Your teenager has finally found something that interests him or her. After years of gentle encouragement, persistent prodding, and eventually outright pleading, your teen has a goal other than reaching the boss level of that video game they never seem to put down. What an accomplishment! In this case, your teen has expressed a desire to learn ballet.
Ballet for teens is an excellent way for teens to develop a strong sense of work ethic, a passion for classical music, and a vision for what they can become through dedicated practice. As your teen is starting out, it's important for you to know the ins and outs of what is arguably the most essential tool for ballet dancers: ballet shoes.
To the untrained eye, all shoes worn in ballet may appear to be more or less the same. Sure, some might be made from different materials, have longer or shorter drawstrings, or be different colors, but all ballet dancers wear ballet slippers, right? Well, not quite.
Ballet slippers are worn by male and female ballet dancers alike. They are made from silk, or a similar material, and usually have a leather sole that doesn't cover the entire bottom of the shoe. In recent years, two types of ballet slippers have emerged. They both have potential benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to understand which one would serve your teen best in his or her specific situation.
Full sole slippers
Full sole slippers are the more traditional type of slipper. The leather on the sole is composed of one uninterrupted stretch. This type of slipper provides less flexibility than other types, but in some cases that can be a good thing! It is often recommended for beginning ballet dancers to train with full sole slippers initially, to build up muscle and encourage proper foot posture.
Split sole slippers
Split sole slippers have a sole which is divided into two parts: one to cover the ball area of the foot and the other to cover the heel area. This type of slipper maximizes the potential for increased foot flexibility, but doesn't provide as much resistance or support as full sole slippers might.
Pointe shoes, on the other hand, are usually worn exclusively by female ballerinas. These are the shoes which provide the correct support for ballet dancers to dance "en pointe", bearing their full weight on nothing more than the very tips of their first few toes.
This support comes from the unique design of the shoe, including two components called the box and the shank. The box of a pointe shoe is a stiff, boxlike structure that sits in the very tip of the shoe, enclosing the weight-bearing toes. The shank is a solid section that extends partway up the sole to grant extra support.
As you and your teen embark on this new adventure, shoe selection is of paramount importance. Consider carefully what type of shoes will best suit the needs of your teen. The right shoes can protect from injury, improve performance, and increase the probability of success in ballet!