Quotidian 1 (December 2009)Maartje Hoogsteyns: Tastbaar Actief

To refer to this article use this url: http://www.quotidian.nl/vol01/nr01/a05


I remember, as a twelve year old girl, feeling excited and proud wearing my pointe shoes. To be able to dance on these satin ballet slippers, balancing gracefully on the tip of your toes, is almost every young girl’s dream. The shoes, however, are demanding and it takes years of intensive training to master them.

In this article I trace possible ways in which pointe shoes construct young ballet dancers and their surroundings. In line with recent theoretical developments in material culture studies I particularly focus on the materiality of the slippers and not so much on their meanings. For that purpose I make use of the ideas of Jean-Pierre Warnier, Daniel Miller, Alfred Gell and Bruno Latour. All of them state that the influence of artefacts cannot be reduced to their meanings or to some ‘underlying’ social relations or mentalities. We should start to recognize the tangible ways in which things participate in the construction of society or culture. However, these four researchers all have their own approach, methodology and ideas on how to consider artefacts (and humans for that matter). As a result we get four different perspectives on the way pointe shoes give shape to the world of ballet.