okay.
Now, straight leg and then touch that heel to the floor and back up. Mm-hmm. And see if you can bring that heel down and up. Yes. Once you get your bearings with it, that looks good. Yes, you’ve got it. Nice.
Okay. Now I want you to stand facing the front. I think your feet will still fit on there that way. Go ahead and stand facing the front on the stool. Step up. We’re gonna do the same thing facing the front.
Okay. So step off to the side there and then let that heel drop down. So I want you to see the knee. So Emily’s been working on the knee caving in a little bit on that right leg. And when she goes into her turnout position, she tends to roll in on that arch.
So I want you to turn that right foot in just a little bit more, Emily. Little bit more. Mm-hmm. Even turn it in some more. Cuz it’s still turned out quite a bit. So I wanted them to be parallel.
And then I want you to aim your knee toward the fifth toe. Mami, that’s looking better. Really nice. Mm-hmm. Good. There you go.
Excellent. Okay, other side. That was better. All right. Right foot lifts.
Uh-huh. And touch that heel to the floor. Yeah. So this way you can really see if their pelvises are staying neutral. Mm-hmm.
That looks really good. Two more. That’s it. Last one. Good job. Those look a lot better. All right, go ahead and step down.
I’ll take the stools away from you now. All right. Now our next test is the airplane test. (laughs softly) So I’m gonna demonstrate it first. I’m gonna put the sticks over here.
I’ll just stand right here in front. You don’t have to move at all. And so basically it’s what we call Warrior III in yoga. We’ll balance like a T position here. And then we bend and touch the floor and then do four plies in this position and bend, coming down and up.
So plies like that. So I usually have them start with the arms out and then if they can touch the floor with the plie, that would be great. All right. So let’s see if you can do it. So facing, both of you face this way. Okay. And then see if you have enough room.
Extend the arms out. I think you do. Uh-huh. Go up all the way overhead with your arm position and then make a little teeter-totter as you come forward. Okay, so going forward, and then separate your arms if you feel like you’re close to the door there. Mm-hmm Good.
Very nice. Uh-huh. And then see if you can do your plie. Uh-huh. One, two, and three, and four.
Okay, good. Coming back up. Change sides. Turn around, mm-hmm. Extending out.
Getting long from your head to your toes and then tilt forward into your T position. Mm-hmm Good job. And then touch. And lift. Uh-huh.
And if you don’t wanna touch the floor, you can just do plies. If you wanna just keep the arms out. Sometimes that’s easier to do at first Mm-hmm. All right. So now I’m gonna give you guys the dowels because I wanna show the folks at home how we help you with these to learn them because it took ’em a while to get as good as they’re doing right now and they did really well with that. So go ahead and face that way again.
Mm-hmm. And yes, face the same direction. And then put your dowel out in front of you with your right hand way out. Lift your left arm up and then tilt your body forward into the airplane position. So this is a little bit like an arabesque penche, but it’s in parallel alignment.
That looks good. Okay. And then they can use the dowel to help with their balance. (chuckles) Okay. You have to be very trusting of Mami there for that flip position.
(laughs) Emily. Great. So yeah, they can use the dowels. They can also, you know, put their hand on the wall. So I always like to think of the vertical bar or this vertical dowel as a portable bar. So I like to have them do their bar work, but then bring the bar to center so they can practice their center skills with a little bit of assistance instead of always being dependent on the bar.
So I think it helps them make that transition to the center work really well. So that was good. Okay. Now for the topple test. The topple test is your pirouette en dehors in fourth position. So it’s like a reverse pirouette.
They’re gonna be turning on the back foot. So take your left foot forward. Mm-hmm. Left foot forward. And then find your fourth position. Yes, that’s good.
And now you’re going to turn to the left on that back foot. Yes. That’s it. Mm-hmm. And get up on your pirouette. Ah, nice.
That was good. Okay. Make it look pretty, no matter what happens, right? Okay. So I want you guys to do a half pirouette for a moment.
Just passe up. Just a tiny little turn. Okay. So that’s too much spin, right? Just go, think of going up. Ready? Pirouette, up.
Mm-hmm. That’s better. Okay. Rise up. Just think go, up. Yes. Much better. So sometimes we start with those half pirouettes and then get them into the full pirouette.
Mm-hmm. Yes. Much better. Okay. Now try the full pirouette again. Mm-hmm. Rising up cuz, yes. Same leg.
Mm-hmm Yes. Much better. They forgot about going up. You’re thinking more about turning than lifting up cuz the up actually helps you get the spin. Okay. Change legs please. Okay.
All right. You’re doing great. And then rise up. Uh-huh. And just slowly lower down, cuz I think you’re stopping yourself by dropping your heel. So rise up and down, little more up then turn, right?
Remember the up, more up then turn. Passe up. Mm-hmm. And then again, passe straight up. Mm-hmm.
Nice. That was better. Okay. So that’s what we call the topple test and what Richardson and Liederbach, and Sandow said from the Harkness clinic in New York that does dance research. They say that that’s one of the most important tests for determining whether the dancer is ready for pointe. So our last test, which they say is the most important test for pointe readiness is the sauté.
So you’re gonna be in a coupe position, turned out. Mm-hmm. And let’s coupe on the same leg. So let’s go. Yes. Stay on the right.
Mm-hmm. And now coupe left, Mami. Mm-hmm. Great. Okay. You do a little plie and you’re gonna jump 16 times, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.
Okay. So what we’re looking for is that that full pointe happens, that they jump high and they get completely in the air with a full pointe. And where we’re still working on that one, that’s a tough one. Okay. Coupe the other side. (chuckles) Okay.
Right leg, coupe right. Mm-hmm. Turned out left. All right. You ready? Plie and go.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Good job (laughs). Okay. Those are really challenging. All right. So that is the pointe readiness assessment.
And you can see where it’s a great way to assess the skills of a dancer to see if their strength and their performance is ready for pointe. This is gonna help them prevent injuries and make sure that they are ready for the pointe work. So thank you for joining me. And I hope you’ll join us for the next part of the tutorial. Looking at them, practicing, jumping, and working on the reformer in their pointe shoes.
When they first started working with me, they were just getting on pointe and it was really challenging to get up on releve and to have the strength in their calves to be able to do that. The reformer is a great place to start to help a young dancer get the strength in the pointe shoes and get some time in the pointe shoes without that full body weight coming down on the foot. And it was able to be useful to help them develop their strength as they danced on pointe. And then this year, it was their first time to dance in a performance on pointe. So we were excited to see them do that.
So thank you for joining us and I hope to see you in the next part of the tutorial.
Releve and Reformer Strengthening
All right, now we have Emily that’s going to demonstrate releves before she gets on the reformer. And we’re gonna show you how she practiced releves on the reformer when she first got on pointe shoes. So let’s go to find your first position without cheating, right? Without that friction, and then come back in to parallel and then rotate out.
Mm-hmm. And back in. So that tells us the true first position there. Mm-hmm. Go out. And if they pointe and plant their foot to the ground or turn out and plant their foot to the ground, that’s cheating, and that could twist through the knees and damage ligaments and help them roll in through the ankles and set them up for all kinds of injuries.
So we wanna find that fifth position from the hips so that she’s rotating from the hips and keeping the pelvis in that neutral position, no tucking, no buttock squeezing, and drawing up from the front. So all of those good cues for posture that we want in our dancers. All right. Now what I want you to do is take it up to a releve from that position. Mm-hmm.
And so what we’re looking for is control and balance, and just go up and down a few times so that you don’t have to hold it too much. Now try not to pop into it. And I want you to slowly roll up into it. That’s better, with control. Okay.
And so you see how she’s having a little bit of struggle with that, cuz normally she does this at the bar. So getting a little better. That looks good. Really. Yes. She’s warming up a little bit. That looks good.
Excellent. Okay. Now take it to fifth position. Mm-hmm. No cheating, right? Okay. So let’s do that again.
So take it to second. Mm-hmm. Pointe tone to you. Close fifth. That’s it. That’s your fifth, right?
You can’t keep turning out and planting your feet if you don’t want to twist at the knees. Okay. There’s your fifth. Now rise up. And then take it down. Mm-hmm.
And rise up and down, and up and down. So you can see how the reformer, taking her out of gravity, is gonna help her with finding that position. Okay. Great job. All right, go ahead and lie down on the reformer.
Because the jump board has a little bit of a slick surface, I usually put either a piece of yoga mat or a piece of this shelf liner where it’s this non-skid fabric and let them go onto there. So you’re gonna start in parallel, and let’s bring your heels down just a little bit so that when you rise up, you’re in line with your body. And then let me take some of the springs off. So I’m starting with two red springs for right now. So you’re just gonna straighten out, it’s gonna be really light.
And then rise up to releve. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So she knows she needs to come out. See her feet are in front of her. So that wouldn’t be normally where she would be in releve so I’m gonna have you come down a little bit more.
Mm-hmm. And then rise up to the releve. Uh-huh. Try to keep your heels together so you don’t sickle outwards, and again, rise up to releve. So I’m looking to see if she’s getting on top of her box of the pointe shoe.
And yes, so you wanna keep going down. So you have to go down pretty low in order to be on the releve in the position that your body would be in in standing. Okay. So there you go. That looks great. Really nice.
And roll through the foot, rising up. Mm-hmm. And as long as the heels stay together, it’s okay if the arch has come apart. Rise up, stay up on your box. Good job.
Rolling down. And rise up and roll down. Excellent. Okay. Now take yourself to a first position. Mm-hmm.
And then we gotta make sure you’re on the fabric there. That’s good. Okay. And then I might need to bring it down a little bit and then rise up. Really nice work. So if you look at the footage here from above, you can see that she’s coming straight up onto her box.
And if we did the pencil test here, we see that she would definitely pass that pencil test. So she’s able to get on the box now. That’s not something she was able to do when we first started. So that’s gotten a lot better. Mm-hmm.
Excellent. Okay. Now close fifth. Mm-hmm. Really nice. Okay. Rise up.
Just do two on each side. Beautiful. That was really nice form. You’re controlling that really well. So this is gonna be less than her body weight. And then again rising up.
And we notice that her knees are straight and she’s able to control the ascent and descent so we can gradually increase the spring tension. Now we’re gonna go, keep that leg where it is, and go to passe right. And so we’re gonna go straight into single leg releve. This is where the trouble starts, right? (chuckles) Okay. So rise up. Nice.
Really nice control, Emily. Very good. So she’s rolling through the foot, coming right over that box. And then I want you to notice as she gets tired, keep going, cuz I’m gonna let them see what happens when you get tired. Yeah and she starts to struggle a little bit and the foot just pops into the pointe position.
So that’s when I know she’s fatigued and we’re gonna change sides. Thank goodness. Or I could lighten the spring a little bit. So let’s do three on this side and then we can lighten the spring for you and you can do more repetitions. And so you could see how hard that would be in a single leg releve with being up against gravity.
All right. That’s three and four. And usually what we do is we count and we work up to more and more repetitions. And then once she can do say 10 to 15 repetitions on one side, then we go up again. Okay. Stay in your passe here. I’m gonna have you plie.
Mm-hmm. Thank you. And we’re gonna change it to a red and a blue spring so it’s a little bit lighter for you. She’s like, “Thank goodness,” right? (Emily chuckles) Okay. Rise up.
Mm-hmm. And down. That’s it. So I could lighten it and let her do a few more reps to work on her endurance and her strength. Yes. So she does more than 15 to 20 reps. That’s mostly working endurance.
And then once we do just five to 10 reps and she gets to fatigue, that’s working on strength. Really nice, Emily. Okay. Come down. Plie. Very nice.
And now do your developpe to your abdominal exercise? So we always often do this here while we’re on the reformer. Have her do the little hold, hold, hold, little 100 here with the arms, legs stay still pressing the back down. Excellent. Okay. And then bring the knees in.
Roll to the side and you can exit (chuckles). Excellent job. Very good. You did great. All right. Thank you. Mami, are you ready?
So we’re gonna watch Mami do the same series of exercises and see how she does with that. So now you’re gonna stand in parallel and find your posture. Bring your head and throat back a little bit. Yes, that’s it. So you’re really stretching tall and then lift your toes and find your first position without the friction.
Very nice. So she has a little bit more turnout than Emily does, and then you can see that by doing a measurement, if I had to go near amateur, I could just measure the feet and the angle of the foot from midline and see what our turnout is. Okay. Go back to parallel. Let’s do it a couple times and then rise up and turn out again.
Mm-hmm. Yes. That’s it (laughs). Without losing your balance. Great. Okay. Releve. Mm-hmm.
And I want you to notice something. I’m gonna give you a little support, so go up and stay. And you can see that she has a little more flexibility in her fore foot. And she’s up over that box a little bit more than Emily was. And you know, she’s just gotten a little more flexibility sooner than Emily did, but Emily will get it as soon as she is on pointe more.
Okay. Roll through the feet. Great. All right, come on down to the reformer. And we’re always working to make sure that they’re in the right alignment and they don’t have pain as well.
Cuz there have been some times that they have some flareups or anything. Is everything feeling okay today? My knee is a little bad. Knee is a little bad. Did that hurt at all when you did your releve?
Okay, good. We’re just gonna be checking in with that. Let me know if something hurts. All right. So she’s got longer feet than Emily does, so I have to make sure she doesn’t come off the board and I’m gonna have you turn in just a little bit because you’re almost at the edge.
(chuckles) Okay. Now take your feet down about three inches or so. Yes, there you go. Then you’ll be up under your hips. All right. Rising up.
Mm-hmm. And rolling down through the foot. And rise up and rolling down. Two more like that. Mm-hmm. Very nice.
Position is equal. Her turnout’s equal on both sides. It gives me a really good chance to see where she has limitations, if she has any. All right. Now, what I want you to do is close fifth. Mm-hmm.
And you’re gonna have to adjust your feet. Yes. There you go. That’s it. Really nice. All right. Rise up. Mm-hmm.
And roll through the foot to come down and rise up, and rolling down. Now, watch that you don’t roll in on this foot. So I want you to keep a little more weight to the outside of your box and your arch. Just a little, not much. Mm-hmm.
Good. And part of it is she’s trying to get that hip to turn so that it goes into that turned out position. So the arch of the foot here is kind of rolling just a little bit. I think your pointe shoes are getting worn out. (laughs) All right. Now how’s your knee?
It’s okay? Little sketchy. Yeah, so I think that foot and knee, let’s try it the other side and might have to lighten the weight for you. Okay. Rise up and roll through the foot. Good.
How does it feel when that foot’s behind you? Is that better? Because see, she doesn’t have to work so hard to get this leg around the other leg. And so she doesn’t have to turn out as much on that right leg. Mm-hmm.
Better control on this side. Excellent. Okay. So let’s try this leg coming in for a single leg releve. So you have to really bring the foot way in because I wanna make sure that the ball of her foot or the pointe shoe is in line with her pubic bone. So go ahead and do a passe.
So it feels really weird to get started like that, but once she rises up, it will be right. Mm-hmm. How’s that on your knee? Is that a little too much? You okay?
Okay. You’re doing a good job with that. So that excessive turnout, I think that she was trying to do and that fifth position, was giving a little stress to the knee. Nice job, Mami. Okay. Try the other side.
So I just want you to realize that you have to get that leg way across. So when you see the footage from above, you’ll see how far over that leg is. But when she gets to the top, you’ll see that the ball of her foot or the pointe shoe is right in line with her pubic bone and her nose. So in order to practice in what it’s gonna be like when she’s in standing against gravity, you have to do it that way. Great job. All right.
Come down into a fifth position. You’re gonna have to bring that leg behind you. Yes, that’s it. Readjust. Do a little plie.
Mm-hmm. Nice job. And then come all the way down and go into a grand plie. Let the carriage come all the way home and then bring your knees in. Developpe both legs up.
And then I want you to lower your right leg down, touch the board, and then back up again. And left leg down and up, alternating sides. Mm-hmm. So this is another exercise that we like doing as well. Great job.
All right. Keeping your back flat, press the back down and press both feet down towards the board here. Mm-hmm. Both feet together, turn out. Lower, hold, hold, hold, hold, hold. Oh those pointe shoes get heavy (laughs).
And then come back in, bend the knees, roll to your side and come up to standing. Emily, can you come join us? I wanna thank you both for your excellent performance today. And I know that you’re gonna be critical of yourselves after this is over because you always do such a great job, but I want you to be proud of yourselves. You’ve done a great job and you’re getting so strong and you’re both gonna be just beautiful dancers.
We’re gonna keep you strong and healthy as best we can. So thank you for joining us. Little plie, everybody. (laughs softly) Thanks. Have a great day and thank you for watching.