The Leap: From Ballet Slipper to Pointe Shoes.

Is the widespread use of stretch canvas ballet slippers making it harder for dancers to achieve success en pointe?

As anyone who has ever attempted to stand (let alone, balance, turn, and jump) in a pair of pointe shoes can attest—there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, easy about dancing en pointe.

A touchstone in every aspiring ballerina’s journey, you’d be hard pressed to think of anything else that sparks quite as much excitement, pride, and pain (ouch!) as the moment a dancer begins pointe work. 

While ballet slippers play host to a variety of names (slipper, shoe, flat,) pointe shoes retain an exclusive title. Pointe shoes. They are hard, rigid, and essentially, unforgiving. To dance successfully on pointe, a dancer’s feet must have enough strength in their metatarsals and toes to control the rigid ‘shank’ inside their pointe shoes. If they can’t, they forfeit the beautiful, aesthetically pleasing lines which classical and contemporary ballet demand.

In the time spent leading up to the pivotal moment of beginning pointe work, ballet students spend one hundred percent of their ballet class time in ballet slippers. In recent years, dance brands have utilized a material known as stretch canvas to make ballet slippers lighter, thinner, and less resistive than ever before. This material is tempting for many dancers, as it is soft, pliable and makes pointing your feet EASY.  Although, as with most things pertaining to ballet, the “easy” road rarely yields the best result.

Dancers stand at the barre and practice the same movements, day after day, month after month, year after year, honing their craft down to the seemingly smallest detail. They streamline their movements; overcoming “cheats” and bad habits, adjusting their posture by centimeters, training fingers to curve delicately while legs lengthen and reach— learning to make the impossibly hard look effortlessly elegant. Over the course of their student training, dancers will spend tens of thousands of hours in their ballet slippers.

This impressive commitment by dancers should be matched by the commitment of their footwear.

As dancers spend their days in repetitive practice, wearing a ballet shoe that offers some resistance builds targeted strength in the areas of the feet that are essential to successful pointe work. Every tendu becomes an opportunity to maximize strength, articulation, and control.

There are some ballet schools (such as Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle, WA) that build ballet slipper requirements into their dress codes, asking their students to wear ballet shoes made only of leather. NO stretch canvas.

Miriam Landis, a noted teacher, author, and a former professional dancer with Miami City Ballet shared her thoughts with us: “I prefer leather shoes for younger students, as they have to push a bit harder to make their shoes arch with their foot. It’s important they learn early on that their body has to do the work. That awareness—knowing how to let your foot take charge of the shoe—is important preparation for pointe work.”

If all pre-pointe dancers wear a ballet shoe that offers support, structure, and some resistance, their feet naturally building additional strengths as they work, their whole body will benefit from structured, supportive footwear.

Add in the patented, shock absorbing technology of the Orza Pro One and we’d see a new generation of dancers who are set up for happier, healthier dancing, AND success on pointe! We’d call that a win-win.

The Orza Pro One is a patented, shock absorbing ballet shoe engineered by a former professional ballet dancer, and endorsed by leading ballet dancers, physical therapists, and MD’s. OP1 is changing the game by offering structure, support, natural resistance, and unparalleled shock absorption.

Available in leather and traditional (non-stretch) canvas.

February 23, 2024


Ben said:

My daughter is a dance student and this makes such great sense! Thanks for the thoughtful analysis.

Emily said:

Such great pointes! (pun intended) ;)

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