Ballet pointe shoes as technological artifacts -- quite an entertaining thesis presented over the weekend at the Society for the History of Technology conference.
I'm not sure if we should be giving the innovation kudos solely to George Balanchine, but the renowned choreographer's contributions to developing pointe shoes that enhanced the dancer's body and movements is undeniable and surely worthy of further exploration.
Ballet is a relatively older form of dance in the Western world, and the path to honing your skills is even more old-fashioned. As an eager ballet dancer since the age of 4, there's one thing about pointe shoes that I won't soon forget: even with all the "technology" that has gone into them all these past years, the archaicness of pointe shoes is part of the challenge of the craft.
There isn't much way around the clunkiness or the extremely precise way you need to "install" (or "wear") them, even if you're putting on the latest pair from Bloch or Capezio. And, frankly, if you don't put in the hours --daily -- it really doesn't matter what kind of pointe shoes you dance with.
All the years of dance training have inevitably left me with a formidable collection of dance shoes of all kinds, from pointe to character to jazz (minus the tap shoes!), as well as adopting the outlook of human bodies as "IBM machines." I've always attributed dancing en pointe to not only my love and familiarity for high-heeled shoes but also my strangely innate clumsiness in flat shoes, as strange as that sounds!