Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ballet: Ballet: shoes, orthoses and reducing injuries




Two ballet teachers and choreographers, Chun Che and Chan Hon Goh have designed a new pointe shoe. The Diamond Pointe which is based upon their experiences of dance and personal injuries as well as and consultation with young dancers in their early teens and practicing three or four times a week. Ballet dancers are traditionalists and would never wear a safer shoe unless it looked and felt like the real thing. Mindful of this the designers made sure the Diamond Pointe has a supportive arch which helps the foot when the heel is off the ground. The shank is designed to reduce stress injuries. Principle Shoes was set up in 1996 and sells to stores across the US.



Other innovative footwear comes from Gaynor Minden who supply shock absorbing plastic footwear which is both light weight and hardwearing.



Arch Angels from Australia are specially designed in-socks for ballet flats and pointe shoes. As the dancer begins to point the foot or rises to demi-pointe or full pointe position the orthoses recoil to follow the arch.



Whilst supportive pointe shoes and associated paraphernalia are not the complete answer to dance perfection, all experts agree, good technique with warm up stretches is essential. Combined with appropriate footwear, technique and added support informed sources believe this will help reduce the injuries both pointe and demi pointe dancer may face in their career.



There are many ballet shoe factories around the world just under half of the pointe shoes are made by Freed of London in the East End of London. Europe’s leading online retailer of dancewear is Dance Direct , and another major distributor of ballet shoes is Bloch.

References
McCurrah I 2003 These shoes were made for dancing The Times Magazine
July London 35-38.

Reviewed 26/01/2016

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Ballet: Pointe Shoes




Going on pointe for young girls (aged 11) is considered a rite of passage. To the dedicated ballet devotee it takes a lot of hard work work, pain and determination to achieve the epitome of dance. Injuries are a regular part of a dancer’s life who cope with many stress fractures and bouts of tendonitis throughout their career. A complication is dancers become so used to foot discomfort they become unable to discriminate chronic suffering from acute damage. In a normal course of event when we have chronic pain it prevents couch potatoes from exercising.



Pointe shoes may appear pretty but looks can be deceiving. Ballet slippers are papier-mâché pumps made of satin, calico, card, Hessian and thick glue. The soles are made from cardboard. Many are hand lasted and made inside out. There is no right and left slipper but the ballet dancer will customize their shoes with use. The tips and sides of traditional pointe shoes are hard with the former made from layers of canvas, burlap and glue. The block is built up by layering Hessian with a form of wet tissue paper and fine card, and each layer is spread with a sticky glue like paste made form flour and dextrene. The shoes are baked for ten hours before the seamstresses and cutters trim the satin and sew in the drawstrings. Fitting shoes is considered important by experts and good fitting shoes can keep foot damage to a minimum. Tradition determines pointe shoes are supplied without ribbons and the ballerina will sew these on themselves.



Professional ballerinas can wear through three pairs of ballet slippers per performance. More supportive Pointe Shoes are not the complete answer to dance perfection and all experts agree good technique with warm up stretches is necessary too. Combined with good shoes this may reduce the injuries pointe dancer face in their career.



Although there are many ballet shoe factories around the world just under half of the pointe shoes are made by Freed Factory in the East End of London. Ballerinas tend to stay with the same shoemaker from their student days and the better quality shoes are hand lasted. It takes two and a half years to learn how to make ballet slippers and a lifetime to perfect them. Many are true works of art and craftsman shoe makers sign their slippers with their insignia on the sole.



Some ballerinas spend hours customizing their pointe shoes. Done as a labour of love they may squash them a door frame, or scrape them with a Stanley knife or cheese grater. A common superstition is if the ballerina cuts herself when sewing her ribbons she must smear the blood on the back of the shoe for good luck. Finally the shoes are coated inside with shellac, a sticky solution that seals the inside. Otherwise the heat of the dancer’s foot breaks down the papier-mâché block. Many put nail varnish around the edges to stop them fraying and stitch a seam in the shoe to accommodate bunions. Some will reinforce the block by darning the edge of the shoe. Most girls reuse the ribbons from discarded shoes. Unseen at the side of the stage are trays of powdered rosin. The ballerinas spray their legs and feet with water before scratch like chickens in the rosin tray to coat their feet and soles with the sticky amber residue, this stops them from slipping.



Dame Margot Fonteyn’s pointe shoes sold in auction for more than $5000 a pair. When Swiss Italian Marie Taglioni gave her final performance in 1842, her fans clubbed together and paid 200 rubles for her shoes. They then boiled them and ate them.




Chun Che and Chan Hon Goh are two ballet teachers and choreographers who have lived with these problems and decided to design a new pointe shoe. The Diamond Pointe emerged through experience and consultation. The new point shoes have been designed for young dancers in their early teens, and practicing three or four times a week. Ballet dancers are traditionalists and would not wear a safer shoe unless it looked like the real thing. The Diamond Pointe has a supportive arch which helps the foot when the heel is off the ground. The shank is designed to reduce stress injuries. Principle Shoes was set up in 1996 and sells to stores across the US. Other innovative footwear comes from Gaynor Minden who supply shock absorbing plastic footwear which are light weight and hardwearing.





References
McCurrah I 2003 These shoes were made for dancing The Times Magazine
July London 35-38.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ballet : Charles Didelot and pointe shoes




By the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799) ballet dancers exchanged heeled shoes and heavy costumes for lighter, flat-soled slippers, pointe shoes, and flesh-colored tights. This allowed performers freedom to move and achieve greater grace. The move to en point is thought to have been the brainchild of a Swedis dancer called, Charles Didelot who had studied dance and performed in France and Russia around 1800.



Didelot is credited with advancing the art form with innovations and developments in style and costume. Among other things he created a “flying machine” of rigged wires that carried dancers into the air. This made them appear weightless which delighted audiences who came to expect more challenging movements in dance.



Pointe shoes evolved with a flat toe box as a platform. This base helped develop calf and leg muscles during strenuous routines and allowed the entire weight of the body to be precariously balanced on the rigid points of one or both feet. The new footwear enabled maneuvers like pirouettes, arabesques and the dancers required to develop skill, strength, agility, and grace.



Pointe shoes may appear pretty but looks are deceiving. Ballerinas tend to stay with the same shoemaker from their student days and the better quality shoes are hand lasted. It takes two and a half years to learn how to make ballet slippers and a lifetime to perfect them. Many are true works of art and craftsman shoe makers sign their slippers with their insignia on the sole. Ballet slippers are papier-mâché pumps made of satin, calico, card, Hessian and thick glue. The soles are made from cardboard. Many are hand lasted and made inside out. There is no right and left slipper and the ballet dancer customizes their shoes with use. The tips and sides of traditional pointe shoes are hard with the former made from layers of canvas, burlap and glue. The block is built up by layering Hessian with a form of wet tissue paper and fine card, and each layer is spread with a sticky glue like paste made form flour and dextrene. The shoes are baked for ten hours before the seamstresses and cutters trim the satin and sew in the drawstrings. Fitting shoes is considered important by experts and good fitting shoes can keep foot damage to a minimum. Tradition determines pointe shoes are supplied without ribbons and the ballerina will sew these on themselves. Professional ballerinas can wear through three pairs of ballet slippers per performance.




Some ballerinas spend hours customizing their pointe shoes. Done as a labour of love they may squash them a door frame, or scape them with a Stanley knife or cheese grater. A common superstition is if the ballerina cuts herself when sewing her ribbons she must smear the blood on the back of the shoe for good luck. Finally the shoes are coated inside with shellac, a sticky solution that seals the inside. Otherwise the heat of the dancer’s foot breaks down the papier-mâché block. Many put nail varnish around the edges to stop them fraying and stitch a seam in the she to accommodate bunions. Some will reinforce the block by darning the edge of the shoe. Most girls reuse the ribbons form discarded shoes. Unseen at the side of the stage are trays of powdered rosin. The ballerinas spray their legs and feet with water before scratch like chickens in the rosin tray to coat their feet and soles with the sticky amber residue, this stops them from slipping. Dame Margot Fonteyn’s pointe shoes sold in auction for more than $5000 a pair. When Swiss Italian Marie Taglioni gave her final performance in 1842, her fans clubbed together and paid 200 rubles for her shoes. They then boiled them and ate them.



Going on pointe for young girls (aged 11) is considered an achievable dream and rite of passage. But to the dedicated ballet devotee it takes a lot of hard work, pain and determination to achieve the epitome of dance.



Ballet dancers do suffer many foot ailments as they develop the en pointe technique. Injuries are a regular part of a dancer’s life who cope with many stress fractures and bouts of tendonitis throughout their career. A complication for many dancers is they become so used to foot discomfort they are unable to discriminate between chronic suffering and acute damage. Chronic pain in couch potatoes would prevent them from exercise.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Ballet: Origins of En Pointe



Marie Taglioni was the most celebrated ballerinas of the romantic ballet and generally credited with being the first ballet dancer to go en pointe . Taglioni was also known for shortening her skirt which was considered highly scandalous at the time. The shorter skirt give a better view of her pointe work. The dancer transformed toe dancing and her grace, lightness, elevation and style earned her an adoring audience and a brilliant career. At the height of the "cult of the ballerina", in Russia a pair of her pointe shoes were sold for two hundred rubles, and reportedly cooked, and served with a sauce to a group of balletomanes.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ballet : A brief history of pointe shoes





Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-67) was a French poet and critic, and described dancing as poetry with arms and legs. Ballet emerged as a distinct form of dance in Italy before the 16th cent. The first ballet combined, dance, decor, and special effects and was presented in 1581 at the French Court of Catherine di Medici. The lady herself took part. Court ballets in the 17th century were danced by males only and included opera. It was not until 1708 the first ballet for public performance marked the appearance of a separate art form.



The origins of ballet shoes were specific to the dance but often reflected the popular styles of the court. The only exceptions were shoes for those characters which required a special costume. Even when the royalty performed, as they frequently did, their costume had to be heavily laden with symbolism. Louis XIV for example had his clothes specially designed for the Royal Ballet of the Night. His Sun King costume included high heeled shoes with gilt sun buckles complete with rays which echoed the magnificently glittering motif of the whole outfit.



Extravagant courtly costume was swept away by the French Revolution and the technical requirements of the dance necessitated a change in the design of ballet shoes. Choreographic notation came into being and mythological themes were explored. The Italian influence brought elevated and less horizontal movement, and Pierre Beauchamps established the five basic ballet foot positions, we know today.



Marie Camargo introduced a shortened skirt, tights, and the first ballet slippers, allowing great freedom of movement than before. Her rival, Marie Sallé (the first female choreographer), wore a liberating, Grecian-style costume. The ballet d'action, developed c.1760 by Jean Georges Noverre, told a story through movement and facial expression. The first shoes were based on the straits worn for ballroom dancing and had no blocking in the toe. Modern ballet technique, stressing the turned-out leg and resulting variety of movement, was set down in 1820 by Carlo Blasis.



The romantic period began in 1831 with La Sylphide, first performed in 1832. Madame Marie Taglioni was an Italian ballerina best known for her ethereal style and high elevations, and was a major ballerina of the romantic period. Her performance in La Sylphide was so demanding it forced the invention of a straightened toe. Taglioni was the first to dance on points and therefore created modern ballet and with it the need for more robust shoes. As she was leaving Moscow a group of followers acquired her used dancing slippers, boiled them and ate them. As a child Queen Victoria had a Marie Tagioni doll. In 1862 Emma Livry a ballerina at the Paris Opera burnt to death when her dress caught fire during rehearsals. Her ballet shoes survived. Unblocked and strengthened solely by darning at the sides they weighed only 34 grams each, whereas Pavlova's modern blocked shoes weighed 74 grams.



By the beginning of the twentieth century dance had become so demanding that blocked shoes were essential. Early cotton wool padding had been replaced by toes stiffened with glue and darned for extra strength. Ballet shoe makers appeared in the cities where ballet was practiced. Brilliant choreography emphasised the beauty and virtuosity of the prima ballerina; the male dancer functioned only as her partner until the 20th cent, when virtuoso male dancing was revived. A major ballet company can easily go through three thousand pairs per year. Dancers are provided with one or more pairs a week and they usually look after their shoes themselves, darning them and attaching ribbons. Like athlete the dancer prefer some shoes over others. Rudolf Nureyev was reputed to try on six pairs in the wings before finding the right ones. Shoes may last only one night's performance and dancer have their preferred makers.



The standard pointe shoes are made from cardboard/leather and are weak. Ballet students are encouraged to feel the floor with their toes which means standard pointe shoe require to be "broken in" e.g. the shank will be bent or broken so that the arch looks better. Safety features such as a toe box are often omitted thus reducing the weight of the shoe but also transferring body weight to the tip of the first and second toes. Some shoe makers refuse to make pointe shoes in smaller sizes to discourage children and force trainers to wait till the child feet have grown. Ballet slippers or techniques shoes are used by younger dancers. Ribbons sewn to the shoes are tied around the ankle which gives some support to the dancer. Pointe shoes do wear very quickly and worn shoe contribute considerably to the high rates of foot injuries ballet dancers suffer. Many dancer use rosin as an anti friction cover for their toes when dancing on points.



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Brief history of skating shoes





Call me an old couch potato but come the Olympics, summer or winter you will always find me transfixed to the box watching the beach volleyball and the figure skating, respectively. I blame my hormones myself, but the spectacle of the body beautiful is just compulsive viewing.



Skating as a human endevour is thought to date back twelve millennium. The oldest pair of skates which date to 3000 BC were found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. The origins of the term skate remain unclear but are thought my many to derive from the old Dutch words “schaats “ a stilt, or “schenkel", a leg. Early skates were made from animal bones with holes bored at each end. The skate was attached through a thong arrangement to foot and skating was a practical means of travel.



Skaters were propelled forward with the use of poles, like ski sticks but when Icelanders in the Middle Ages replaced bone with iron, poles were no longer necessary. Narrow double edged blades gave the skater more speed and the Dutch used wooden platform skates with flat iron runners. These were attached to the skater's shoes with leather straps. Scandinavia is thought to be the motherland of figure skating with records dating back to around A.D. 1000. During the middle ages women were not allowed to skate. Ice skating on frozen canals was brought to England after the Restoration by exiled followers of Charles II who had taken refuge in Holland.



In 1662 Britain had a very severe winter with many lakes and canals frozen, ice skating became a fashionable fad. By the middle of the 1600's, North Americans began to enjoy recreational skating. The fashion followed British officers stationed in North America who exhibited ice skating to the populous. Skating spread quickly throughout the entire continent.



The first skating club was formed in Scotland in the eighteenth century. Skate blades were now curved runners attached to wooden soles on boots. The runners extended beyond the heel and enabled a skater to carve figures. Turning became more elegant with the longer curved blades but skaters still very stiff in posture and performed simple figures with no attempt at grace or style. The first book to be written on skating was called A Treatise on Skating by Robert Jones and published in 1772. It referred to figure skating.



The first all steel clamp for skates was invented by North American, E. V. Bushnell of Philadelphia in 1848. One year later the first figure skating club in North America was formed in Philadelphia. The group skated on river ice. After studying dance in Europe American Ballet-Master, Jackson Haines (1865) , developed the two plate all metal blade so he could incorporate dance movements into skating with musical accompaniment. He was the first to treat Ice and Roller Skating as an art form and successfully took his Ballistic Skating to several European capitals.



At first the new figure skating met with mixed reception but after he opened a skating school in Vienna in 1863 people began to take to the new the "international style." Haines was always known as the “American Skating King,” but it was Canadian Louis Rubinstein , one of his pupils, who popularized the style in North America.



Haine’s blades were attached directly to his boots which gave the skater more freedom to jump, spin and move. Later he added toe picks to his skates making jumps possible. Popularity of skating increased with the introduction of the first mechanically refrigerated ice rink in 1876 in London. Called the Glaciarium it was built by John Gamgee.



Up until the Great War skating grew in popularity and skating had moved from a pleasant pastime to a year round sport. By the turn of the century, ice skating was professional and very popular with the public. Improvements to skate boots continued when a lighter and stronger boot was developed by John E. Strauss (1914). Strauss invented the first closed toe blade made from one piece of steel.



It took to the thirties before custom made skating boots were available. In the glamour era it became an essential accessory to have well crafted skate boots. Ice skating went on the road with dazzling ice carnivals and cold show extravaganzas all the latest rage. Soon respected shoe makers like Louis Harlick of San Francisco was making custom skating boots. >



By chance Harlick’s San Francisco shop was next to the headquarters for a popular ice show. Skater’s got their boots repaired until Harlick took an interest in their footwear and turned manufacturing boots into a full-time business. Innovations until this time involved the blades which were commonly strapped or clamped on to street shoes or boots used for other purposes. Professional custom footwear changes all that with craftsmen able to design and build fully integrated Skating Boots. As sport and exhibition continued to develop after the war more custom footwear makers took an interested.



The 1960's was a period of innovation and imagination in skating with a style revolution in the sport. Competition boots were worn much lower and this eradicated a problem much beset skaters i.e. laces working loose. High laced boots (above the calf) had to contain muscle bulk change during skating, the alteration in girth often cause the laces to work loose. As greater understanding of expert skating was acknowledged by bootmakers, further footwear improvements followed. Boots were streamlined with extra padding added. Greater attention was paid to reinforce the ankle area and leather soles and heels were stitched and nailed to prevent separation.



Quality boots continue to be hand made from the highest quality materials. At Harlick and Co. one pair of boots takes approximately four to six weeks to make. Today skaters wear leather boots sometimes custom-fitted, reinforced with thick padding to brace the ankle and with wide tongues for control and flexibility. Figure skate's blade is about 3/16 inch (4 mm) thick. It is hollow-ground to emphasize its two edges, although the skater usually uses only one edge at a time. The front of the blade (toe pick), contains serrations, which are planted into the ice and help the skater in certain jumps. The blade also allows the skater to pivot quickly on the ice in order to perform rapid 360-degree spins. Ice dancers wear skates with shorter blades and looser padding to facilitate quick foot movement.



Interesting Links
Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 19 Feb. 2006 "figure skating".
Ice Skating Clipart Galore Skating History Images.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Why have dancing shoes become fashionable again?




It seems both high heels and ballet flats (a slip on shoe with a small thin heel or no heel at all) are back in fashion for men. Height challenged males might revel at the prospect of the former but not perhaps at the latter. Ballet flats represent the antithesis of the four wheel drive shoes. That is shoes you could climb the Eiger with, but are more likely seen perambulating through the downtown shopping mall.



Real men prefer espadrilles and sneakers, i.e. chic and comfortable footwear. What has added interest (for me), as a shoe watcher, is both high and low styles share the limelight at the same time – a rare event in fashion. Zeitgeist (or sign of the times) necessitates we look at current events for an explanation. Alpha males appear to want to move adeptly as well as present themselves as trim and toned.



Ballet flats resemble the dancing pumps or “pompes” of the 16th and 17th centuries when dancing became all the range and no self respecting crown head was without their own ballroom. Then, as now best finery was the order of the day and dandy noblemen wore special ballroom slippers.



Emporer Napoleon's legacy to cultured Europe was dress balls and as the popularity of dancing swept through the civilized world. When new dance steps got faster women started to wear dance slippers every bit as delicate as modern ballet shoes. Men of the late 18th century wore the latest fashion, high boots and their dress slippers were eventually confined to the bedroom along with their pipe. The renaissance in fashions for dancing shoes is likely to mirror the immensely popular dancing TV programs watched by millions throughout the world.