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The History, Manufacture, and Parts of this Classical Ballet Tradition

The Pointe Shoe:

Caitlin Miller 3/14/2012

Italian dancers began to wear a new version of the shoe that was less pointed and had a thicker platform sole. To begin. Taglioni’s shoes were merely satin slippers with a special leather sole meant to provide support. a type of footwear commonly worn by ballet dancers. In the 1930s. so dancers experimented with using glue. and specific parts will be discussed in detail. A special machine is used to fold ribbon around a thin piece of elastic and sew both the ribbon and elastic along the top border of the satin. manufacturing. wood. 3. was made sturdier with numerous layers of fabric. However metal for pointe shoes became hard to find during World War II. Ballet dancers borrowed this idea and started wearing slippers with metal soles for increased support. the size of which determines the size of the shoe. allowing the dancer to pull the shoe tightly around her foot. . and their basic design forced dancers to build astonishing foot and ankle strength. a pattern is used to cut three pieces of pink satin and three corresponding pieces of cotton. These six pieces are then sewn together to form what will later be the shoe’s satin outside and inner cotton lining. Additionally the part of the shoe surrounding the toes. The shoemaker then lays the satin across a wooden form. This Italian version of the shoe was further altered in Russia. where the dancers removed the nails in order to make their movements quieter. 2. all pointe shoes are made in a relatively similar fashion. This document was meant for an audience without much firsthand ballet experience and therefore takes an introductory and simplistic approach to the subject. traditionally worn by women. 1. The Manufacture of a Modern Pointe Shoe Today. In the late 1800s. and fabric instead. It is best suited for publication on a dance appreciation blog or within a dance appreciation reference book. which allows the dancer to balance upon her toes. called the box. and the reader will hopefully gain an increased appreciation for their use in ballet today. The History of the Pointe Shoe A pointe shoe is ballet footwear. The pointe shoe’s history.This Description’s Audience and Scope The purpose of this document is to familiarize the reader with pointe shoes. The enclosed elastic will later serve as a drawstring. Broadway dancers began to wear shoes with steel soles to allow for toetapping. The modern pointe shoe’s earliest predecessor was worn sometime during the early 19th century by Marie Taglioni as she danced in La Sylphide.

After the shoe is allowed to sit for twenty-four hours. because it allows the box to be stiff enough to sustain the dancer’s weight but supple enough for the dancer to move gracefully. The inner cotton lining is nailed to an insole at the bottom of the form. 10. the shoe is heated to 200° Fahrenheit. 5. The last step is to place the shoe in a press for fifteen second so that the bond between sole and shoe is solidified. A layer of resin-coated cotton is smoothed over the toe. 8. This insole is made of both stiff cardboard for support and plastic for flexibility. The shoemaker uses a unique mixture of flour. one pair can be sold for approximately $50 to $90. called the box. 11. Depending upon the shoes’ quality. and the nail is removed after the glue dries. 9. almost like paper mâché. Before the paste dries. The shoemaker uses extra-strength vinyl glue to attach a foam filler to the bottom of the shoe and then leaves it to air-dry. . followed by two layers of burlap and a layer of pure cotton. The box’s base is formed using fabric and paste. water. 6. and the heat reactivates the dried vinyl glue so that the outer suede sole can be attached. starches and resin to attach each layer to the shoe. Once the shoe is completed. the wooden form can be removed and the shoe can be packaged for sale. The next step is to build the part of the shoe that covers the dancer’s toes. the shoemaker hammers the tip of the box so that it is perfectly flat and can be balanced on by the dancer. Glue is used to further attach the lining to the cardboard. 7.4. This paste is crucial to the process. Another twenty-four hours later. the cotton lining and the satin are folded into dainty pleats and glued to the insole.

Pointe shoes can also be made with just one long sole. 2. As can be seen in Figure 2 below. and the part of the box that the dancer balances on is called the platform. 6. Throat.The sole is the piece of suede covering the bottom of the shoe. 5. reminding us of dance’s rich history yet carrying the ballet community’s creative vision ever forward.The ribbons are sewn to the side of each shoe and then wrapped around the dancer’s ankle to secure the shoe to her foot. there is no question that the pointe shoe will remain central to ballet’s identity for years to come.The quarter is the piece of fabric that covers the side of the dancer’s heel. Box. called a full sole. Quarter. tied. Forever a symbol of grace and refinement.) . It covers the top of the dancer’s toes.The box is the stiff part of the shoe covering the dancer’s toes. Dancing “en pointe” requires years of diligent practice and strengthening work in order to be done safely. Sole. The pointe shoes pictured in Figure 1 have split soles. 4. (In closing. is where the elastic drawstrings can be pulled tight. and tucked inside the shoe. professional ballet dancers continue to inspire and awe audiences worldwide by dancing “en pointe”. Each shoe has two quarters. Ribbons. 3. the point shoe has evolved from a simple ballet slipper into the carefully crafted work of art it is today.The Parts of a Pointe Shoe The parts of a pointe shoe are referred to as follows (pictured in Figure 1): 1. 1 4 2 5 3 6 Figure 1: The parts of a pointe shoe Conclusion Centuries after its conception. located at the top of the vamp. The top of the box is called the vamp. it is important to note that the use of pointe shoes without proper training and supervision can be severely damaging to one’s physical health. Vamp.The vamp is the top of the shoe’s box.The throat.

2012. Swan Lake .. <Best Pointe Shoes for Beginners: Types of Pointe Shoes & What to Buy>. 13 Mar. 2 Sept. Web. 2012. <http://www. 13 Mar. Ballet Dance Experts. Some of My Dead Pointe Shoes.Pas De>. Web. San Diego. References History of Pointe Shoes. 2012. 2012. 2012. 2006. Flickr.pdf>. 2011. 13 Mar. <http://acsweb. <http://www. (Photograph on title page) Melalouise. Photograph. (Figure 1) Photograph. University of California. <http://www. Web. . Best Pointe Shoes for Beginners: Types of Pointe Shoes & What to Buy. 13 Mar.>. Andreas.ucsd. How Ballet Pointe Shoes Are Made. Photograph. (Figure 2) Ebling.>. 2: The ballet of Kiev performs Swam Lake. 13