The “Pointe” shoe or are the kind of shoes worn by balancers when performing pointe work in ballet. 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 is on the tips of their own toes.
In the 1600s as ballet started to become more movement oriented with leaping and movement, it was perceived that ladies started to take principal roles because of their smaller frames and weight. At the same time shoe fashion was emerging with Louis the XIV wearing brithsly buckled shoes and pointing his toes “gracefully” in ward. At this time the standard ladies’ toe dance shoe had heels. The mid-eighteenth century Italian dancer Marie Camargo of the Paris Opera Ballet was first to wear non-heeled shoes. Then after French Revolution, heels were totally removed from standard performance shoes.
The modern pointe shoe is attributed to Anna Pavlova the Russian ballerina. Because of foot problems she had that made her injury prone she inserted strong leather soles into the shoe for extra support and also created the well known box effect at the toe of the shoe.
Today when we say someone is “on point” it relates to staying on ones toes as a ballet dancer in their pointe shoes. Pierina Legnani was the first dancer to perform 32 fouttes (turns) on pointe.
There are three components of a ballet shoe:
Sole: As you would exect it is a single piece of leather making up the bottom of the shoe.
Shank: The shank is the inner bottom part of the shoe and is typically made from leather, plastic, or card stock.
Ribbons and Elastic Band: This is what keeps the shoe on the foot of the dancer. The placement of these is critical relative to the dancers foot to make sure it fits proeprly and doesn’t cause issues for the dancer.
Usage and Dance Method: More forceful move styles and longer constant utilization will impact wear.
Fit: Well fitted pointe shoes will sag less and wear more evenly.
Weight of the Dancer: The higher the weight the greater the impact on the shoe while dancing.
Construction: As with anything the better quality the materials the longer lasting the shoe. This is especially true for the shank.
Foot Strength: The strength of the dancer’s foot and muscles will also impact the life of the shoe.
Breaking-In: The proper breaking in of the shoe will ensure longer life. This includes deforming them in shape, striking against hard objects, wetting them and more. Very similiar in concept to breaking in a new baseball glove.
Pointe shoes typically cost $50 to $70 dollars with some of the better quality manufactured shoes going over $100. Ative full time dancers can go through shoes very quickly. The beauty of the pointe shoe has developed over time into the classic ballet slippers we are also so familiar with today.