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[Fr., point]

In ballet, the term denotes dancing on the tip of the toe, in specially designed pointe shoes whose toes have been stiffened to form a small platform on which the ballerina can balance her entire body weight. In classical ballet pirouettes are executed on pointe, as are arabesques. Pointework is traditionally restricted to female dancers, although some modern choreographers have put men ‘sur les pointes’ to comic effect (Bottom in Ashton's The Dream, for example). It is impossible to say for certain who was the first ballerina to dance on pointe, but both the French dancer Geneviève Gosselin and the Russian Avdotia Istomina are known to have danced on pointe before 1820. In the 1830s Marie Taglioni transformed pointework from a mere technical trick into the perfect vehicle for expressing the ethereality of Romantic ballet. In the early 20th century the supremacy of the pointe shoe in ballet was challenged by choreographers such as Fokine, who was one of the first to abandon it in his ballets. Demi-pointe, or half point, means balancing on the ball of the foot. It is more often used in modern dance.

Subjects: Dance.

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