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How do ballerina dancers stay up on their toes?

One of the principal characteristics of ballet is the illusion of weightlessness as the dancers run, jump and pirouette. To enhance this illusion, one of the most important skills a female dancer learns is how to dance on pointe, that is on the tips of her toes.

To dance on her toes requires a ballerina to wrap her feet in athletic tape and use special pointe shoes that have stiffened blocks and large supporting boxes. However, the shoes and tape are not enough. A ballerina undergoes daily strenuous practice for many years to make her feet extremely strong and flexible. At the same time, she must strengthen the muscles in her legs, groin, and abdomen, in order to lift her body out of her shoes as much as possible.

Even so, dancing on pointe is a very uncomfortable experience, and a ballerina must have a high tolerance for pain. Most female dancers suffer from occupational hazards such as broken toes, soft tissue strains, painfully enlarged joints, and injuries to the lower spine.

For this reason, young girls are not started on pointe until their bodies and feet have developed sufficiently, and even then, young dancers are trained carefully and gradually.

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