The fascinating history of pointe shoes


We cannot imagine ballerinas without their beautiful pink pointe shoes. But did you know that at first, ballerinas did not wear them? Or that a ballerina destroys their pair of pointe shoes before wearing them?

The history of pointe shoes

Before women were allowed to dance, the Sun King transformed this art into the most advantageous political weapon that he had. His court (Versailles) can be described by the opulence that it had, it sure is the most beautiful palace ever built. And the spectacles that were held here needed dancers dressed for their part, meaning heels (although, it was a small heel).

Pointe shoes

And then the innovative Marie Camargo decided to change the fashion. She wore slippers, instead of dancing heels. You know how it goes, the rest is history. She was such a famed figure in France, that people always copied her: the way she did her hair, the fact that she wore flats for a ballet.

The relationship between a ballerina and her shoemaker is a very special one, and Marie Camargo’s shoemaker made a fortune after she changed the rules of ballet.

Slowly, the heeled shoes were replaced, especially because ballet was starting to become a more technical dance, and the heels hindered the dancers.

But the pointe shoes hurt the ballerinas’ feet (and still do) and so many of them improvised and put fabric or leather to alleviate their pain.

Now the pointe shoes contain a box that helps ballerinas stand en pointe. If the box was previously made from wood, now paper, plastic, or rubber are used for the comfort of the ballerinas.

Pink pointe shoes versus the 21st century

But have you wondered why pointe shoes are pink? Or at least, why the majority of them are pink?

Ballet is about lines, the dancer needs to show that all her body is synchronized, the arms are not forgotten, and do not stay “awkwardly” while the ballerina does a jump. For this effect (one smooth line) the ballerinas were made to wear pink shoes. Or in other words, to trick the audience with the effect realised by wearing one colour.

Pointe shoes

In the last century, ballet became a more inclusive art, black girls being allowed to become ballerinas. For a white ballerina, the pink shoes could provide linearity, but the pink pointe shoes are a stark contrast with the beautiful black skin of the newer ballerinas from the companies. The smooth image could not be reached in this way.

This is why some shoemakers decided to change the color of the eternal pink with hues of brown. The industry is slowly changing, but the little steps provide the desire for change.

How to destroy an expansive pair of pointe shoes

If you watch videos of ballerinas with their new pointe shoes you will see the complete rage that they exhibit as they beat the wall with the pair of shoes. It is almost therapeutical for them. For us, it seems strange.

But I am sure that you have a pair of heels that you bought and had to “wear them down” before an event.

Pointe shoes

This is what they do, the ballerinas make sure that the pointe shoes would not be uncomfortable.

They smash the box (with their hands or against a wall), pop and scrap the sole of the shoes, sew the ribbon where they feel that it would give them the support needed.

And the pointe shoes have a shorter life than you would have expected. For rehearsals, they might use 3 pairs of pointe shoes a day (because they do not provide the support). Of course, different types of pointe shoes have different prices (those for rehearsals, those for the performances), and different life spans.

Today, ballerinas do not meet with their shoemakers (like Marie Camargo). And if you are a shoemaker that specialized in pointe shoes, please do not look at videos of ballerinas ruining your meticulously work.



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