A pointe shoe is a type of shoe worn by ballet dancers when performing pointework. They were developed to make it seem as if dancers were weightless. The shoes have evolved to enable dancers to dance on the tips of their toes, which is called en pointe, for extended periods of time. They are most commonly worn by female dancers, but in some modern forms of ballet men may wear them.
Inside the front of a pointe shoe there is a box made of many layers of glued fabric. The hardened glue protects the toes and supports them. A piece of stiff material called the shank stiffens the sole and supports the arch of the foot when the dancer is en pointe. The shoe itself is covered with tightly stretched satin in a variety of colours, and long ribbons twist around the ankle to hold the shoe on the foot. The shoes wear out very quickly. The Australian Ballet Company goes through about 6000 pairs a year.
Women began to dance in ballet in 1681. At that time women's ballet shoes had heels. Marie Taglioni first danced La Sylphide ( one of the world's oldest ballets) en pointe. Her shoes were modified satin slippers with leather soles. The sides and toes were darned (sewn thickly) to help the shoes hold their shape.
Marie Taglioni in 1832
image from Wikipedia Commons: English Wikipedia user Mrlopez2681
Mid-18th century dancer Marie Camargo of the Paris Opéra Ballet was the first to wear a non-heeled shoe, enabling her to perform leaps that would have been difficult in the ballet shoes of the time.
No one knows for sure who invented the first modern pointe shoes. Some people say it was Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Go here to see the Australian Ballet Company video, in which we see the shoes in action, a dancer fitting her shoes and telling us about them. http://www.australianballet.com.au/watch_listen/video/the_slipper
See the Australian Ballet Company's photo gallery of pointe shoes, in use and in storage ready for use. http://www.australianballet.com.au/watch_listen/photo_galleries/to_the_pointe
Worn out ballet slippers-image©Photos.com
If you use any of this information in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Thomas, R. & Sydenham, S. Pointe Shoes [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2011)
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