Pointe Shoe – Knowing More About Its History and Evolution

Pointe Shoe

Pointe Shoe
A Pointe shoe is a unique kind of shoe, which is worn by the ballet dancers while performing a special dance form called “Pointe work”. The idea of this shoe has been derived from the dancers’ desire to appear weightless during dancing. Such a shoe helps one dance on the tip of toes. Though this type of shoe is mostly worn by the female dancers but the male dancers can wear it as well, provided they are performing in any unorthodox role like that of the ugly stepsisters in “Cinderella”. Pointe shoes are manufactured in varied colours. However, the ones that come in light pink are preferred by the dancers. 

 It was in 1681 when ballet dance was performed for the first time by women. During that period, the ballet shoes for women used to have heels. However, after about 200 years from that period, in the mid-18th Century, a dancer named Marie Camargo first wore a non-heeled shoe that enabled her to carry out leaps which would otherwise have been a bit difficult. In fact, post French Revolution, the ballet shoes started coming in without heels. Those shoes are believed to be the predecessors of Pointe shoes. 

Another thing from which the idea of this shoe evolved was the “flying machine” that was invented by Charles Didelot in the year 1795. That machine lifted the dancers upward and allowed them to stand on the tip of their toes prior to leaving the base. This ethereal quality and lightness was well-appreciated by the audience. As a result, the then choreographers started looking for ways so as to include more Pointe work in the dance performances.

 With the advancement of dance in the 19th Century, the choreographers began to emphasise more on the different technical skills. This included the wish to dance en pointe that is to dance on the tip of toes without the help of wires. Now, when the famous Italian dancer Marie Taglioni danced en Pointe for the first time, her shoes were just a modified form of satin slippers; the pair of shoes had leather soles with the toes and sides darned to make them have a shape. 

 A substantially different Pointe shoes made its appearance in Italy in the latter part of the 19th Century; for example, the shoes that Pierina Legnani, the well-known Italian ballerina, used to wear. Those shoes used to have a flat and sturdy platform than the sharply pointed front end of the earlier models. 

However, the actual birth of a contemporary Pointe shoe is ascribed to the earlier part of the 20thCentury, when Anna Pavlova, the celebrated Russian ballerina modified the previous Pointe shoe model. She had high and arched insteps that used to leave her susceptible to injury while dancing en pointe. Pavlova even had tapered and slender feet that used to result in applying excessive pressure to her toes. Hence, she inserted tough leather soles within her shoes so as to gain extra support as well as to harden and flatten the front part of the shoe to form a box. 

 This is how the modern Pointe shoes were evolved. This article reveals the history and evolution of Pointe shoe, the special kind of shoe worn by the dancers while dancing en pointe.

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