Pointe Shoes Complicate Biomechanics of Ballet

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Pointe shoes, which elongate a dancer’s legs and accentuate the beauty of classical ballet technique, come with their own set of biomechanical principles—and their own set of risk factors for lower extremity injury.

Ballet has intrigued audiences around the world for centuries with its combination of athleticism and elegance. This Western classical dance form originated in aristocratic Italy in the fifteenth century.1 Ballet was later introduced in France, where it gained popularity under the rule of Louis XIV after he established the first school of dance,L’Academie Royal de la Danse, in 1661.1,2 Pierre Buchamps, the king’s choreographer, refined the five basic positions of dance and the concept of turnout (external rotation of the feet to an ideal 180o), which form the basis of dance today (Figure 1).3 George Balanchine is credited with bringing ballet to America centuries later when he opened The School of American Ballet in New York City in 1934.1

Of all of the dance forms, ballet is perhaps the most mystifying because the professional ballerinas perform en pointe, French for “on pointe” (Figure 2), or on the tips of the toes. Generally, men do not perform on pointe. However, at least two companies of all male ballet dancers have performed traditionally female roles wearing tutus and pointe shoes, the St. Petersburg National Male Ballet andLes Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

The idea of dancing on the toe tips may date back to 1799 when Charles Didelot invented a flying machine that allowed actors and dancers to take off and land from the tips of their toes. Sparse records indicate that dancing on pointe originates from either England or France between 1815 and 1835.2,4The first definitive records are from 1832 when ballerina Marie Taglioni danced on pointe during the first performance of La Sylphide in Paris and Amalia Brugnoli danced on pointe in London.2,4 The first known turn performed in pointe shoes was in 1833 by Pauline Montessu in Paris.4

Read the full article at http://lermagazine.com/article/pointe-shoes-complicate-biomechanics-of-ballet.

  1. Shah S. Caring for the dancer: special considerations for the performer and troupe. Curr Sports Med Rep 2008;7(3):128-132.
  2. Shah S. Determining a young dancer’s readiness for dancing on pointe. Curr Sports Med Rep 2009;8(6):295-299.
  3. Nixon JE. Injuries to the neck and upper extremities of dancers. Clin Sports Med 1983;2(3):459-473.
  4. Barringer J, Schlesinger S. The Pointe Book. Pennington, NJ: Princeton Book Company;1991.