Ever since Marie Taglioni rose up onto pointe in an 1832 production of La Sylphide, dancers the world over have been suffering the consequences. In their attempts to appear as if they are flying dancers risk bleeding toes, bunions and callouses. These however, are just a few of the minor problems they have to contend with, as some unfortunate dancers end up on the operating table due to pointe related injuries.
But now despite pointe shoes remaining almost unchanged for decades, science claims to have the answer to every ballet dancer’s prayers… the painless pointe shoe. The shoe, designed by London-based Capulet ballet shoe company, contains a non-newtonian type of gel that hardens on impact, yet is soft to handle. In comparison traditional pointe shoes such as those created by Freed of London, are little more than papier-maché and glue which become softer after impact and when exposed to the heat of the foot.
Although the Capulet shoes cost around twice as much as a normal pair of pointe shoes (£65 in comparison to Freed’s £35) they are believed to last around 30 times as long, meaning cost per wear is significantly lower.
In terms of reducing pain and representing value for money the Capulet pointe shoes are undoubtedly well ahead of traditional pointe shoes but whether they will catch on remains to be seen. Many dancers have a sentimental bond with their preferred pointe shoe and they develop a failsafe ritual of preparing their shoes for performance, be it using shellac or crushing them in the hinges of doors!
Dancers might take some convincing to try new-fangled, scientific pointe shoes especially when they work to busy schedules with little time to spend on potentially inappropriate new shoes. On the other hand Capulet ballet shoes may well be the answer to an age old ballet problem – how to look graceful and as light as air whilst your feet are in agony.