A brief history of ballet shoes
In the early history of ballet it was a male dominated world in which men took to the floor in the French court of Louis XIV during the 17thcentury. This in part was due to the fact that men were allowed to wear tights and theirdancewear was unrestrictive in comparison to their female counterparts who had to don corsets, large headdresses and heavy floor-length costumes.However, by the 18thcentury women figured more predominantly in ballet and Marie Camargo caused a major sensation at the time, by shortening her skirts – to just above the ankles – so that she could jump higher while allowing the audience to see her footwork.But the development of one of the major elements in this performing art of today did not arrive till the 19thcentury. Early ballet shoes, or as they are known the pointe shoe, came about after a number of ballerinas started dancing on pointe (rising onto their toes).
Historians are unsure as to whom they should credit for dancing on pointe first. However, Marie Taglioni has been cited as one of the early pioneers of this technique, during the height of the Romantic Era, which made her appear majestic and weightless on stage.
It was noted that in 1832 Ms Taglioni danced in La Sylphide on pointe. Although the ballet shoes that she wore then differ greatly to the ones worn nowadays.
Taglioni was reported to wear soft satin slippers with a leather sole with darning on the side, but not on the tip. The modern-day dances for ballerinas which consist of pirouettes, relevés, sustained poses and hops would not have been possible in this particular type of footwear.
After this new forms of dancing technique and training developed and so did new shoes. In Italy Pierina Legnani was acclaimed to be the first performer to do thirty-two fouettes on pointe, but this would not hav been possible without harder shoes, which had tougher tips.
The pointe shoes of the 21st century certainly differ greatly from the ballet slippers of Taglioni’s day and are now made from several layers of burlap and canvas.During each layering process the shoes are dipped into glue giving them the hardened stiffness that allows ballerinas to perform their routines with greater ease. The final layer which is applied to the modern day ballet shoe is the satin lining.What is for certain though is that the development of stiffer ballet shoes allowed for greater technical dance achievements to be performed, which in turn has improved ballet as a performing art.
Written by: Susanna Cha
Thanks for reading and let's give a big thanks to Susanna Cha for writing this informative article.
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