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What Are Ballet Shoes?

Aug 22, 2008
Ballet shoes are lightweight shoes designed specifically for ballet dancing. They are made from soft leather or canvas, and have flexible, thin soles. Ballet shoes are typically available in pink, black, gray, or white. Traditionally, women wear pink shoes and men wear white, while flesh or tan colored shoes which are unobtrusive and thus give the appearance of dancing barefoot are worn by both men and women. Beginning ballet dancers, and ballet dancers younger than approximately twelve years old, wear ballet shoes exclusively while training and performing, whereas more advanced female dancers may wear the pointe shoes as per circumstances required.

The lifespan of the ballet shoe depends on many variables, such as whether the shoe is properly fitted, and the dancer is using proper technique when en pointe. A dancer's weight can affect the lifespan of the shoe, but most importantly, a dancer must rise out of the shoe using her core muscles. If a dancer "sits" in the shoe or "kickstands" using the shoe's shank as support, then the shoe will have an early failure. A common misconception is that the harder the shank the longer the lifespan of the shoe. If you increase the shank hardness, you decrease the flexibility of the shoe.

The shank of the ballet shoe comes in two different sizes, 3/4 and full shank. The full shank is traditionally for the dancer who has a strong arch, and needs more support than the latter can offer. Very often dancers cut the shank to their own specific foot to provide just the amount of support they prefer. This is known as "shanking" the shoe. There is a wide variety of pointe shoes that have different attributes and longevity. The choreography will often dictate the type of shoe required: the supple, lyrical style of the white swan requires a softer shoe.

In the 1930s dancers wore shoes with steel shanks allowing for "toe-tapping". This style extended into the 1950s. Dancers had to strengthen their feet to dance in shoes that were worn to shreds. As shoes became harder, to cope with increasing technical demands, flexibility of shoes decreased, no longer allowing dancers to feel the floor. Experimentation with many different styles increased over the decades resulting in large variety of pointe shoes and styles. Though their tip is hard, it is not made of metal or steel, but simply of glue and satin. Flat ballet shoes with tied ribbons became the norm.

In the once chart topping ballad "Ballerina Girl" by Lionel Richie, in the video clip of this song we see two beautiful ballerinas gracing to his sweet melodic voice. One would easily assume that Lionel had a soft spot for ballerinas. In that 70s era ballet shoes had evolved. Top designers such as Roberto Cavalli began to take a massive interest in designing ballet shoes when they realised how lucrative the market was, and this led to an increase in the price for them. Not surprisingly the demand also increased as more people began to take an interest in ballet.
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For further information regarding our range of ballet shoes, please visit our website at http://www.dancedirect.com.
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