10-year-old Jasmine Cruz put up a very impressive showing at the YAGP regionals in San Francisco this May, performing a charming interpretation of a variation from Harlequinade – on pointe.
Seeing a girl dance en pointe always raises concerns about the appropriateness of performing pointe work at such a tender age. As well it should. As many are well aware, it is only a select few young children who have the strength and technique to withstand the rigours of pointework without causing damage to their still-developing bones. And even if they can, there remains the question of whether they should. At least, not without their progress being closely scrutinized by teachers, medical professionals and parents alike.
Of course, this is not the first time a gifted young dancer has been seen on pointe in a ballet competition. One notable case is Miko Fogarty of First Position fame, who was also competing on pointe by the time she turned 10.
There is no doubting the extraordinary potential displayed by dancers such as Jasmine and Miko. But the growing debate on the athletic versus the artistic emphasis of competitions does raises questions of whether the need to gain attention in the saturated world of ballet places pressure on aspiring dancers to strive for sensationalism. There are, after all, too many dancers jostling for too few positions in professional companies.
One would be inclined defer to the wisdom of teachers, who have far more intimate knowledge of the capabilities of their students than we mere spectators do. It may also be unfair to deny the especially gifted and capable from exploring their full capabilities. But it doesn’t mean that we should stop questioning the necessity of having girls dancing full variations on pointe – not when there could be potential health concerns.