The Ballet Shoes Revolution

Ask any ballet dancer to describe a pair of soft ballet shoes and they will all describe a very soft almost slipper-like shoe that is designed specifically for ballet. They’re usually made from either satin, canvas or leather, have suede soles and are extremely flexible. Though there are many different variations of the ballet shoe from popular dance brands such as Bloch and Capezio, the fundamentals of all ballet shoes are very much the same and extremely familiar with all ballet dancers. However, this has not always been the case as the ballet shoe as we know it today can be traced back to an exciting and revolutionary development in the history of ballet.
   
The ballet shoe revolution can be traced back to France under the reign of Louis XIV in the late 1600s. As a child, Louis XIV worked very hard to practice ballet and as he became older, he developed ballet into a form of dance which reflected the immense power and influence that he possessed. By 1681, women had begun to perform ballet at which time the traditional women’s ballet shoe had heels but this was all to change as a result of a performance by a dancer named Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo.

Born on 15th April, 1710, Marie Anne was a very respected and talented dancer. She made her Paris debut on 5th May, 1726 in the Paris Opera ballet production of “Les Caracteres de la Danse” in which she became the first ever woman to execute a move called the entrechat quatre. This elegant move requires the dancer to jump into the air and rapidly cross their legs before and behind before landing. Upon performing this move, she became an instant success. She also became the first female dancer to wear a shorter calf-length ballet skirt and ballet tights which have now become standardised. She became incredibly successful as many new fashions bore her name and the way in which she styled her hair was copied by a huge number of people. As a result, when she decided to change her shoes from the traditional heeled ballet shoes, to soft ballet slippers, the ballet world took note. After the French Revolution, which saw a period of significant social and political upheaval, heeled ballet shoes were completely eliminated from ballet and soft ballet shoes became widely worn. Ever since, the soft ballet shoe has become one of the most important piece of dancewear for any ballet dancer.