When most people think of ballet, they most likely think of delicate ladies on their toes in pointe shoes. But that's not necessarily true - male ballet dancers are a hugely important part of the art form. Traditionally, men perform roles that included carrying the Prima ballerinas around and showing off how high they can jump, more and more male-identifying dancers have begun to bend the antiquated gender roles. Perhaps the best example is Les Ballets Trockadero, where entire ballets are performed by male dancers en pointe. And while their primary goal is comedy, there's also a growing number of gents assuming more serious roles and performing them in pointe shoes; In 2015, the Australian Ballet took the playful role of Puck in their rendition of Frederick Ashton's A Midsummer Night's Dream and had the male soloist perform en pointe. In fact, some studios around the country are beginning to offer pointe classes for their young male dancers.
So let's get down to the logistics. Because pointe has been a traditionally female style, the shoes are, understandably, created for women's feet - they tend to be slimmer and more fitted, which isn't particularly conducive for larger, wider, more masculine (and often less flexible) feet. If a male dancer wants to dance en pointe, he has to either order a custom pair (pricey and annoying!) or choose from the same brands of pointe shoes as the ladies, and customize them himself, just like the ladies.
Sibernian Swan is a Russian company founded by two former Bolshoi Ballet dancers that has just announced that it will be releasing a new pointe shoe named "Rudolf" (an ode to Rudolf Nureyev) that is specifically designed for men. The design differs from the typical pointe shoe design in that it has a wider box, a medium-high vamp and a wider platform. It's structure was created to support more weight and longer feet. It also comes in three plastic shank strengths: medium, hard, or super hard. It will be available beginning in March, but you can pre-order a pair.
Let's keep blurring these gender roles, guys! Dance - in all of its many forms - is for everyone.
photo: Australian Ballet Luke Marchant with Ballet Mistress Megan Connelly / credit Kate Longley