Ballet has captured the attention of people worldwide since the 15th century. The dance form is an elegant and athletic art form. 'En pointe' or on point is a ballet technique where dancers perform on the tips of their toes. It gives the dancer a weightless and floating appearance. The ballet dancer supports their entire body weight on the tips of their toes, their feet are vertical, and they wear pointe shoes touching the ground. The pointe shoes are designed structurally to reinforce and distribute the dancer's body weight throughout the foot and lessen the burden on the toe when they are dancing on fully vertical feet. The pointe technique became popular in the 19th century.
Pointe requires extensive training, strength, and practice to learn and perform the technique. A dancer's age, experience, strength, and alignment are all considered before a teacher teaches them the pointe technique. It is to ensure that the dancer's foot is strong enough to handle the stress of the technique without causing injury to the feet, ankles, legs, or joints. The typical age for a dancer to start dancing pointe is usually 11 or 13 years old. It is not advised to begin dancing pointe earlier than those ages as the bones of the feet are too soft and can be seriously and permanently injured.
Pointe shoes are specially designed for ballerinas so they can perform the pointe technique. Dancing on the tips of their toes while pointe shoes encase the toes and support the foot can reduce the risk of injuries. Proper alignment and foot placement become necessary, and the shoes help in performing them. The shoes provide support to the ankles and the toe joints. The hard rigid toe box is designed so the dancers can dance on top of it. Dancing without them is dangerous and affects the smallest joints unless the dancer is experienced and incredibly strong. Most dancers do not dance pointe without something to hold on to if they are dancing without the shoes.
Fitting and Accessories
The shoes have a flattened tip on the toe box, as the flat surface of the platform has to touch the floor. Poorly fitting shoes with a lack of effective cushioning and accessories can cause injuries and ingrown nails. It is due to these reasons that pointe shoes are professionally fitted. The professionals help the dancer choose specific shoes with paddings and style. The shoes need to be comfortable and should not be too loose or tight as it can result in injuries. Many dancers use different types of padding and spacers due to the risk of injuries. Paddings can be gel, wood, or cloth pads. The dancers have to learn to sew ribbons on the shoes to support the feet without ripping.
The pointe shoe design is a skilled art. They are different from regular soft ballet shoes. The pointe shoes need to be strong enough to support the dancer but malleable enough to bend as the dancers perform intricate movements. They absorb some impact of movements such as jump landing and pointe work.