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An accurate account of the development of the technology of the pointe


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#1 redbookish

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 06:16 AM

I wonder if experts here can direct me to sources they've found useful on the development of the technology of the pointe shoe? I've read Ivor Guest and other standard histories of the Romantic ballet. Guest mentions in a very brief way, that the block of the pointe shoe didn't emerge until the 1880s alongside the development of the Imperial/classical ballet technique. I've also read the online sources such as the useful (but with no cited references)Gaynor Minden potted history of the pointe shoe. I also had a really good close look at the pointe shoe on display as part of the V&A's Ballet Russes exhibition last year.

However, for a book chapter I'm writing, on the pantomime fairy and the technology of pantomime specatcle in relation to the female performer's body, I'm being led inexorably & pleasurably towards the Romantic ballet, and La Sylphide and Giselle, and I find I'd like to get some good sources on the actual nuts and bolts of when, where, and how what we know as today's pointe shoe emerges.

Not asking anyone to tell me, or write this bit of my book chapter for me! I'm diligently searching my institution's library & the British Library. But thought that if there were accessible experts, BalletTalk would be the place!

#2 rg

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 07:48 AM

i'm afraid the evolution of the pointe shoe and pointework is less than clear, with historical suggestions and findings being made as time goes on; an 'accurate account' will not necessarily be easy to find.

there's book by Walter Terry from 1962. i haven't looked at it in years and think it might be useful to you if not exactly an 'accurate account' but the book which might be found in a library with a strong dance section:

Terry, Walter. On pointe! The story of dancing and dancers on toe.
New York, Dodd, Mead [1962]

Tobi Tobias wrote an essay which i trust is 'filed' on the web, if you search her name TOBI TOBIAS and POINTE - or perhaps the POINTE SHOE you should be able to find it.

likewise Lincoln Kirstein's once called MOVEMENT AND METAPHOR and nowadays published as FOUR CENTURIES OF BALLET includes some sections on the use of pointes in ballet. this should be easier to find than Terry's book:
Kirstein, Lincoln, Four centuries of ballet : fifty masterworks / Lincoln Kirstein.
New York : Dover Publications, c1984, c1970.

if mem. serves there are illustrations of 'historic' pointeshoes in the following study of design:
Beaumont, Cyril W. (Cyril William), 1891-1976.
Ballet design: past & present. [London, The Studio; New York, Studio Publications, 1946]

#3 redbookish

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Posted 16 August 2011 - 05:49 AM

Many thanks, rg. That is a really helpful list of sources.

It is as I suspected and there isn't a neat source I can cite, so as to be able to get on with the rest of my argument. Scholarship was ever thus! Indeed, it'll go into my store of research ideas to follow up, particularly as I hope to have the opportunity to work with the V&A on a related project in the future.


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