Satin ballet shoes used by ballet dancers, also known as toe shoes. They are for dancing sur les pointes.

The ballet shoes of Marie Taglioni, the first major ballerina to dance on her points, were not blocked but were padded with cotton wool. Later on (about 1862) the toes of the ballet slippers were stiffened (blocked) with glue and darned to give the dancer additional support.

Nowadays, the toes of pointe shoes are reinforced with a box made of several layers of strong glue in between layers of material.

Back in high school, I did a lot of ballet. Unfortunately for me, I didn't start dancing until junior high, and had a lot of catching up to do. By the time I was in Grade 12, I was determined to dance sur les pointes. I was in a pointe class with people 3 or 4 years younger than me, but I didn't care.

Dancing en pointe is very painful at first. As juliet mentioned above, pointe shoes are made by alternating layers of fabric and glue and forming a 'box' for the toes. Most of your weight is not actually on the tips of your toes, but in a circle around the part of your foot just after your toes. Until this part of your foot forms callouses, it is quite painful. To ensure there is enough support, your feet are jammed pretty tightly into the end part. Putting the shoes on with blisters really hurts. It's for your own good, though, because if your feet slid around even a little, the blisters would be ten times worse.

The first (and hardest) part of learning to dance en pointe is learning to keep your balance! Looking at my old pointe shoes, I think I had about 1.5 square inches on the end of the toe of each shoe. Very odd when you're used to having most of your foot!

Dancing en pointe makes your feet quite strong. Do you know the scene in Titanic were Kate Winslet (supposedly) went up all the way on her toes, barefoot? After a few months, I could do that. It made my friends squirm.

The part I miss most about dancing is putting those shoes on. Despite the pain, and the initial wobbliness, I felt beautiful the minute I put them on. Pink satin with matching ribbons wound around my ankles... No matter where I was, dancing in the studio or on stage, I was beautiful. One of my final performances before I went to college was at our year-end recital, doing my pointe solo. I felt so light and airy... so graceful. I haven't felt quite like that since.

If I ever make it to level 6, I'll put a picture up of me en pointe, so you can see what it looks like.

Really excellent Irish dancers can go all the way up on the tip of their big toe. The position cannot be held as long as a dancer in pointe shoes as Irish dancers do it in "soft shoes," also known as ghillies, which are shoes of very soft leather (ballet slippers that lace up). I have seen it done in bare feet as well.

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