The “Pointe” shoe or shoes are the kind worn by balancers when they’re performing pointe work in ballet dancing. Pointe shoes were created from the longing for dance lovers to seem weightless and floating in their movement. They have advanced to empower dance lovers to move en pointe, which means on the tips of their own toes.
Those who are interested in ballet, dancing, or just shoes in general, an introduction to ballet pointe shoes might be in order. Read on to find out how this shoe came to be and how it’s advanced over the years.
In the 1600s, ballet started to become more movement-oriented with leaping and movement. It was then that ladies started to take principal roles in dancing because of their smaller frames and weight. At the same time, shoe fashion was emerging. Louis the XIV was wearing buckled and even heeled shoes, pointing his toes “gracefully” inward.
At this time, the standard ladies’ toe dance shoe also had heels. The mid-eighteenth century Italian dancer, Marie Camargo of the Paris Opera Ballet, was the first to wear non-heeled shoes. After French Revolution, though, heels were totally removed from standard performance shoes.
Evolution of the Modern En Pointe Shoe
The modern pointe shoe is attributed to Anna Pavlova, the renowned Russian ballerina. Unknown to many, the professional dancer actually suffered from certain foot problems that made her very prone to injuries. In order to prevent too-frequent accidents, Pavlova inserted strong leather soles into her dancing shoes for extra support.
This innovation not only made the shoes easier on her feet but also created the well-known box effect at the toe of the shoe. As a result, modern ballet pointe shoes now have flat toes which a ballerina can use for balance and performance.
Today, when we say someone is “on point”, it relates to staying on one’s toes like a ballet dancer in their pointe shoes. The shoes changed the very face of ballet dancing and made it the way it is today. Pierina Legnani was the first dancer to perform 32 fouttes (turns) on pointe.
Components of the Pointe Shoes
There are three components of a ballet shoe:
As one would expect, this is a single piece of leather making up the bottom of the shoe. It’s essential for shoe support and hence contributes towards flawless, safe dancing.
The shank is the inner bottom part of the shoe and is typically made from leather, plastic, or card stock.
Ribbons and Elastic Band:
These are what keep the shoe on the foot of the dancer. The placement of these relative to the dancer’s foot is a critical element, as the right placement would make sure the shoes fit properly. If this isn’t the case, the shoes could cause some major issues for the dancer.
The Lifetime for Pointe Shoes
As with almost every other shoe, one major point of concern is whether the en pointe shoes would last for long or not. The lifetime of pointe shoe relies on upon numerous components, including the following:
Usage and Dance Method
More forceful move styles and longer constant utilization will impact the wear and tear of ballet pointe shoes. Professional dancers would obviously wear their shoes out more, while recreational dancers might just need one decent pair for several years.
Well-fitted pointe shoes will sag less and wear more evenly. Even wearing out will allow the shoes to gradually become more comfortable over the years, hence providing a better experience for the dancer. If the shoes are too tight, they’re liable to split at the seams after some months or even weeks of use.
Weight of the Dancer
The more the dancer weighs, the greater will be the impact on an en pointe shoe while dancing. The unique structure of these shoes means that most of the weight is on their toes. If this is over a certain limit, the shoes may not last very long.
As with just about any product, en pointe shoes last longer when they’re made of high-quality materials. This is especially true for the shank, as this is the part that holds the rest of the shoes together.
The strength of the dancer’s foot and muscles will also impact the life of the shoe.
One must take care to break in ballet pointe shoes very carefully. The proper breaking in of such shoes will ensure a longer life. This includes deforming them, striking them against hard objects, wetting them and more. The concept here is actually quite similar to breaking in a new baseball glove.
The Price of Ballet Pointe Shoes
Pointe shoes typically cost $50 to $70 dollars, with some of the better quality manufactured shoes going over $100. Active and full-time dancers can go through shoes very quickly, even if they’re made of the most long-lasting material. The beauty of the pointe shoe has developed over time into the classic ballet slippers we are all so familiar with today
The Working of the Ballet Pointe Shoes
The Ballet Pointe shoes work by enabling a dancer to hop, slide, balance, linger, and perform several other steps while remaining on their toes. Before the modern and reinforced version of pointe shoes was invented, ballerinas had to wear soft slippers. The sustained balance, turns, and steps that ballerinas perform today were hence not even fathomed before 1900.
With pointe shoes, ballerinas get the support they need for dancing on their toes. This is because their weight gets distributed to two main points in the foot. The first place is around the toes, where the shoes have a flat area. The second place is just under the arch of the foot.
Even though ballet en pointe shoes have made dancing a more versatile performance, just getting a pair is hardly enough. The shoes may help anyone stand on their toes for a long time, but the technique and strength of the dancer are what matter the most. This would bring them from one position to the next, which requires considerable skill, practice, and training. Students of en pointe dancing should take it slow, with a gradual introduction to each step. In fact, it’s recommended that beginners start with soft slippers, and then move on to the advances ballet en pointe shoe.