If you’ve decided to approach the wonderful world of ballet, then you must have a lot of questions on your mind. From searching for the best studio to take ballet classes, to choosing the right ballet shoes, your schedule is full.
Luckily for you, we’ll give you a hand and answer an important question. What are ballet shoes? Are they the same as ballet slippers?
We’ll discuss their history, making, types, and more. Let’s dive in!
What Are Ballet Shoes?
Ballet shoes are shoes made of lightweight materials such as leather, canvas, or satin. They’re specially designed for ballet performances to help dancers achieve graceful moves.
Of course, there are many types of ballet shoes that dancers wear according to their professional levels. Some are made for beginners, while others are for experts.
In tradition, male dancers wear black or white shoes, while female dancers are limited to pink. However, in modern times, both can wear tan-colored shoes that have a closer resemblance to bare feet.
How Are Ballet Shoes Made?
Ballet shoe manufacturers offer ballet dancers various convenient designs. Some are made for practice sessions while others for magnificent performances.
Let’s start with their materials. As we’ve mentioned, ballet shoes can be made of soft leather, canvas, or satin.
Leather shoes might be the most expensive of them, but they should last longer. Canvas shoes are more affordable, yet they tend to wear out faster. Both can be excellent choices for practice.
As for satin shoes, they are best for performances, not practice. This is because they look better than their siblings, but they won’t endure long hours of rehearsals.
Some shoes come with split soles to fit the feet perfectly, while others are available with one leather sole that doesn’t reach to the edges. Again, dancers make their pick according to their preferences and use.
The last design element of ballet shoes is their elastic bands. These also come in different designs and shapes. The most popular one is a band attached to the shoe, and the other left free so that the wearer can adjust it to their size correctly.
Other manufacturers make ballet shoes with two intersecting elastic bands that form an X shape at the top of the foot. Also, some shoes come with only one band.
Now that you have a general idea of how ballet shoes are made let’s explore their historical background.
The History of Ballet Shoes
When ballet gained a lot of popularity in France in the 17th century, dancers used to wear heeled ballet shoes.
However, later in the mid 18th century, the Paris Opera ballet dancer, Marie Camargo, wore non-heeled ballet shoes. Henceforth, ballet shoes were no longer created with heels.
Through the years, these shoes underwent several modifications.
For instance, they started as satin slippers with leather soles. After that, people began to add more to them for better convenience.
They created ribbons for a tighter fit, sturdier soles, and support under the toes to enable the dancer to balance on their toes. Even with these helpful additions, ballet dancers had to work hard on their strength to maintain the perfect posture.
Later, more adjustments were made, such as adding elastic bands to secure the shoes to the arches of the dancers’ feet. Also, makers started using materials like cardboard to offer more stability.
Nowadays, manufacturers offer dancers a wide array of ballet shoes and slippers from which to choose. We’ll discuss those types later on. But first, we’ll answer a question that could be on your mind.
Ballet Shoes Vs. Ballet Slippers – Are They Different From Each Other?
People use the term ‘ballet slippers’ to describe ballet shoes without knowing that they’re not quite the same thing.
Ballet shoes are sturdier, and they’re usually made of canvas or leather. They’re also available in satin, but as we mentioned before, they’re kept for performances.
Not to mention that ballet shoes come with different support options. They can have one sole or two soles. Ultimately, a famous type of ballet shoes is the pointe shoes, which provide maximum support to the toes and ankles.
Unlike ballet shoes, slippers are often softer and usually worn for practice. They’re made of satin or canvas, and they lack the durability that ballet shoes offer.
Also, ballet dancers use them to practice balancing on their toes to switch to pointe shoes later on.
Types of Ballet Shoes
There are three main types of ballet shoes with different uses and support options. These are split sole shoes, full sole shoes, and pointe shoes.
Let’s find out what makes them different and who wears them.
Split Sole Ballet Shoes
These shoes have a sole that’s divided in two. The first piece lies underneath the heel of the dancer, while the other is under the ball of foot and toes.
Therefore, this type of shoe offers no support to the arches of a ballerina’s feet. Of course, if the dancer isn’t on pointe, which is a ballet style where they stand on the tip of their toes, they might prefer this type.
Split sole shoes grant the feet a wide range of motion.
Full Sole Ballet Shoes
Unlike the previous type of shoes, full sole shoes have the supportive pads running the entire length of the feet. A lot of beginner dancers prefer them for that reason.
A lot of experienced ballerinas choose full-soled shoes as well. They usually make a better fit and provide extra stability to the feet.
Last but not least, pointe shoes are for advanced and highly experienced dancers. They come with a supportive cardboard box around the toes to offer maximum stability.
They’re usually reserved for on pointe performances where all the moves depend on the ballerinas balancing on their toes.
Before you start your ballet journey, be prepared for a lot of hard work, long hours of practice, and of course, a sense of satisfaction.
However, make sure that you pick the right pair of ballet shoes to accompany you on your adventure.