ThinkstockPhotos-178046698.jpg(Photo:graduation dresses )There’s nothing sweeter to a young ballet dancer’s ears than when her instructor tells her that she is ready for pointe shoes — those wonderful pink satin vessels with beautiful ribbons that will support her through dazzling pirouettes.

Since Italian ballerina Marie Taglione first wore them in the early 1800s, dancing en pointe (on the toes) has made ballet look effortless and the epitome of elegance.

Pointe shoes have become a bit of a fashion statement in recent years, specifically in fashion ads and music videos. While the ballet component is meant to add beauty and grace, this pop-culture trend has created a firestorm of controversy among ballet dancers, mostly because those who are wearing them in the ads and videos are not trained ballet dancers.

On the one hand, some dancers welcome the relevance and increased awareness of the art of ballet in today’s culture. Conversely, many dancers are concerned, even appalled, at untrained dancers and models showing bad form, casting a bad light on their craft.

Makaroff Youth Ballet alumna and college dance major Ashlee Bormes remembers dreaming of the day she would buy her first pointe shoes.

“Looking back now, I cannot believe my naivete,” Bormes said. “Dancing en pointe is work!”

Bormes said she thinks it could only be a good thing if trained dancers were wearing the pointe shoes in the ads and videos, because it gives the public a false idea of what ballet is or should be. She said she does love ballet’s influence on the fashion world, but wishes they didn’t use untrained models to wear the shoes.

“People think anyone can dance on pointe shoes,” said Wendy Krueger, owner of Dance!, a shop that specializes in dance clothing and shoes in downtown Appleton. “It’s not a fashion; pointe shoes are a tool that dancers use. Some students or parents will even change dance schools until they find a teacher who will put their dancer on pointe.”

Dancing en pointe only comes after years of technical training and muscular readiness.

Jeanette Makaroff, director of the Makaroff School of Ballet, takes many factors into account when determining whether a dancer is ready for pointe shoes. Once she feels that a dancer is technically ready for pointe work, she looks at the dancer’s bone structure throughout the entire body, especially in the foot and ankle. She also looks for overall muscular strength.

“Dancers can be injured if they start dancing en pointe too soon,” said Makaroff.

While pointe shoes are designed to look beautiful, they are extremely technical in their construction. The box, the front end of the shoe, is usually made of fabric, paper and glue to form a flat surface that encases the toes. The shank runs the length of the shoe and provides support for the foot’s arch. The ribbons and elastic secure the dancer’s food in the shoe. Each component is very specialized in its purpose and dancers have strong preferences for the way each part fits and performs.

“In the old days you crammed your feet into one of only a couple of styles. It was like putting a square peg into a round hole,” Krueger said. “Dancers are fortunate to have as many choices as they do in the dance world today.”

Today, there are many styles of shoe to fit the shape of the foot and the preference of the dancer. Ballet dancers also seek out the help of specialists who make sure the style and fit are the best for that particular dancer.

Some dancers can never go en pointe for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean the end of training, though. It may mean adapting to different forms of dance or continuing ballet off pointe. After all, the dream is of the dance, not just the footwear. Read more here:celebrity dresses

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