Have you ever watched a live ballet performance or even a recorded one? The petite ladies in little multilayered skirts and pink flat shoes with their hair held in a neat bun makes it look so easy. They hop, turn, and tiptoe with so much grace. You cannot help but give a standing ovation, especially when they stand on pointe (on tips of their toes) on one foot and twirl.
Perhaps you wonder: How do ballerinas stand on their toes?
The truth is, pulling off that stance is not easy. It comes with a high price- the Ballerinas feet. Standing with the tips of toes requires the Ballerina feet to look and function in a certain way. To achieve this, it takes years of practice, dedication, and resilience. One has also to endure a few broken toes, fractures, blackened toenails, corns, ingrown nails, and often cracked toes.
Also, unlike heel toe dancing, where you can dance with any flat shoe, ballet dancers need a specific kind of shoes- pointe shoes. These shoes cannot be found in your local shoe store. Finding the right brand and size is a process in itself.
Read on to discover more about the ideal ballerina feet pointe technique, ballet pointe shoes, and the possible risk of ballet dancing.
What Is The Ideal Ballet Feet?
According to some ballet instructors, an ideal ballet foot is one with both high arch and instep. The arch refers to the curve between the forefoot and the heel, while the instep is the bony structure of the foot. They are sometimes referred to as banana feet as they take the shape of the banana.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that only people with “banana feet’ can dance. Even people who’ s feet take a cucumber look can dance. However, they are more prone to injuries than those with banana feet.
Other foot structures that a likely to get injured are those with a long big or second toe. Having a longer toe than the others means that the longer toe will support all the body weight during pointe, which is strenuous.
The Pointe Technique
The pointe technique refers to a ballet dancing technique where the ballet dancer feet support all their body weight on tips of completely extended feet. Women mostly perform this technique. Male ballet dancers are also known as Ballerinos do more of jumping and lifting of their female dance partners.
Dancing on pointe is the dream of any ballet dancer. It is also very risky of the complexity of the skill and negative effect it has on the feet and the entire body.
The pointe technique cannot be possible without ballet pointe shoes. The toe cups of these shoes are made with densely pack fabric and a hardened paper or cardboard. This makes the shoes firm and strong enough to support the ballet dancers’ weight during pointe. The rest of the shoe is made of satin and cotton.
Pointe shoes are custom made to fit a dancer’s feet perfectly. However, the dancers usually do some self- tailoring to make the shoe more comfortable and effective. The tailoring includes bending, sewing, gluing, and sometimes even hammering. They may also place wool or any other soft material in the shoe or tape around the shoe.
Dancers do not use pointe shoes immediately they start dancing. It takes years of dancing before proceeding to pointe shoes. The practice is required to strengthen the ballet dancer feet, ankles, and legs. It also helps in improving the body’s balance and alignment. The pointe training does not start until the dancer’s body has hardened.
For most girls, their foot bones harden between the ages of 8-14 years. The transition to pointe shoes happens between 11-13 years when the feet have hardened (ossified in ballet terms)
Injury Risks for Ballerina’s Feet
Some of the injuries associated with ballet dancing include:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Broken or black toenails
- Dancers heel
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hallux rigidus
- Ingrown nails
- Hammer’s toes
Ballet dancing puts great demand on dancers’ feet as learners and professionals alike strive to master the pointe. The tips of the ballerina toes are especially most affected by the pressure to carry the whole body weight. All to put on a good show.
Next time you want to complain about how demanding your job is, remember a ballerina and the pain they have to endure.