The first ballet shoes were actually heeled slippers. They were first worn at The Royal Academy of Dance, the first ballet academy located in the birthplace of dance, France. These heeled shoes prohibited dancers from doing any complex leaps or turns. Dancer's quickly adapted the shoes to lose the heel which gave them much more freedom and ability to do more technical and interesting movements. No one knows who actually was the first to drop the heel but it is rumored that Marie Camargo of the Paris Opera Ballet was the first to dance without the heel. Performers could now dance to their full potential without the restricting heel, but soon the dancer looked for something new and more exciting. That thing came to them in the form of a whole new way of dancing, pointe.
Power to the Pointe
After the birth of pointe, dancers soon required more support in their shoes. Dancers such as Pierina Legnani started wearing shoes with blocked ends for balance and support. These new shoes allowed dancers to achieve multiple pirouettes and complex leaps. The new blocked shoes were made out of layers of fabric that form a much stronger shoe that can hold it’s shape. These new blocked shoes eventually grew and developed into the modern day pointe shoe that we see worn by ballerinas today.
Although the pointe shoe plays a huge part in the ability of a dancer to rise on their toes, there is so much more that goes into it. The dancer wearing the shoes has to be extremely strong and supported in order to get on pointe. All things considered, the pointe shoe certainly has quite an interesting history. It has developed greatly over the centuries that have passed since Marie Taglioni first glided onto the stage wearing her prehistoric pointe shoes. Like many things, the pointe shoe is not what it appears. It has helped ballerinas to impress and delight audiences all around the world for many years and will help ballerinas do this for many years to come.