Tuesday, September 12, 2023

What’s the Pointe of Un-Sustainable Dance Shoes?

You can not recycle pointe dance shoes. This can mean a lot of waste. I'm happy to report there are ways people are solving this problem that we can all stand behind.

When was the last time you went to the ballet or a dance performance? There is something so beautiful about a dance production when it all comes together. Can you imagine how much practice goes into that one performance? The Nutcracker is a popular show during the holidays. For many dancers the training starts right at the top of the New Year. Some dancers prep for years, just to be accepted for a part on the show.

As we watch these dancers seamlessly float on stage. It can be easy to ignore the shoes that they wear. It is astonishing how many shoes a dancer goes through in a few practices, let alone years.

The truth is, these pointe shoes are not made of sustainable fabrics. You can not recycle pointe dance shoes. This can mean a lot of waste. I’m happy to report there are ways people are solving this problem that we can all stand behind.

What are Pointe Dance Shoes?

If you’re not familiar with pointe shoes, they are ballet shoes that are worn when dancers stand on the tips of their toes.

NYC Ballet goes through 7,000 pairs per year. That many pairs for only 47 dancers. These pointe shoes only last about 8 hours for professionals. All shoes are handmade. As a result, there are inconsistencies in the shoes which add to the waste piles. They also can’t be recycled due to the materials. 

This is a serious problem as the popularity of dance continues to grow. How can we express ourselves emotionally through dance when our shoes are contributing to the damage on our planet?

What are they made of?

They are made with a combination of cardboard, cotton, wood, glue, plaster, leather satin, and paper. The tip of the shoe is made of paper that’s been hardened by glue or packed with layers of fabric.

On the other hand, they are non-durable and non-breathable. Due to the cheap materials, they break down very easily due to sweat. Bottom line: they are not sustainable.

Solutions For Dance Shoes

Petit Pas is a company dedicated to upcycling by taking thrown out pointe shoes and making them into bracelets.

Imperfect Pointes is an online ballet store that uses recycled materials and has a Sustainable Business Certificate at the University of Cambridge.

“I came up with Imperfect Pointes because I was frustrated to find few ballet wear brands focusing on sustainability.” 

Imperfect Pointes

Noy Saias of Calliope Pointe Shoes are made from recycled plastic so broken down parts of the shoe can be replaced which cuts down on cost and waste.

“A new take on the traditional ballet point shoe using modern technology to reinvent it for our times.”

Calliope Pointe Shoes

There are also studios that donate old shoes to centers that take them apart and use the materials for crafts. Speaking of crafts, Pinterest has plenty of crafts that you can do with your old pointe shoes. Recyclebank suggests finding local textile recycling bins to donate your old pointe shoes. You can visit these websites to help you out: Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association or the World Wear Project. If these options aren’t on the table for you, you can also do a quick Google search for your local dance studios to see if they take old pointe shoes. There are a lot of artists on Pinterest that use the shoes for different projects. Reach out to people like PointeBlankDesigns or TheArtofDanceDesigns to see if they want you to send them our pointe shoes.

Support Dancers, Support the Environment

As a result, more businesses are looking into ways to become more sustainable, it’s great to see dancers being a part of that change. There are many innovative ways to repurpose old dance shoes, that I never even thought about before writing this.

In conclusion, by supporting these practices, we can make sure that we are all making the best choices for our planet and for ourselves. Dance is all about expression and making a connection to our audience. We can apply that to our planet too.


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