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Dancing en Pointe: How Coca-Cola Leads to Elegance
If the shoes on the feet of expert dancers look beat up, it’s not just from hours of dancing. Find out why toe shoes take such a beating with Groupon’s close look.
The ballerina is weightless as she takes to one toe, supporting all 26 delicate bones in her foot on an inch-wide platform. She is silent as she jumps from fifth position, beats her legs and pointed feet midair, and lands back in fifth with her feet reversed. Though these moves appear effortless, they are anything but. The ballerina’s ability to execute en pointe arabesques and entrechats is not simply the culmination of years of practice—it also depends on the work of a shoemaker who trained for more than two years to master the 11-step construction process. The dancer then bought the shoes for about $90, sewed the ribbons on, and broke in the shoes with a DIY toolkit of mallets, screwdrivers, lighters, and dental floss. She made sure the soles (or “shanks”) were supple; repeatedly slammed the shoes in a doorway to make them quieter on stage; and coated the toe platform with rosin, detergent, or even Coca-Cola to prevent her feet from slipping. She did all this in hopes of getting the maximum possible use out of this pair: about 12 hours of wear.
The elaborate rituals ballerinas perform on their satin slippers would shock the ballet dancers who twirled for Italian court in the 16th century. Pointe shoes developed around the early 19th century, when ballerinas needed flatter heels and more flexible soles to accommodate flashy new leaps previously performed only by men and trained lemurs. Today, dancers take their first steps en pointe once their feet are fully developed around age 12, building up the extreme muscle strength and sound alignment they need to perform multiple fouetté turns and the grace they need to make it look easy.