A brief history of ballet shoes
Part Two (The Romantic Period to
Modern Ballet )
The Romantic era marked the
rise of the ballerina as a central
part of ballet.
Stories of folk & fairy tales
prevailed and dancers needed to
portray the super natural .
This era saw the introduction of
Charles Didelot (1767 – 1837)
Toe dancing at the end of the 1700's. Dancers
balanced on their toes in attitude for just
moments, wearing soft ballet slippers.
Charles Didelot advanced the art form by
introducing with “flying machine” of rigged
wires that carried dancers into the air and made
them appear weightless.
He became the first choreographer who
a ballerina posing on the pointe in the ballet
Flora and Zephyr (1815)
Marie Taglioni as Flore
Marie Taglioni (1804 –1884)
The most celebrated ballerinas
of the romantic ballet and
generally credited with being the
first ballet dancer to go en point.
Taglioni was also known for
shortening her skirt in the
performance La Sylphide, which
was considered highly
scandalous at the time.
Early Ballet Slippers
Marie Tagolioni’s dance
technique mirrored the bare
and she wore well fitting soft
satin slippers with leather sole.
Her ballet shoes had to be
darned on the sides for strength
but the tip was left free, for
Hip rotation and foot position were originally
to show off the court shoes
Cult of the ballerina
In Russia a pair of Maria
Taglioni’s pointe shoes
were sold for two
hundred rubles, and
reportedly cooked, and
served with a sauce
to a group of
Carlo Blasis (1797 – 1878)
The Italian dancer, choreographer
and dance theoretician published
The technical manual Trait
Elementaire et Pratique de la
Danse, in 1820.
His manual included drawings
of dancers in nothing but
shorts and ballet shoes.
He insisted his students learn
theories and was influential in
Enrico Cecchetti creating the
Cecchetti method of ballet.
The Danish choreographer is best
noted for his “Bournonville slipper”
worn by male dancers.
Bournonville slippers were black with
a white, V-shaped vamp in the front.
This helped give the impression of a
long and pointed foot.
(1805 – 1879)
Notable ballerinas of the Romantic
(1819 – 1899)
Lucile Alexia Grahn
(1819 - 1907)
Francesca "Fanny" Cerrito
(1817 – 1909)
Emma Livry (1842 –1863) was
one of the last ballerinas of the
Romantic ballet era and a
protégée of Marie Taglioni.
She died tragically from
complications after burn injuries
sustained when her costume
caught fire during a rehearsal.
The Russian Monarch established
the St. Petersburg school in 1738.
Later Russia, Opera Houses came
under the direct control of the
Tsar and productions were paid
from the Imperial purse.
During this time dancers became
part of the Imperial household.
Empress Anna of Russia
(1693 - 1740)
Marius Petipa (1855-1881)
He developed and defined romantic
ballet and created the core repertoire
of the Russian ballet.
His best-known works were The
Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan
Lake both set to commissioned
scores by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.
Inspired by the French
Russian Ballet developed
French Ballet meantime
became more lude.
Ballet shoemakers started to
make harder shoes for pointe
Harder shanks were introduced
with reinforced toe boxes to
make the platform bigger.
Marius Petipa made good use of
the new shoes in his complex
Michel Fokine (1880 – 1942)
The first choreographer of the Ballet
He developed a technique that
used the dancer's entire body at all
times while expressing the story.
He made it look like dancers were in
bare feet by having toes painted on
the dancers' shoes.
Enrico Cecchetti (1850 - 1928)
He had an illustrious career as a dancer in
Europe before joining the Imperial Ballet in
Considered the greatest ballet virtuoso of his
time he taught Anna Pavlova, Léonide
Massine, and Vaslav Nijinsky.
In the Cecchetti Method dancers follow strict
routines and daily exercises.
The Russian Revolution
Prior to the Revolution, Russian
Ballet reflected the Tsar’s
superiority and presentations
After the Revolution People's
Commissar for Enlightenment,
allowed ballet as long as it was
light and uplifting.
Anatoly Lunacharsky establishment of the Bolshoi Drama
Theatre in 1919
Pierina Legnani (1863 –1930)
Italian schools pushed technique
to the limit and when Pierina
Legnani performed a
Bravura it caused a sensation.
The secret of the Italian success
was their stable shoes. Italian
ballerinas danced in harder,
stronger footwear which gave
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)
Pavlova strengthened her pointe
shoe by adding a piece of hard
wood on the soles for support
and curving the box of the shoe.
This became the precursor of the
modern pointe shoe, as pointe
work became less painful and
easier for curved feet.
Her photographs were altered to
appear as if she was using a normal
Pointe work allowed performers
freedom to move and achieve greater
Pointe shoes evolved with a flat toe
box as a platform. This base helped
develop calf and leg muscles during
strenuous routines and allowed the
entire weight of the body to be
precariously balanced on the rigid
points of one or both feet.
New maneuvers like pirouettes,
arabesques were now possible.
Ballet connoisseurs wanted to
see the new technical feats and
fancy footwork .
The new long, floppy, 16 layer
tutus reached to the knee and
allowed the female dancers
much greater mobility in such
technically demanding ballets as
Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty
Burlesque performance became more
Belle Époque dancers like La Goulue
and Jane Avril danced the Can can and
modeled for Toulou Lautrec's iconic
Classic ballet was less popular and skirts
were shorter with more leg exposed.
Female dancers wore pointe shoes.
Modern dancers started to wear
leotards in the fashion of trapeze
artist Jules Leotard.
Others adapted the popular one
piece bathing suit, made famous
by the Australian long-distance
swimmer Annette Kellerman
(1838 – 1870)
Dancers wore the long sleeve
version of ballet leotard with a
(1886 – 1975).
The revolutionary music of composers
like Stravinsky began to influence of
modern dancers like Isadora Duncan
(1877 - 1927) and others.
After the Ballets Russes was dissolved
in 1929 many dancers immigrated to
the United States.
A ballet renaissance grew in both
Europe and America.
Isadora Duncan danced
barefoot and wore a flimsy
Her dance attire became
the practical and
acceptable style of
dancewear worn for
George Balanchine (1904 – 1983)
Russian influenced George
Balanchine became the father
of American ballet.
He created plot less ballets where
the motivation was movement in
response to the music.
(1904 – 1983)
Dancers performed in rehearsal
costumes and had a stereotypical
slim line body.
The irony of constrained
is seen in this ballet.
In the 1st and 3rd act ballerinas
dance in high heeled shoes with
their feet floored to the ground.
In the 2nd section, the
dancers wear classical pointe
shoes and their movements
express an impassioned
The pink satin pointe slippers are a
metaphor for elusive sexual love.
English Ballet was a combination of
dance and pantomime but after 1735
greater attention was paid to ballet.
England became the place where
foreign ballet dancers performed in
front of rich patrons.
Margot Fontaine (1919 –1991)
In the early part of the 2oth century
English ballet dancers began
seriously contributing to the art
The introduction of stretchable
Spandex replaced nylon leg wear
was smoother, less scratchy and
stopped bagging at the ankle.
Improved fabrics allowed dancers to
cover their feet without impinging
In practice ballerinas wore tights
topped with knitted legwarmers to
keep their muscles warm.
Male Principle Dancer
During the last century the
Male principal dancer
(danseur noble) came to
Renowned for their
athleticism they generally do
not dance en pointe.
Rudolf Nureyev (1938- 1993 )