Getting to the ‘pointe’: Ballerinas perform amazing feats in those shoes

EN POINTE: Ballerinas make it look easy, as they perform great techniques in those pointe shoes. / Rylie Van Wingerden, Times-News correspondent

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent

   Pointe shoes: they lift a dancer onto the tips of her toes and create a magical, floating effect. But what happens to the dancer’s feet behind the scenes?
According to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, pointe shoes are formed by layering fabric, cardboard and glue. Each dancer has her feet specially fitted to ensure that the shoe molds to the foot correctly. New shoes have to be “broken in” and softened before they are truly comfortable to dance in. However, once a shoe becomes too soft (and therefore unwearable) from the perspiration and stress caused by dancing, it can no longer be used. Depending on the dancer’s foot and the type of shoe, pointe shoes can have an extremely short but beautiful life span.
Going en pointe is, in a way, the climax of a young dancer’s career. Leigh Stanfill, a student at Burlington Dance Center, explains that pointe work produces a different experience for the dancer.
   “It just feels like an extension of your foot, and I feel more powerful en pointe … and prettier.”
Despite the ethereal effect pointe work produces, it’s not as effortless as it seems. It requires amazing strength in the feet, legs, and core, and demands excellent balance and precision. Dancers also have to work through countless afflictions caused by dancing on their toes: blisters, bunions, and ingrown toenails are just a few painful side effects. WalkerDance student Anna van Deventer, who has been en pointe for seven years, recalls the hard work required to create a beautiful illusion.
“I remember when I got my first pair of pointe shoes, I was so excited I couldn’t feel the pain of putting all of my weight on my toes. Now, I can see the toll pointe work takes on my feet but that’s just a reminder to me that I’ve been working hard … nothing is more rewarding than dancing en pointe.”
To learn more about pointe shoes and pointe work, visit

 Logan A. White is a rising sophomore home-schooler and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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