A brief history of ballet shoes
Part One (Theatrical dance to Pre Romantic
Dance is the
oldest of the Arts
and consists of
is the basis of all
Domenico di Piacenza
Ballet originated when
Domenico di Piacenza (1400 –
1470) wrote "On the Art of
Dancing and Conducting
He named four types of
dance in accelerating tempi:
Basse danse; the
Quadrilena; the Saltarello;
and the Piva (bagpipes).
• Domenico di Piacenza used
the Italian word 'ballo' to
describe the choreography.
His dances subsequently
became known as baletti or
balli, (singular: balletto).
• Ballet was used initially to
describe theatrical dance. The
language of ballet was
‘De pratica seu arte tripudii’ (On
the Practice or Art of Dancing) is
also called ‘Trattato dell‘
Arte del Ballare.’
It was written for professionals
and amateurs to perform balletti
at festive balls.
The intermezzos were performed
between the acts of classical
comedies, tragedies, or operas.
One of the earliest books was written by
dance master, Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro
(1420 – 1484 )
At first performers
Full wigs and bloomers
for men, with hard
shoes, and heavy, long
skirted gowns for the
In 1489 at a banquet
in Italy directed by
Bergonzio di Botta.
Each course of the
meal was heralded
with a dance called
In 1490, da Vinci designed an
extravaganza to entertain the
Duke of Milan.
The dance presentation was
based on astronomy.
The motions of the dancers
were understood to mirror the
harmony and order to the
celestial bodies.Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Ballet de Court (1553)
Catherine de Medici married the
King of France (Henri II) in 1553
and introduced ballet de court to
the French Court.
Starring roles were performed by
the highest figures of the land.
These were usually masked
extravaganzas with costumed
courtiers, dancing complex floor
patterns and step sequences.
Catherine de Medici (1519 - 1589)
The technique required excellent
balance and control, but
contemporary dress limited the
possibilities of the movement.
Shoes worn for early ballet
usually followed current court
fashion but eventually had to be
specifically designed for
purpose.Foot position became very
important and a codified
vocabulary of steps eventually
Ballet Comique de la Royne (1581)
Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx
staged a ballet in front of an
audience of ten thousand
people for Queen Louise of
France. The drama
(comique) lasted five hours.
Louise de Lorraine
Il Ballarino (1581)
After the publication of
‘Il Ballarino’ in 1581 Italy
became the world centre
Jehan Tabourot (aka Thoinot
Arbeau) wrote 'Orchesoraphie‘
This set the dance steps and
rhythms that eventually became
The ballet postures and
movements in the 17th and 18th
Jehan Tabourot (1519 - 1595
Louis XIV (The Sun King)
The French Reagent loved dancing
and starred in many court productions.
He appeared in Ballet de la Nuit (1653)
dressed as the Sun wearing high-heeled
shoes with massive guilt buckles.
In 1661 he founded the Academie Royal
de danse (Paris Opera Ballet).
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715)
The foundation of ballet
Until 1681 all female roles were danced by
Historians believe the reluctance to
include female dancers was related to
their heavy clothing.
Feet were elegantly pointed outwards to
show off buckles and arm gestures were
careful to avoid brushing the full sleeve.
Pierre Beachamps (1636 - 1705)
The ballet master to the king, he
played Louis XIV’s female
partner in Le Triomphe de l’amour.
Beachamps stressed the need to use
technical steps and movements as
opposed to the sino geometrical
Devised classical ballet's basic
Mind your ps and qs
The origins of 'minding your p &
qs' is thought to originate when
dance masters cautioned their
pupils to mind their pieds (feet)
and queues (tails of their wigs)
when they took to the floor.
As was the convention dancers
greeted each other with a bow. To
bow too low resulted in the
embarrassment of losing your wig.
The Professional Dancer
Jean-Baptiste Lully, 1632-1687
Professional dancers started to appear
in 1630 and by 1659 were well
Jean Baptiste Lully formed a dance
academy within the Academie Royale
de Musique (1672).
Lully died blood poisoning in 1687, as
a result of a self inflicted injury he
received by accidentally stabbing
himself in the foot with his time
During the 17th century century ballet
was performed in the same
productions as opera.
Lully set the standard in the
opera-ballet, and his audiences came
to see the dancing as much as the
The popularity of ballet increased
after 1697 when female skirts were
shortened.André Campra composed
‘L'Europe Galante’ (1697)
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 –1764)
Jean-Philippe Rameau composed
Les Indes Galantes in 1735 by
which time dancers were
definitely doing ballet.
Ballroom and ballet dance forms
were now recognised as two
Turning out legs to show shoe
buckles become more
important in ballet.
The importance of professional
Professional dancing masters became
an integral part of court life.
Courtiers trained in correct
deportment and dancing were used to
political effect i.e. establishing the
dominance of the French Court.
The fashion for court entertainment in
the French style spread across Europe.
Expressive dance became more
accessible to a broader audience.
Raoul Auger Feuillet published ‘Choreographie, ou l'art de
decrire la danse’ in 1700. He recorded both conventions
of stage and ballroom dancing and attempted to create a
dance notation similar to music. In 1713 the Paris Opera
taught a technique based on Feuillet's writings.
Rise of the merchant class
More dance and less speech made ballet
more attractive to paying audiences.
Use of soft, flat shoes by professional
dancers allowed them to explore a range
Jumps replaced the small springing steps
and elevation became more important.
Choreographers adapted their works to
the new theatres.
Jean-Georges Noverre, (1727-1810)
The French balletmaster generally
considered the creator of ballet d'action
(1780). This told a story through
movement and facial expression.
He disliked the dress of dancers and held
the belief they should not wear masks.
In 1727 he introduced choreography
based on character and situation rather
than personal display.The Shakespeare of Dance
Ballet d’action (1727)
Ballet d'action told a story through
movement and facial expression.
Maximillien Gardel was the first to appear
without his mask and wig.
Audiences were ill at ease at the change
but gradually came accept them and in
doing so emergence of the soloist.
As women becomes more
accepted and choreographer’s
steps more expressive solo
Dancing became more creative
Mademoiselle de Lafontaine
(1665-1738) was the first recorded
lady dancer at the Paris Opera
The Queen of Dance
Marie Camargo (1710-70)
At first ladies dancers wore heavy
floor length costumes and heeled
Marie Camargo (1710-70) was the
first to cut her skirts, wear ballet
tights and also take the heel off of
her ballet slippers.
This combination allowed her greater
freedom of movement. She was
the first woman to execute the
Italian influence brought elevated
and less horizontal movement.
Marie Sallé (1707–1756)
Marie Sallé (1707–1756)
was the first female
Choreographer and wore a
She integrated music,
costumes, and dance styles of
her ballets with their themes.
When danse haute superseded danse
basse in 1730, dancers begin to
leap, hop and jump.
Fierce rivalry existed and Marie Salle
appeared wearing more loosely fitting
Her rival Marie Ann Cupis de Camargo
took the heel from her shoes and
shortened the hem on her skirts.
Ballerinas wore calcons de
precaution tp prevent the audience
from seeing anything inappropriate
As ballet grew more popular
more women took part with new
introduced double rond de
Fräulein Heinel dazzled Europe
with her multiple pirouettes on
Italian dancer Salvatore Viganò
(1769 – 1821) and his wife, Maria
Medina wore much lighter
costumes with soft flexible
Salvatore Viganò is considered
the father of a new kind of
• Lady dancers started to
dance on pointes
• La Sylphide (1832)
• Bell shaped dress became
the forerunner of the tutu
Marie Taglioni, (1804-1884)