The Technology of Pointe Shoes

Seeing a ballerina en pointe is impressive, but not as impressive as it was 200 years ago. Competition among dancers means that everyone trains for dancing on the toes, and the quality of the shoes means that all dancers en pointe look the same. Whitney Laemmli of the University of Pennsylvania says the standardization of slippers was a deliberate method of standardizing ballerinas.
George Balanchine, the charismatic director who ran the New York City Ballet and its School of American Ballet, rethought pointe shoes. He worked with Salvatore Capezio to develop and patent pointe shoes to produced the exact lines of the foot and leg he thought beautiful, and to be quieter and less clunky than earlier pointe shoes. He required all dancers (not just the principals) to go on pointe -- and not for a few short moments, but for hours at a time.

Laemmli argues that the new shoes forced dancers' bodies to move in new ways. Dancers on this pointe regimen developed characteristically long, lean leg muscles. Balanchine also encouraged dancers to let the shoes remake their bodies, including developing bunions that gave the foot just the right line. And as their bodies were remade, dancers became "like IBM machines," modern and indistinguishable.

Link -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: Flickr user kirikiri)

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