Ballet shoes are much-needed accessories for ballerinas as they help them enter the realm of ecstasy while dancing for the audience. For beginners trying to master ballet dance sequences, getting a pair of pointe shoes can be considered a rite of passage. No one can deny the magical touch they give to the performance. Meanwhile, the history of these shoes signifies the evolution of the dance form to qualify as a master tool for dancers that help them to ace their dance movements with flexibility and visual clarity.

An Invention of the 1730s

The invention of pointe shoes dates back to the 1730s. It was common for dancers to wear shoes with heels for courtroom ball performances in Europe. But in 1730, Marie Camargo, a Paris Opera Ballet dancer, revolutionised the performance by replacing heeled shoes with soft slippers that later transformed into this type of shoe. This change to slippers allowed Camargo to perform fast allegros and leaps, thus enriching the movements during the performance.

Charles Didelot Addition

During the 1790s, a Paris-based Opera Ballet dancer and choreographer, Charles Didelot, had an addition to these shoes, a wire rigging. This new addition helped the dancers lift themselves on their toes before they could launch into a flying movement. This introduced weightlessness to the dancing style. 

The Period Between the 1820s and 1830s

Pointework was introduced to ballet by Amalia Brugnoli in 1823. In the performance of Armand Vestris’ La Fée et le Chevalier, she was remembered by the audiences for her rising toe-tips while performing with square-toed slippers that were made of satin and lightly stitched. 

Though this technique was hard, Marie Taglioni was inspired to master it. She created history by performing a full-length ballet comprising pointework during La Sylphide. Her shoes were leather-soled slippers made of satin and tied with ribbons. Fanny Elssler later mastered the pointe-based, fast-paced footwork.

Late 19th Century Development

The Italian shoemakers later made efforts to develop these shoes with stiff boxes. These boxes are made of flour, newspaper, glue, and pasteboard, and the insoles are made of leather. These Italian dancers went on to perform in the imperial courts of Russia. And upon seeing the spectacular performances of these dancers, Marius Petipa was motivated to incorporate pointework in his performances.

The Period of Anna Pavlova

It was Anna Pavlova who brought this type of shoe to the modern era. To balance her high arches, she placed leather soles inside her shoes, which provided more support to the dancer. 

The Period Between the 1920s to 1980s

Nineteenth-century ballet performances relied on these shoes to show the difference between the sylphs and fairies from mortals. Late in the years, the physical limitations while performing ballet were stretched. This made it necessary for more support from these shoes. Hence, today’s version of shoes was developed with a flat platform box design that can offer more support to the dancers.

Tips for Buying 

  • Select the perfect shoes based on the box type.
  • See whether the toes fit the shoes well.
  • The vamp length of the dancer has to be determined.
  • The width of the feet also plays a role in getting that perfect fit. So, measure the width of the feet to feel comfortable in the shoes.
  • The next step is identifying the ideal heel type to perform beautifully on stage.

The evolution of these shoes is significant, as they were developed to perform more flexible moves comfortably. So, ensure the pair of these shoes used for ballet performances provides that comfort work wonders on the stage during the performance.

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