About Pointe > History of Pointe
However, around 1730 danse haute superseded danse basse, dancers took to the air, rather than just move elegantly from lovely pose to lovely pose, they began to jump, hop and leap. And women began to rebel against their restrictive costumes. Marie Sallé literally let her hair down and donned looser clothes for her ballet d'action, and her rival, Marie Ann Cupis de Camargo took the heels from her shoes, and Scandale!, shortened her skirts the better to perform that flashy new steps that had heretofore been done exclusively by men: entrechat quatre and cabriole.
The Eighteenth Century saw an increased prominence of the female dancer and the expansion of the ballet vocabulary to include more jumps and turns. Among the other stars of the era were Mlle. Lyonnais, famed for her gargoulliades, and Fräulein Heinel, who dazzled Europe with her multiple pirouettes-- but on demi-pointe.
Marie Taglioni often gets the credit and the blame for being the first to dance on pointe. But no one really knows for sure. It is established that in 1832 Marie Taglioni danced in the full length La Sylphide on pointe. But almost certainly there were dancers before her who rose onto the tips of their toes. It's even possible that Mme. Camargo had done so one hundred years before. There are references in newspaper accounts of various ballerinas with "fantastic toes" or of "falling off her toes". Taglioni herself most likely danced on pointe before La Sylphide.
But whoever was first, it was Taglioni who pioneered and developed the technique and who revolutionized ballet as a result. She transformed toe dancing. What had been merely a stunt and a kind of circus trick became a means of artistic expression, a dramatic as well as a technical feat. Her grace, lightness, elevation and style earned her an adoring audience and a brilliant career. In Russia her fans loved her so much that they cooked her slippers and ate them with a sauce!
© 1998 Gaynor Minden, Inc.