Feb 09

What’s the Point of Pointe Shoes?

Dancers: Jamie Dee Clifton, Alessandra Ball James, Sarah Hayes Harkins and Chelsea Dumas

In Charlotte Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty, running March 10-19 at Knight Theater, the cast of more than 80 dancers includes many ballerinas wearing pointe shoes. Alessandra Ball James, who will dance the lead role of Princess Aurora, answered questions about these magical shoes.

What are pointe shoes and what’s the point of wearing them?

Pointe shoes are special shoes that allow ballerinas to dance on their toes. Ballet is about creating beautiful lines and shapes with our bodies, and pointe shoes extend our lines and give a sense of lightness and the illusion that we’re floating on air.

Alessandra practicing her balance en pointe for Aurora’s famous Rose Adagio, notoriously known as one of the most technically challenging in ballet history with its series of promenades and balances!

How old were you when you started dancing on pointe?

I was 11, but the age can vary. Dancers start pointe after several years of training to ensure that we’re strong enough to go on pointe.

How long does each pair of pointe shoes last?

It depends on what I’m dancing. For Sleeping Beauty, which includes a lot of intense pointe work, I’ll use about 10 pairs of shoes. I typically go through 35 pairs a season.

charlotte-ballet-jean-pierre-bonnefouxs-sleeping-beauty-photo-by-peter-zay-1

What are pointe shoes made of?

Pointe shoes are made of layers of fabric and glue covered with satin. The tip of the shoe is a hard box made of dense fiber, cardboard or paper. Our pointe shoes are custom fit for us, and we have techniques to break-in the shoes. To get my shoes ready I cut the shank (a box within the front end of the shoe that encases and supports our toes) so it breaks where my arch is, for a more flattering shape. This also enables me to wear the shoe for longer. Then, I step on the shoe to flatten the top and super glue the tips so they last longer.

Company dancers Sarah Hayes Harkins, Jamie Dee Clifton and Alessandra Ball James learning the role of Aurora from ballet legend Patricia McBride! 

This timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty is running March 10-19 at the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts. Purchase your tickets now as this beloved childhood story leaves you feeling happily ever after.